Gavin’s Tuition: Singapore Prestige Class Award 2021/2022
Gavins Tuition SPCA TBSQ Writeup Final
Founder of Gavin’s Tuition, Dr. Ng Yong Quan Gavin
In a competitive environment where results matter, students often find themselves facing difficulties achieving high scores without the aid of tuition. More than ever, tuition has become a growing necessity, and as parents, it is important to be able to identify the right tuition centre that can help with their children achieve the requisite results. With so many tuition centres to choose from, there are always several factors that should be taken into consideration before coming to a decision. With the myriad of choices available in Singapore, selecting the right tuition centre that can complement your child’s learning needs is not easy task.
Dr. Ng Yong Quan Gavin established Gavin’s Tuition centre in 2014, this was due mainly to the growing clientele over the years. The centre has grown exponentially under the direction of its founder. Gavin’s Tuition believes that students deserve a holistic education and should enjoy the learning journey in a conducive environment without fear of failure. With an ever-growing team of parents, students and tutors, everyone that is part of Gavin’s Tuition are fully committed to provide students with the utmost support and guidance in their academic endeavours.
For their achievements in digital innovation, commitment to their clients and foresight in business growth development, Gavin’s Tuition will be receiving the Singapore Prestige Class Award 2021/2022, and the Top Business and Service Quality Award 2021/2022.
Dr. Gavin shares with Vision Media.
Could you tell us about Gavin’s Tuition?
We run tuition centres in Singapore, but my concept of these tuition centres is hinged on the need to remain relevant in the upcoming years. 2014 is when Gavin tuition centre officially opened. I started providing private tuition in 2012 and in 2014, decided to open my main branch in Braddell. Previously, when I was still teaching privately, my student base grew to between 300 – 400 in numbers. Due to this growth, on the authority’s request, I started the tuition centre for commercialisation. So, in terms of business experience, I have been teaching since 2012, but if you look at the main shop opening, that opened in 2014, and the contract was renewed the contract in 2017.
For our tuition centres, it is a little different from the conventional brick and mortar establishment. For a start, our tuition centres are being helmed by a young team, all our staff are aged below 30, I am one of the oldest. The reason for this is because for us, we believe that the new generation of students are quite different from the earlier generations, so we need to uplift a conventional method to teach them. This is partially the reason our young team can understand the younger generation and adapt to their teaching style. Secondly, our tuition centres are considered smart tuition centres, so for us, we do not rely a lot on humans, but we tap on the use of robots and technology to manage our daily operations.
Could you tell us more about the technologies you have developed to aid the learning process and operations?
When we mention robots, we refer to Artificial Intelligence (AI); machine learning to manage our daily operations. So, for example, on enquiries directed to our human resource, the way we communicate with the parents, it is all being supported by AI control. Our robots can enlarge its learnings from human behaviour interaction and respond to a typical set of questions to the parents. On top of that, we also develop our own solutions, so we do not tap on any of the government solutions. We code our own mobile application, we run our own accounts, everything; even the management system, is built from scratch. For me, I am a coder. I trained my team and my coaches to do this together. Since we were quite free during the circuit breaker last year, we decided to get together and build everything from scratch. So, everything is in-house, there is no third party involved.
I believe that we will be the first tuition centre in Singapore, that is able to use machine learning to teach, manage operations and handle customer service. It is understandable that where tuition methods are concerned, parents believe that it must be personal, face-to-face, and that there must be some form of interaction. But this is because the concept of AI idea is new, and people may be a bit sceptical. For the next ten to 12 years, I believe that we will be the place that is considered as a smart tuition centre. Anything, algorithm-wise, you can tap on it to guide your child’s learning, and we have been able to tap on 3D effects to deliver in the comfort of your own house. As and when we are helping the student, everyone will have one, a personal assistant to help with your child’s studies.
A few years ago, when this concept was new, people did not really understand the need to invest in technology or AI. But now that Covid-19 struck, we operationalised, and people came to understand why we must continue doing research and investing in this area.
Furthermore, mobile application that I mentioned earlier was something that we coded ourselves, we have been thinking of launching it to the public as a next phase. Given our skills, we can understand how the application can adapt to business operations in the Covid-19 setting. I believe that if can customise this application to various industries, it could provide an extension of service.
Are there any other teaching methods you have integrated?
We have also recently developed something we call the Experimental Kit. This is a take-home box that consists of experimental products that we will mail to the parent’s or student’s house, and they can attend our live stream every two weeks, and they can conduct experiments with their family in the comfort of their own home. Especially during this covid period, this kit gives the students a chance to continue experiments for their classes and continue to progress versus no practical practice experience. We have not officially launched this product and we have only been working on it for a few months, but it has gained traction quite fast over the last few months.
We also started to make use of Tiktok two months ago; Tiktok is something that is quite popular among this generation of students. Because of that, we focused a lot of attention on Tiktok from the student’s point of view. At first, we started something as joke, and asked our students to film short snippets that we stitched together to create a video. I was quite surprised that the students were so willing to collaborate with us on this, some have even approached me asking to do it again and we have since obliged.
What were the difficulties you faced running the Tuition Center?
Being young. At the start because we are so young, it was exceedingly difficult for people to trust us, especially when I started the business, it was at my house. How would a parent trust me enough to send their child to a young person’s house for tuition? My age gap with my students was not big. It started for a few months, but after a while, I realised that the power of word-of-mouth recommendation is extraordinarily strong. Once one of the parents started to recommend me to others, the discrimination about my age went away and the students started coming in. The biggest challenge was still the Covid-19, the last time we faced a pandemic was when I was a PSLE student – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). There were no guidelines and no experience for me to tap on in terms of business planning and how to survive this era. So, within my milestones, these two were the most challenging.
Overcoming all this was not easy, but through resilience, I managed to pull through. If parents did not trust me, I proved myself using results. I assured them that transparency in communication is always important. Ask me anything and I would be able respond. I do not just teach, but I also make sure that the child’s development is well taken care of. There are many rebellious kids, and I became well known amongst parents in helping parents to change their child for the better, so that they are more motivated.
As a policy, we are always very generous, open, and transparent. Most of our partners are happy with us. As for our students, it is the same; anything that they need help with, we are always a phone call away. We are always ready to sit down and talk to the parents about anything. I think the trust that we have built with our students, their parents, and our partners is the reason we have been able to retain our clients.
Do you have any expansion plans for Gavin’s Tuition?
I am thinking of franchising soon, we are in talks with some franchisees that are interested. The reason I want to franchise is because our model is considered quite attractive to people. Previously, there were a lot of franchise models, but most of them are not pandemic proof, so, they either exit the business, or there was a lack of support. But for the last year, we have garnered quite a lot of media attention on how we have been able to survive and become a role-model. Therefore, franchising would be next in mind.
Furthermore, I was quite surprised with the results we obtained when we franchised overseas. We already have branches in Thailand, Myanmar, and we have been working with China for the last seven years. Our operations in Thailand have been the most successful so far with the establishment of multiple branches across the country since 2016. When it comes to Singapore because people tend to be a more cautious, I thought that the results may not be as good here, but somehow, people were willing to sign on to this idea and model. This is because what I am showing them is not a typical tuition centre that can earn money. What I have pitched is a tuition centre that can be relevant for the next 10 years.
What sets you aside from your competitors?
“I’m not a good businessperson. Put me as a boss and I would not be able to help you earn big money.” this is what I always tell my staff. It is more towards the joy of teaching. We know every single student; we know all the parents and we treat them as friends.
Most of our students have been with us for many years; from when they were young. So, I think this is what makes us stand out. We do not depend on testimonials, you can ask any of my students, and they would be able to tell you for themselves what they liked about classes. The interesting thing is, what I always tell teachers that motivates them is that “Parents always tell us that their child is so motivated to go to their classes. They do not even need to nag. They do not think of skipping or anything. But whenever they need to go to school extra curriculars or any other tuition, they are always trying to find an excuse to ditch.”
Also, the most important thing is that they can interact with our teachers, they remember the class. Typical tuition, after the child has left for about two hours, the thing I feel the saddest about is the fact that the child does not even remember the teacher; they do not even know what the teacher is or where was the centre. But ask any teacher at Gavin’s Tuition who their teacher is, and they can tell you not just who their teacher is, but also what the teacher taught them. I think this is what really sets us aside from the other tuition centres.
Another factor would be foresight. The company’s direction has already been set, and our staff trust in this. Even though their mentality should usually be that “they come, they teach, they go home”, that is not the case for the teachers at Gavin’s Tuition. All of them are willing to take on more roles to play with what I call, “playing with the crazy scientist’s ideas”. So, if I am the crazy scientist, they are willing to trust that. They are not here as just tuition teachers; they are also here to support the teamwork. If I foresee that something may happen in the coming future, they will work on preparing for the inevitable, without question. When it does happen, they understand our vantage point, this allows us to stay one step ahead of others.
If you had one piece of advice to for someone starting out, what would it be?
If you want to be a businessman, you have to understand that it is not about money. The person that earns money for you is not your boss, it is your staff. The boss can only provide a direction. I can have the direction but if I do not have a good rapport with anyone. It is like running a ship; you can ask your crew to go one way, but if your crew does not have the energy get the ship moving, your ship is not going to move