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Want your child to be disciplined in lifelong study habits? 6 key factors when choosing a mentoring program

Emil Lim is the Principal Trainer at Singapore’s top study skills mentoring programme and shares what to look for when considering study skills mentoring programmes for your child

Photo courtesy of wichayada suwanachun on Vecteezy
Photo courtesy of wichayada suwanachun on Vecteezy

Opinions expressed by Digital Journal contributors are their own.

You just know it is going to be yet another disappointing year ahead. Looking at your child’s most recent grades in school, it is clear that something different has to be done. The nagging and additional tuition classes simply are not working. Not only could it add unnecessary stress to your child, but your relationship with your child could even be strained by the arguments.

Did you know that youths with mentors are 130% more likely to hold leadership positions in the future? MENTOR, one of the largest youth mentoring organizations in the US, published that their students with mentors are more likely to make it into University and 78% more likely to become contributing members of society. If you have thought of nurturing independent study habits in your child, to see behavioral change and lifelong success, 2024 might be the golden time to get a study skills mentor. 

To understand the importance of study skills mentors, we interviewed Emil Lim, an award-winning study skills specialist and Valedictorian from the National University of Singapore. Emil has helped more than 7,000 students nurture the best study habits over the last seven years. He is also the Principal Trainer at Singapore’s top study skills mentoring programme by First Principles Education and here are six key factors to look out for when considering study skills mentoring programmes for your child.

1. Who are the mentors? 

Photo courtesy of First Principles Education/Canva

Having a good understanding of the profile of the mentor team is the most important factor in our analysis. You should consider factors such as where they grew up, where they studied, their personal experiences as a student, and more. Such factors could determine if your child finds the mentor to be relevant and impactful. It can even affect how much the mentor can understand your child’s specific needs and challenges in your local education landscape.

This is why First Principles Education’s full team of 50 study skills mentors are all young and energetic local university students who have gone through the same Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) curriculum. This gives their mentor team the advantage of being MOE-registered study skills specialists who can act as role models and elder siblings to their students because the mentors themselves took the same PSLE and O Levels just a few years ago. Such an approach has successfully helped thousands of students become more receptive to adopting the best study skills and is a big reason why First Principles Education has been awarded by the Academy of Singapore Teachers for upskilling MOE teachers in study skills and how to connect with Gen Z students.

With thousands of courses and mentoring programmes to choose from online, it is even harder for you as a parent to decide what is best for your child. We encourage parents to not be distracted by the shiny achievements of the mentors, nor be confused by the countless options available. Instead, you should focus on what the mentor team has been through and if they have relevant personal experiences that can impact your child.

2. How is it conducted? 

Photo courtesy of First Principles Education/Canva

Even the best mentor team will not be able to help your child if the programme’s arrangement is not feasible for your family. It is important to know logistical details such as the location, the format of the programme and even the duration and frequency of the sessions. For busy parents such as yourself, an inaccessible location will mean hours wasted on traveling each week, and online options are convenient but they must be handled well and be engaging enough to not distract your child.

In the case study we examined, First Principles Education adopts a fully online study habits transformation programme. To maintain their 98% success rate, their mentoring sessions are conducted 1-to-1 between each student and their personal dedicated study skills mentor. To nurture lifelong habits, their programme is a 12-month complete study habits transformation, with sessions being conducted one to two times per week. When we observed their sessions, we noticed they were packed with discussions, activities and games to keep the students engaged during the hour-long session.

As parents, you will have to decide what format and commitment level is suitable for your child. While a longer programme may seem better, it should not be so long as to feel like boring tuition for your child. On the flip side, a shorter programme may be ineffective as studies have shown it could take between six to eight months for new study habits to properly form. Having the programme conducted at a physical location may also suit the learning style of your child, especially if they are under the age of nine. On the other hand, in a post-COVID world, being able to learn effectively online is a critical skill that you may wish for your child to start mastering now.

3. What kind of ‘study skills’ are taught? 

Photo courtesy of First Principles Education/Canva

There is no actual guideline from the Ministry of Education on what ‘study skills’ are. Do you know the difference between study skills and answering techniques? Are motivational talks also the same as study skills? Most parents do not know the differences so it is also important to find out what exactly will your child be learning from the programme. This is critical because, in our research, some tuition classes may include some study hacks or answering techniques to their curriculum to differentiate themselves from other tuition, but these hacks are usually just short-term solutions for overcoming exams only. We have also seen motivational camps being branded as study skills but they may already be the same kind of motivational talks your child has already received from their school.

At First Principles Education, tuition services and motivational talks are viewed as short-term solutions and are not offered. Instead, they focus on teaching their students neuroscience-supported study skills such as long-term memory skills, personal time management skills, developing a growth mindset and independent exam preparation skills. These skills allow their students to know how to study smarter and MOE schools have engaged the team from First Principles Education to impart these skills to their students.

We highly encourage parents to find a study skills mentoring programme that clearly defines what they are teaching their child and that it must align with their expectations. While we know it may be tempting to find a programme that covers a little of everything, a touch-and-go approach is often shallow and not as effective. In contrast, a specialized programme can be laser-focused on helping your child solve their specific challenges and offer a more customized experience.

4. Who are their star students?

As you check off the above criteria, it may become tempting to enroll your child especially when you see the many five-star reviews from other parents. But you should also consider who are the kind of students from those success stories. Some agencies only select the best-performing students to be accepted into their mentoring programme to ensure a high rate of success. The profile of their past students is also an important factor to consider because every child is unique and your child may have different needs and not get the same level of success.

Looking at First Principles Education, perform a “Diamond Discovery Diagnostics” for every interested applicant for their programme. This filters out students who are not willing to put in any effort at all and expect to be spoon-fed all the time. From their pool of accepted students, success stories include high-performing students looking to master their study skills and also students with learning challenges such as Dyslexia and ADHD who have seen varying degrees of success with their mentors. Their team also works closely with MOE schools to help students who struggle with their academics learn smarter ways to study to regain their self-confidence.

As a parent, you understand your child the best. If your child is an athlete who needs to balance a sports scholarship with the high school curriculum, you should keep a lookout for similar profiles in their star students. When in doubt, you should always reach out to the mentor team to ask for specific success stories relevant to you.

5. Today’s Cost vs Tomorrow’s Opportunity Loss? 

Photo courtesy of First Principles Education/Canva

The investment into such mentoring programmes will not come cheap, so of course you will want to look at your budget. While it is easier to simply look at the cost of the programme now, it is important to also consider the cost of lost opportunities if your child continues to struggle. One big cost in the future will be the increasing cost of tuition fees on a recurring monthly basis. As your child advances to the next level and continues to rely on tuition for more subjects, tuition fees could quickly add up to thousands of dollars every month. Another major cost is the value of the opportunities lost such as scholarships, dream schools and even your child’s self-esteem. These opportunities that shape the development of your child are priceless and once lost, it is gone forever.

First Principles Education’s study habits transformation programme is one of the biggest investments in study skills around the world. Such an investment amount would have cost upwards of SGD3,000 (approximately USD $2,238) several years ago. However, because they were awarded funding from government agencies, the programme’s investment amount now is significantly lower but it remains as a premium lifelong investment. But parents from all over Singapore continue to enroll their children on their programme because it works better than anything else out there.

While it is crucial to understand that effective solutions will always be at a premium, it is even more important to work within your budget and weigh your options against what is best for your child. If your focus is on short-term exam grades and your budget is tight, affordable tuition services may be the best solution for your family now. But if your focus is on setting your child up for long-term success and nurturing lifelong habits, a bigger investment into the best programme could help your child avoid big losses in future opportunities.

6. Does their approach make sense to you? 

Photo courtesy of First Principles Education/Canva

Every mentoring programme will have its unique frameworks and systems to make themselves unique. When choosing a programme, you are also deciding on a philosophy to believe in. Just like how Yoda mentors Luke Skywalker, it is not simply about lightsaber techniques but also the Way of The Force. Similarly, a study skills mentoring programme is more than just the study techniques and also includes the mentor team’s beliefs.

Using First Principles Education’s beliefs as an example, their study skills are all rooted deep in neuroscience and are data-driven. The “Diamond Study Skills” framework was developed after interviewing over 1,000 students in Singapore and the research findings show that six critical groups of study habits were responsible for the performance gap between high and low-performing students. Furthermore, these “Diamond Study Skills” are supported by the latest neuroscience evidence from Harvard and Stanford University. This means the skills can be easily used by anyone and are proven to be highly effective especially when used by students in Singapore. With the support of MOE Schools, First Principles Education also developed the “Singapore Scholars Self-Starter Suite”, to introduce powerful digital study tools that make applying study skills automatic and easy.

The approach used by the programme must resonate with you and your family’s values. There are mentoring programmes that avoid using any digital study tools that could appeal to you if that is your parenting style. Ultimately, these programmes are not meant to be a replacement for good parenting and should be viewed as a strong support to your role in helping your child prepare for a successful future.

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Written By

Jon Stojan is a professional writer based in Wisconsin. He guides editorial teams consisting of writers across the US to help them become more skilled and diverse writers. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and children.

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