AO Studies Singapore: SME Excellence Business Award & Top Business Service and Quality Award 2022/2023
AO Studies is a tuition center catering to the upper Secondary and Junior College educational levels. Founded by Mr. Lim Chu Wei in 2012, it is currently located near the National Library between Bugis and City Hall MRT Stations. AO Studies carries with it a strong reputation over the past decade, with many students attending and leaving highly successful testimonies of the teaching methods of Mr. Lim.
Apart from just providing tuition services, AO Studies provides self-study facilities such as a lounge, allowing students to come as and when they want via a facial-recognition system established upon the student’s registration. Mr. Lim believes that travel time from schools and homes for some students can affect their concentration. Couple this with the fact that the National Library, while a popular place for students to study, is limited in capacity which might lead to inconveniences. This got worse during the Covid-19 pandemic where no students are allowed to study in the library itself. With these factors in mind, Mr. Lim’s concept of the lounge came to life as it provides students with a proper place to start their self-study early, with a strong focus until the end of the day before going home instead of breaking their momentum.
Mr. Lim brings with him a wealth of experience in the tuition industry, having started giving tuition since he was 16 on a one-to-one basis. As he was on financial assistance scheme while still schooling, tuition became a way to earn some cash, and he continued giving it during his university studies as well as a stint in the engineering industry. It did not come easy, as during his engineering days Mr. Lim needed to cater to both students, clients, and his own bosses as part of being a Sales Engineer. After a few years, he chose to give things a shot when an opportunity to strike out on his own arose, a chance to open his own business.
Mr. Lim had the chance to open the first Bishan branch with a former colleague. However after a year Mr. Lim became independent, running the tuition center on his own while contributing rent to his former colleague. Serving a mostly local core of students, Mr. Lim shares that obstacles generally come with the job in the form of discussing the student’s needs with their parents, which he considers an art. Being a teacher, he considers the students’ needs from their perspective, while some parents might assume that it was a sales pitch for more lessons, and require more insight on why some students require longer to understand the concept of a topic. Other quirks include questions on the class’ makeup of students, and constant inquiries with no follow up.
Mr. Lim also pursued a number of other passions, such as weightlifting which pushed him to earn a personal trainer license before his National Service commitments. However, when it comes to discussing whether tuition was a passion of his, Mr. Lim shares of his uncertainty regarding that, bringing his experience as a personal trainer in. He felt the mantle of it being a ‘job’ caused him to lose some enjoyment in working out himself. He shares with his students that they should choose a job they are willing to sacrifice their time for, instead of pursuing a passion as a job and risk getting burnt out and losing an enjoyable passion.
On what AO Studies means to him, Mr. Lim shares that while he could teach students to the best of his ability, a student’s results depend on their own performance during the examination. He also shares that when it comes to Mathematics, a single careless mistake means the loss of all marks in the question, and thus a student’s carelessness does not reflect on the capability of himself as a teacher. Thus Mr. Lim aims to transform AO Studies to a renowned center, based on his teaching methods, to always keep to a high standard of tests and teaching to ensure that his students both enjoy and learn at the same time.
Mr. Lim also fosters a healthy relationship with his students, and that is reflected in the testimonials on AO Studies’ website. Not only do they write a detailed testimonial on their experiences, they also share their results slips as proof of their achievements, which Mr. Lim takes great care in ensuring they remain private. While some businessmen sought to open new tuition centers to leverage on the education market, Mr Lim seeks to expand on his personal business via a café, one where his students could get discounts.
With himself as the only teacher in the center, Mr. Lim credits his continued success in the tuition business to the businessman-mindset Mr. Lim possesses. Ever-changing and ready to adapt, he focuses on data and trends to update his syllabus and teaching methods, aiming to always stay ahead of the industry. He also emphasizes on punctuality and discipline as an important factor, taking responsibility should he be late for even a mere 5 minutes by buying bubble tea for the class. He seeks constant change and upgrading, with small changes along the years to update to the times as well as his students’ preferences. He also has to reject students or requests for one-to-one tutoring, in order to ensure that the students in AO Studies would get his best attention.
Mr. Lim describes the culture of his lessons as a very relaxed and open form of interaction with his students. As someone who came from an engineering background instead of the general track from NIE, Mr. Lim’s relaxed attitude when interacting with his students encourages them to open up as well, allowing for more open and honest sharing.
Some milestones for AO Studies include being able to establish themselves in their current location, something if you ask Mr. Lim ten years ago he would never have thought possible. On a personal level, he could see his former students advance in their careers, be it in news and media, beauty salons, or even influencers. Mr. Lim shares that AO Studies differs from other tuition centers by providing full examination papers for tests set by him, personally marking the test papers of his students, and providing free after-hours personal consultation and only charging for the exam review.