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Friday, June 24, 2022

3 Tips on How English Speaking Parents Can Find Mandarin Tutors


Guest Post by Adeline Kwok, parent of Matthew, aged 9 and user of AskBee

As a first time mom, I knew that there was so much I didn't know. But never would I have thought that finding not just a tutor, but the RIGHT tutor for my child was going to be this hard.

Just to give you guys some background: My husband and I were both raised in English speaking households. We both can communicate well in Mandarin as it's still our grandparents preferred language of communication. But that was the extent of our Mandarin usage and capabilities.

When my husband and I had Matthew, like every other “banana” parent out there, we wanted him to do, know and have more than us. Which meant enrolling him in a Chinese school and trying our hardest to help him with his Mandarin homework... till we couldn’t anymore. Mind you, this realization came when he was only in Standard 3! (Our grandparents would be so embarrassed!)

Thus began our stressful journey of finding our dear Matthew his first Mandarin tutor.

Tip 1: Ask For Help

There are so many factors that go into finding a good tutor - Will Matthew like him or her? Will the tutor take the time to find an approach that works with Matthew? Will he or she be patient? How experienced is this tutor? Should I go for private, group or online tuition?

I’ve seen stressed parents posting on multiple platforms asking for good tutors so I knew I wasn’t alone in this. I’ve also seen the threads of replies with tutor names and phone numbers from other helpful (and probably equally stressed) parents. But I was NOT excited about the idea of going through months of trial and error before finding the right one.

One fine day, I saw an ad for AskBee and decided to give it a shot.

Tip 2: Pick The Right Tutor

The main reason I decided to give it a go was because I knew that I could look through the Tutors Profiles to know more about their tutors. Information such as the subjects the tutors teach, affiliations the tutors belonged to and even reviews and ratings from other students are made public. I could even see if other students chose to add the tutor to their Favourite Tutor pool. This really helped filter through the tutors for me.

I checked out the AskBee website to find out more and was happy to know that most of the tutors had a teaching background or were straight A students themselves.

Once Matthew found a tutor that he liked, he would request for a session. If the session went especially well, he would add the tutor to his Favourite Pool. The app would also suggest similar tutors for us to check out and request for sessions from. Soon Mathew had a whole pool of trusted, qualified Mandarin tutors whom he was getting assistance from!

From not knowing where to start to now knowing that Matthew has a community of tutors ready to pick up his requests at any time - this journey has definitely been an interesting one!

Tip 3: Pick Tutors Who Instil A Love of Learning

I’m happy to report that Matthew’s Mandarin is improving and more importantly, he’s enjoying the process again. I know that eventually my husband and I are going to be turning to Matthew for our Mandarin translation needs. (Our grandparents would be so proud… of Matthew at least).

Click here to learn more about AskBee and receive 2 free sessions!

“This is the first time I've gotten an A in my Mandarin! Now that I have AskBee, I don't have to bother my parents with my homework and revision anymore. The tutors have been very patient as well.” 

(Ayden Yap, Standard 5)

This post was brought to you by AskBee. AskBee is an app that helps primary and secondary school students to learn better, by providing them with live, on-demand access to a personal tutor.

All approved AskBee tutors are current or former school teachers, full time tutors, or university undergrads who were A+ students themselves and are equipped to teach. All tutor applicants go through a strict interview and onboarding process with the AskBee team and will continue to go through quality checks and reviews.

Monday, June 20, 2022

How can you learn English for the real world

This post was brought to you by British Council Malaysia.

Fluency in English is essential for young people with exciting ambitions. It’s the global language of business and vital in connecting with people from a wide range of backgrounds. Real-world English language skills can not only help your child excel in all areas and stay academically competitive now, but give them the confidence to embrace future challenges. We explore what it means for our Secondary students and what to expect from our courses.

What is English for the real world?

Learning English for the real world means going beyond the school syllabus. We believe that our Secondary students are most engaged when stretched to apply their language skills to real-life situations, including complex topics such as climate change and the environment.

More than just an English course, our lively classes enable young learners to find their voice by participating in interactive activities with their peers. In addition to developing their language skills, they will gain the necessary tools to succeed in life, such as collaboration, creativity, resilience and leadership.

Preparing young people for the real world also means encouraging them to be inquisitive. We challenge them to go deeper by reading new texts thoughtfully and deliberately, rather than simply a superficial surface level understanding. In our supportive environment, students learn to build evidence-based arguments and are encouraged to express their own opinions without fear. This promotes confidence in their ability to think independently, while putting students in charge of their own learning journey.

More about our Secondary courses

The British Council’s Secondary school English tuition courses place a strong emphasis on helping students to build a global mindset. Our highly qualified and passionate teachers approach this by focusing on their intercultural confidence, critical thinking and analytical reading skills, in tandem with key exam techniques. Stimulating up-to-date topics are linked to timely world issues, incentivising students to improve their communication skills by seeing the immediate relevance of what they are learning.

Equipping our young learners with English for the real world will help them to achieve academic success, while developing the 21st century proficiencies needed to thrive beyond their school years.

To find out more about our courses for kids and teens, visit our website or book a free consultation with our friendly consultant.

Friday, June 03, 2022

No More PT3, What's Next?

Recently during a live press conference, Education Minister Datuk Dr. Mohd. Radzi bin Md. Jidin announced the abolishment of PT3 with effect from 2022. That announcement was made in a few minutes and he spent the next close to an hour explaining what parents should expect in terms of their children's assessments going forth. 

Here's what parents should expect in terms of their children's assessment starting from the year 2022 onwards. Before that, here are some terms you should know.

PBS = Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah (School Based Assessment)
PBD = Pentaksiran Bilik Darjah (Classroom Based Assessment)
PAJSK = Pentaksiran Aktiviti Jasmani Sukan & Kokurikulum (Physical Activity, Sports and Co-curricular Assessment) *It includes the Physical Fitness Standards National (SEGAK) and Body Mass Index (BMI).  SEGAK = Standard Kecergasan Fizikal Kebangsaan
PPsi = Pentaksiran Psikometrik (Psychometric Assessment) 
TP = Tahap Penguasaan (Level of Mastery)
PKSK = Pentaksiran Kemasukan Sekolah Khusus (this is an entrance exam for special interest schools)
KPM = Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia (Ministry of Education)

No more PT3, what about primary and secondary school students' assessment?

How will my children be assessed now that UPSR and PT3 has been abolished?

Now that UPSR and PT3 has been abolished, school based assessment (PBS) will be carried out. PBS consist of 3 components 

  1. PBD (classroom assessment)
  2. PAJSK (physcical activity, sports and co-curricular assessment)
  3. PPsi (pyschometric assessment) ie Aptitude, Personality and Career Interest Assessments
Two methods of PBD will be carried out. They are:

1. Formative (continuous assessment)
2. Summative (end of unit assessment eg. half year or year end assessment) 

In short, now that UPSR and PT3 has been abolished, students will be assessed in school through their classroom work, physical activity, sports and extra curricular activities as well as psychometric assessments. These assessments will be carried out throughout the year as well as at the end of term or end of year. 

Unlike PT3 which assesses students from Form 1 to Form 3 in its entirety, assessment will be done on a yearly basis.

Decentralized but with Standardized Questions via Question Bank prepared by KPM 

In order to ensure standardization so that an equivalent standard is achieved throughout the country, KPM will prepare a question bank for year end summative assessments. 

These question bank will be for the following levels:
  • Std 4, 5 & 6 - BM, BI, Math, Sains, Sejarah  (Other subjects to be prepared by the school)
  • Secondary School - All subjects
Teachers and schools will be given flexibility to conduct the assessments at their preferred time and manner. However, they will be able to access the question bank within a given time frame. 

Reporting of PBS to parents. What to expect?

- Twice a year reporting will be done ie during mid term and at the end of year.

- New format for reporting. Whereas previously parents were confused with the TP (Tahap Penguasaan) reporting, better explanation will be provided for the TP1 to TP6 ranges to help parents understand. Instead of lumping in the assessment in terms of TP, the new format will include other segments encompassing effort based assessment and teacher reviews as well as intervention proposals or recommendations
  • Apart from TP or Level of Mastery of subjects, students will also be assessed based on the effort they have put in for their work ie Penilaian Tahap Usaha Murid.
  • Class teacher and subject teachers are to provide reviews (ulasan) and intervention proposals for parents and teachers in the following year
  • The report will cover PBD, PAJSK and PPsi * 
* (PPsi will now be also included for Std 4 & 5 and Form 2)

- Year end reporting will commence in 2022/2023 academic year

- Half year reporting will commence in 2023/3024 academic year

No more PT3, what about entrance to special interest schools and boarding schools?

Placement of students to special interest schools will no longer be based on PT3 results or the new year end assessments, instead there will be separate entrance exams ie PKSK.

Read this year 2020 article to have a better idea about the PKSK entrance exams: New system to tap creative, critical thinking among students.

No more PT3, what about streaming for Form 4?

Streaming will be based on PBD as well as teacher's discussion with student and parents.

With this it is hoped that there will no longer be any comparisons between kids, schools, PPD or at JPN level. Assessments will no longer be high stakes examinations testing on academics only. Instead a more all-rounded education is encouraged with yearly interventions if kids are falling behind academically. Benchmarks will be maintained through a centralized question bank. "Let's Build The Kids Together", said the minister. 

PPD = Pejabat Pendidikan Daerah (District Education Department)
JPN = Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri (State Education Department)

Watch the press conference here:

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Learning about traditional Chinese culture and taboos through a storybook

I am not very knowledgeable about Chinese culture, taboos and tradition since my mom passed away when I was 10. I often look towards the internet or for storybooks to teach my kids about their own culture so I was delighted to find a storybook that talks about traditional Chinese taboos. This is a great way to teach kids and also yourself on all the age old "dos and don'ts". It is also a good way to teach kids of other races.

The back cover says it is a book of superstitious old wives tales, supernatural events, and taboos. For example, the author mentioned that if you don't eat all the rice on your plate you will marry a man full of pimples and pockmarks. From what I remember of our version, it was "your face will be full of pimples and pockmarks!" 

I find this book both fun and educational at the same time. I really like the way the author wrote the book ie in an autobiographical manner about herself growing up in a Peranakan household. I can identify with that because I too come from a Peranakan household. The only difference is my parents moved out of our grandparents home even before I was born so I never got to experience any of what the author did. So it was an eye-opener for me, a fun way to listen to the old folk tales told through the experience of another. 

This book made me travel back in time to my childhood. It is also a good way for me to explain tradition and taboos to my kids.

I also really loved the illustration found in "Looking After the Ashes" the book. Its a perfect match for the stories found in the book. 

Some of the chapters in the book include 
  • If You Are Ugly, It's A Boy...
  • Ah Too, Ah Kau, Ah Goo
  • Paper Lanterns, Mooncakes and a Wedding
  • Sprit of the Coin and Hairdressers
  • Paper Servants, Black Cats and Cardboard Chauffeurs
  • and lots more!

About the book:

Title: Looking After the Ashes
Type: Paperback
No of pages: 216
Publisher:  Penguin Random House SEA
Synopsis: Looking After the Ashes is a semi-biographical fiction of Kopi Soh’s childhood stories. Growing up in a large extended Taoist influenced Peranakan family filled with strong women, Kopi hears these words of ‘wisdom’ daily. She used to live in a world where clipping finger nails at night was strictly forbidden, pointing at the moon would result in one’s ears getting chopped off, and children were forced to stay indoors during sundown for fear of collision with evil forces. A world where mental disorders and illnesses were believed to be caused by malevolent spirits. Talisman, mediums and fortune tellers were a part of everyday life.
Author: Kopi Soh s the pseudonym of a Malaysian author and illustrator best known for her book Oh, I Thought I Was The Only One. She has organized volunteers to produce art for hospitals and charities. Her work was recognized in the Digi WWWOW Awards 2015, winning an award in the Social Gathering category. She has worked with various nonprofit organizations such as AsPaCC Community Hospice, Pusat Perubatan Universiti Malaya (PPUM), Pusat Perubatan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (PPUKM), Bukit Harapan Orphanage, and Cambodia Water Project. 

Looking After the Ashes in the press:

Folk horror, memory and dark traditions stir up Malaysian author's fiction debut

Peranakan author tells of local folklore and ghosts galore

Spooky Penang Peranakan stories get retold in this horror fiction book by Penguin

Weaving childhood tales

Malaysian Artist Kopi Soh Is Now An Author After Penguin Accepts Email Submission

This Malaysian author reveals a childhood filled with chilling secrets and scary ghosts!

As of time of writing, Looking After The Ashes is rated 4.47 on Goodreads with 55 ratings and 39 reviews

Listen to Kopi Soh's reading Chapter 10 of Looking After The Ashes 

 Where to buy: 

Looking After The Ashes is available at MPH, Books Kinokuniya, Books Depository or you could also try searching for this title on Shopee or Lazada.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Shifting priorities in education, and how they could benefit your child


Guest post by Geoff Taylor, Cluster Academic Manager, SEA at the British Council

Modern education can seem increasingly confusing to parents. For example, in Malaysia there has been an explosion in the number of international schools to complement local and vernacular schools. This means parents have more choice than ever in deciding what type of school they want their children to attend and what type of curriculum they want them to follow. Furthermore, within the classroom itself things are changing. It can seem that a child having the ‘right’ answer in class isn’t as valuable as it once was. Many teachers now tend to focus on ‘how’ the answer was achieved, or the effort that the students put in to find the answer.

In previous times the quality of education was measured by results in reading, writing and arithmetic. Now we expect more from schools. While we still want children to perform well in reading and mathematics, we also expect them to develop new skills, such as critical thinking. We hope our children will be guided on how to make good choices, and develop perseverance, and resilience. These new expectations are reflected in changes to school curricula globally, as well as in Malaysia.

So, what are these new skills and how are they relevant to children? There are generally thought to be six areas that a good education system will develop, in addition to the traditional focus on literacy and mathematics:

1. Leadership and personal development

In addition to intellectual development, personal growth including, physical development, social development and emotional development is now a focus for many schools. Developing skills in this area means teaching children about making good choices, persevering and being resilient. These are important skills for life.

2. Critical thinking and problem solving

Having good critical thinking skills is the ability to think clearly and logically to find solutions and to use rational argument to support your ideas. Developing critical thinking skills takes time and develops with age. However, excellent critical thinking skills are more important than ever in today’s world.

3. Collaboration and communication

Good communication and working well with others are key skills for life, school and later in the workplace. Many teachers believe that having collaborative and communicative activities in the classroom is important to help prepare learners for the future.

4. Creativity and imagination

Creative thinking is the ability to come up with something new. Creative thinkers are not just artists but anyone who can solve problems with a different perspective. Typical characteristics of people who are creative thinkers include: flexibility, open-mindedness, happy to take risks, easily adaptable.

5. Digital literacy

Digital literacy refers to a person’s ability to find, evaluate and compose clear information through writing and other mediums on various digital platforms. In the digital age, understanding what credible, reliable information is and, as importantly, what is not, is also an important life skill.

6. Citizenship

Developing citizenship is important to help people become helpful and active members of their communities. Helping children learn about the world around them, caring and respecting for others is a big part of modern school curricula.

Children don’t automatically know how to apply these skills in their learning or socially, they do need specific instruction to develop in these areas. This instruction can come from schools, parents, or others. It can take time to master, and progress is not always obvious. Just because a student doesn’t demonstrate a particular skill however, that doesn’t mean we should give up. These skills can be taught and developed in the same way as any other content or skill. Even very young children can learn to manage time or give reasoning if they are shown how. Teachers that are successful at developing core skills in their learners create a kind and respectful classroom space, in which mistakes are valued as opportunities to learn, curiosity is encouraged, and independence is facilitated.

To find out how the British Council helps with the development of these skills, while improving children’s level of English, visit our website or book a free consultation with our friendly consultant.

Monday, May 23, 2022

How I Managed To Afford 20 Private Tutors For My Child

 Guest Post by Amy Tan, parent of Lucy, aged 8 and user of AskBee 

Around April of this year, my 8 year old daughter, Lucy began not just struggling with her studies but losing interest altogether. Her teachers also mentioned that her confidence was steadily dropping in class. The teacher’s advice to me? “It’s simple really. You & your husband just need to sit down with her for 30 mins to an hour a day and help her out with her homework.” It took every ounce of restraint in me not to yell out “Easier said than done!” I had a full time job, 3 other children under the age of 6, a household to maintain and elderly in laws to care for as well. Mothers out there, you know what I'm talking about!

I needed to outsource this task to the best & quick! One-to-one tuition was the most effective way to help my daughter but the cost & hassle that came with a new commitment was holding me back. Also if she needed help outside of her tuition hours, this would bring us back to square one!

Thankfully a friend of mine introduced me to AskBee and it turned out to be exactly what we were looking for!

AskBee is an innovative education app that has over 500 expert tutors onboard. Both Lucy and I then took some time to scroll through some of the tutors profiles to find out more about them. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of the tutors were current or former school teachers or tutors. Lucy immediately liked a couple of them and added them to her Favourite Tutor pool.

I sat next to Lucy when she had her first session. Lucy was warmly greeted by the tutor and was told that she could either take a picture of the question and send it through, or type it out in the chat box. 

Lucy then told the tutor what she was confused with and the tutor proceeded to assist her without giving her the answer directly - which I appreciated!

One of my biggest initial worries was if this app was truly Homework HELP or if it was just a quick way for students to get the answers to their homework from tutors. So this really was reassuring to see!

I continued to sit by Lucy’s side over the next few days whenever she used the app. Here’s what I observed -

PROS: None of the tutors pressured Lucy to turn on her camera or microphone when she did not want to. They truly let her move at her own pace and comfort which I know she appreciated.

CONS: There were a couple of minor issues of course - A handful of sessions either did not get picked up or got dropped because of WiFi issues. This can be resolved by settling any WiFi issue with our Internet Service Provider.

Once Lucy was done with her sessions, she would continue to add tutors that she really liked to her Favourite Tutor pool. It wasn’t long before we filled up 20 of the slots in the Favourite Tutor pool! Moving forward, whenever she would ask for help, priority was given to her Favourite Tutor pool.

Both my daughter’s grades and confidence have never been higher. Whenever she sits down with her homework or revision, she knows she can reach out to any of her favourite 20 tutors for help no matter the day or time. As for me and my husband, we’re able to go about our day knowing that our child is getting all the help she needs from expert tutors without us having to break the bank.

Click here to learn more about AskBee and receive 2 free sessions!

This post was brought to you by AskBee. 

AskBee is an app that helps primary and secondary school students to learn better, by providing them with live, on-demand access to a personal tutor. As the first online tutoring platform to offer an in-app video call feature, AskBee enables students to get one-on-one, real-time guidance from qualified tutors. Just like in real life – or possibly better.

Video below shows AskBee in action!


“My husband and I can finally focus on our work these days as my daughter knows how to get on the app & request for a tutor whenever she needs help with her revision and worksheets. Where has this app been all along?”

Yen Pik Liew (Parent of Valerie Ho, age 12)

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Highlight of Changes in School SOPs

On 28th April, 2022, the Minister of Education, Datuk Dr. Mohd. Radzi bin Md. Jidin made an announcement on some changes in School SOPs in line with the reopening of Education Sector as we head towards endemicity. Below are highlights of some of the changes that will affect primary and secondary school students with effect from 1st May 2022.

1. No need to scan MySejahtera to enter school premises

2. Mask mandate continues for enclosed spaces with exceptions or relaxation for certain situations or individuals, example when you are alone or teachers when teaching in front of classes or during gym classes or students below 5 years old or special needs individuals or those with breathing difficulties (medical report is required)

3. Face mask is encouraged for activities outside enclosed spaces within the school premises and for group activities

4. No more social distancing

5. Self-testing is required only for those with symptoms

6. Management of Covid-19 in school. Isolate student in isolation room and conduct self test. If negative, can continue lessons with mask on, if positive, inform parent to pick up their child from school.

7. Attendance is compulsory. Parents need to inform school in case of absence from school. (Previously parents could choose not to send their kids to school due to pandemic but now attendance is compulsory.) (See minute 16:38 of the video below)

8. Meals at canteen is now allowed with staggered recess time if required.

9. Resumption of all sports and co-curricular activities and competitions within and as well as outside school premise

10. Visitors are allowed to enter school premises eg for PIBG meetings etc.

11. School uniforms are compulsory with effect from the 12 June 2022 ie the second semester onwards.

12. Other changes affecting residential students or those staying in hostels, please refer to the complete summary or the press conference below.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Homework help for primary and secondary school students

This is a sponsored post

Is your child struggling with their homework or revision? Are you struggling to help them out?

Fret not - AskBee is here to save the day! Complete your homework with this innovative app in 3 easy steps.

The next time you or your child are stuck on a question, simply (1) whip out the app, (2) select the subject and (3) get matched with an experienced tutor who will guide your child through the question.

Study Smarter, Not Harder

15min 1-on-1 sessions with private tutors as a child’s concentration level is at their highest!

Wide Range of Built-In Tools

Built-in audio & video settings, front & back camera, co-browsing & screen share functionalities… Communicate with and understand tutors easily from any location.

No Lock-In Commitment

Zero fixed commitment, zero hassle, zero travel time.

Click here to learn more about AskBee and receive 2 free sessions!

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