The Evolution Of Economics Tuition In Singapore

The Evolution Of Economics Tuition In Singapore

Economics tuition came into existence in Singapore only a few years after the Cambridge GCE ‘A’ Level examination was introduced in 1975. However, in those years, it was not common for students to take economics tuition. Accordingly, there were not many economics tutors in Singapore at the time. Indeed, Mr. Edmund Quek who is the principal economics tutor at Economics Cafe Learning Centre was one of the few economics tutors at the time. In 2002, the Cambridge GCE ‘A’ Level examination in Singapore was delinked from the UK’s examination as part of the Ministry of Education’s efforts to gain greater control of the management of the examination. As a result, the number of students taking economics tuition started rising rapidly. The second phase of a rapid rise in the number of students started after 2007 when the examiners started setting harder examination questions.

Economics Tuition between 1975 and 2002

Between 1975 and 2002, students in pre-university in Singapore were doing the International Cambridge GCE ‘A’ Level examination which is the UK’s examination. As the examination questions were straightforward and the expectations of the responses by the examiners were not particularly high, students did not have to seek external help for economics. Therefore, few students were taking economics tuition. For example, the examination questions on macroeconomic policies would include questions which simply asked for an explanation of the mechanism of monetary policy. For such a straightforward examination question, students simply have to explain both the interest rate-centred monetary policy and the exchange rate-centred monetary policy. As these explanations can be found in elementary economics textbooks, taking economics tuition at the time was not necessary and hence not common. Only a handful of students with a wealthy background were taking economics tuition. Many of these students sought the guidance of Mr. Edmund Quek who was a highly sought after economics tutor at the time and till this day.

Economics Tuition between 2002 and 2007

When the Cambridge GCE ‘A’ Level examination in Singapore was delinked from the UK’s examination in 2002, the examination questions became harder. As a result, many students sought external help for economics by taking economics tuition from an experienced economics tutor. The examination questions were harder in two ways. First, they were less direct. For example, instead of simply asking students to explain the mechanism of monetary policy, the examination questions would ask students to compare and contrast monetary policy and fiscal policy. Although the first question is more straightforward, the second question requires students to have a better understanding of the concepts in order to produce a good response. As the number of students taking economics tuition started rising rapidly, the number of economics tuition centres also started increasing rapidly. For example, Mind Level which was helmed by a good economics tutor, Sebrina Ng, was set up at the time.

Economics Tuition between 2007 and the present

Around 2007, there was a heated debate as to whether the Cambridge GCE ‘A’ Level examination was too easy. The main reason for the debate was the high number of distinctions which made it difficult for universities to differentiate the better students from the weaker ones when making admission decisions. The result of the debate was harder questions in the Cambridge GCE ‘A’ Level examination. The examination questions became harder as they became even less direct and in some cases, were pretty convoluted. An example is the question on conflicts of macroeconomic goals set in 2012. Consequently, the second phase of a rapid rise in the number of students taking economics tuition set in. However, some economics tutors have benefited to a larger extent than others. For example, a good and experienced economics tutor has benefited to a larger extent than a less effective and less experienced economics tutor.

Keith Quek

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Economics Tuition Singapore @ Economics Cafe
Principal Economics Tutor: Mr. Edmund Quek