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MAKING A DIFFERENCE

A different kind of school

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One of the classrooms at School of Concepts. The open space encourages children to play, part of the School's curriculum.

TALK about enrichment centres and images of children behind their desks and teachers in front of whiteboards are conjured up.

However, at School of Concepts (SOC), children are encouraged to do what they know best- play.

Hence, an open space for children to have fun takes the place of monotonous tables and brightly coloured reading nooks set in the walls are used for lessons.

Founder Mint Lim realised that students had a harder time coping in school without a strong foundation in English. Coupled with her own experience with dyslexia, SOC was set up last year.

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However, drawing from her previous experience as a tuition centre owner, where she had a "pay what you can system" - as some families were not able to afford the lessons - SOC now operates on a 30:70 ratio.

The previous business model for the tuition centre was not sustainable in the long run. Hence, for SOC now, 30 per cent of the school's resources are set aside for children and families in need.

To qualify, the families present their Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) card or are referred to the SOC by family service centres or charity organisations.

The curriculum at SOC starts with language accquisition for children up to three years-old through structured play. Miss Lim said: "For a young age, their universal language is play, so we use play to translate into English."

As the children get older, phonics is introduced into the curriculum, and answering techniques for comprehension questions and creative writing will be taught.

The curriculum also involves cultivating curiosity in the children and "positive education" to ensure that the children enjoy learning and are motivated to continue.

Miss Lim believes that literature is fundamental to learning. She said: "In order to understand or comprehend things, there must be a tool or a language that is used to communicate."

With the increasing number of latchkey children in today's society, she also incorporates parent-child bonding into lessons to ensure children have bonding time with their parents.

Miss Lim called this a "new wave of poverty in Singapore", as these problems often lead to poorer social skills.

She said: "So our curriculum helps the parent and child to understand this (communication) gap and encourages the child to interact more with his/her parents."

Miss Lim said that expansion is in the pipeline and she intends to increase the number of outlets in Singapore.

She said: "Some of these children need more help to pick up literacy skills, so we can support them that way."

Miss Lim also believes that art could help benefit a child's critical thinking as well as improve a child's motor skills. Hence, she hopes to start teaching design-based art.

SOC has many success stories, one of which was how they not only taught a young girl to read within six months, but instilled her with social etiquette within that period.

Through SOC, Miss Lim is able to accomplish her goal - giving students the foundation they need.

"We can cater to all target audience. That's why our motto is "to give every child equal opportunities", because we believe that every child should have equal opportunities, regardless of their parent's socio-economic situation."

  • This article is part of a biweekly series highlighting Social Enterprises in Singapore. Social enterprises provide business solutions to address unmet and emerging social needs and gaps. Visit www.raise.sg to learn more about these socially impactful companies.