The education system has surely evolved in the past decades but it has also become equally competitive. With students adapting fast to an ever-hustling and changing world, there is immense pressure on the mind and body.
Peer pressure is one of the primary reasons behind the increase in the level of anxiety and stress in students. The Ministry of Education (MOE) also states that 15-year-old students in Singapore are preparing for their N and O level examinations. This goes on to show the kind of pressure and academic competition students face.
With this in mind, experts like Kelly Chen are working not only to improve the learning experience for students, but also to help them reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Her Hong Kong-based online learning website, Snapask, is offering tutoring services to students across South East Asia.
To learn more about Kelly Chen’s work and how she plans to work around mental health issues in students, theAsianparent recently caught up with Snapask’s Head of Singapore business.
Kelly has spent her entire career in the technology sector. The mum-of-one has now set her focus to reshape our education system and use technology to play an integral role in the whole process.
But how does Kelly plan to bring about this change? Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Start From The Basics: Create Mental Health Awareness
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TAP: Drawing from your past experiences, what do you think should be done to address mental health issues in the student community?
Kelly: The number of subjects that students need to pick up based on the school curriculum can be overwhelming. Despite this, people tend to neglect the issue of mental health.
Understandably, it takes a lot of effort to educate and promote mental health awareness and to further normalise this as part and parcel of students’ lives. Community support is also imperative to this effort.
It is always saddening to hear news about students’ suicide year after year, especially on days where national exam results are released. Mental health issues are not created in a day. It’s cumulative and reinforced by society, whether intentionally or not.
And unfortunately, the more frequently it gets reinforced on the government and family levels, the more it causes an adverse impact on student’s mental health.
Much has been done by the Ministry of Education in recent years to shift the heavy focus away from academic results. This includes removing examinations for the lower primary levels, and promoting skills and knowledge beyond textbooks.
New-age parents more open-minded about different education styles
However, it will take well more than a few years for parents, who were brought up wholly under the previous education system, to stop focusing on their children’s grades.
I believe that parents of this generation are definitely more educated to keep an open mind. They are exposed to different ways of parenting styles and try out various ways of grooming their child according to their innate talents.
Parents could leverage education technology to support their children’s learning. With the pressure from parents alleviated, the child can also be encouraged to pursue other passions and demonstrate other capabilities and soft skills which can be applied to their academics.
Being able to discover this connection on their own initiates self-directed learning, a learning method that we strongly encourage students to adopt.
This may sound like a roundabout approach, but it’s definitely more motivational and beneficial in the long run. It’s better than forcing the child to focus solely on their studies.
Self-Awareness Is The Key To Good Mental Health
TAP: How do you advise and help students address their performance anxiety and fears?
Kelly: Students’ anxiety and fear often stem from low self-esteem caused by experiencing failure. Failure has a negative connotation. But it is exactly what all successful people will go through. There is no success before failure, and schools are some of the best places to experience this.
Self-awareness is the key to mental health. A majority of Singaporean students put all their attention on exams to meet unrealistic expectations. As such, these may cause depression, anxiety and stress.
Being aware of one’s mental health conditions and practising self-care is an important first step to curb mental illness.
Additionally, changing the perception of what “failure” means to students is also crucial. They need to learn that failure is part and parcel of everyone’s journey. But understanding the reasons behind them is what leads to success – such as weakness in certain subjects and poor time management. Rather than dwelling on failures, it is more productive to focus on self-improvement.
Increasing Mental Health Issues In Students During The Pandemic
TAP: Has the pandemic amplified mental health issues faced by our students?
Kelly: Definitely! What the adults face, students face them too, and probably even more so.
We had conducted a student survey after last year’s CB in Singapore and found that students on Snapask have a higher motivation to learn. They could plan their own learning and also manage peer pressure, compared to more than 60 per cent non-Snapask students.
We observed that students were able to get better support during the pandemic and were more motivated and engaged.
Students of this generation are very much aware of current affairs. Now that they’ve experienced the pandemic, their future seems to hold more uncertainty than ever before. But the world will never stop revolving.
Students will have to keep up their pace and adapt to drastic changes such as methods of learning and even ways to socialise with their peers.
Hence, their outlets for stress relief have been significantly reduced as well. Some might even face difficulty focusing at home due to distractions. Meanwhile conducive study environments such as libraries are no longer safe.
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Students Should Speak To Real Tutors And Not AI Chatbots
TAP: How are you able to help students alleviate their study stress?
Kelly: The secret to learning better is “motivation.”
Snapask is an app that is available 24×7. Its students are not limited by the factors of where and when. As long as they are studying and require immediate help, they can reach out to online tutors who can resolve their questions in a matter of minutes. This also effectively avoids disruptions to their learning momentum and train of thought.
Unlike speaking to AI chatbots, this human interaction with tutors offers students someone outside of the household to talk and connect to. Every student has different learning styles and needs. With this understanding, Snapask tutors are able to provide optimum support based on individual students’ pace. They need not worry about peer pressure in a physical classroom setting.
With Snapask, students will be motivated to pick up their studies. This will lead to a positive cycle of learning that grooms their confidence to learn, explore and worry less about making mistakes.
Snapask’s Hello’Cher feature is a learning companion where students can receive learning tips, life in school, and other interesting topics that support students to learn in a fun way. Snapask also shares useful articles about exam tips and strategies, co-curricular activities (CCA), Direct School Admission (DSA), relationships, and mental health.
Image Source: Snapask
Stress And Anxiety In Students: Learning With Compassion
TAP: How do you alleviate the learning stress for Singaporean students through personalised guidance by tutors?
Kelly: Students face difficult questions and concepts each day during studying, which can be very frustrating and demotivating.
However, challenges can also be motivating. These challenges could encourage them to ask more questions, and hence learn more. We all know that asking questions is a critical step to advance one’s learning, that’s why we want students to ask questions every day.
However, asking questions is not a privilege for every student due to a multitude of reasons. Before diving into the reasons, allow me to explain the fundamentals of how we work.
To help students alleviate their learning stress, we provide a conducive and safe learning environment.
To begin their learning journey with Snapask, students can initiate the Ask session by snapping a photo of a difficult question from a book and upload it on the app.
Then, the platform’s algorithm will begin calculations and match students with a suitable tutor. Finally, students can then interact via photos, text or audio with the tutors.
In turn, tutors will be able to provide step-by-step guidance to ensure that students have understood the explanation.
Now, back to the reasons why asking questions might not be a convenience for all. As opposed to a face-to-face setting like a classroom or tuition, students do not need to worry about judgement from peers.
They don’t need to lose face when they do not understand what’s being taught. They also wouldn’t have to feel bad for disrupting the whole class with questions.
Hence, we emphasise on the process of learning, rather than placing too much emphasis on getting the final answer.
Stress And Anxiety In Students: PSLE Is A Part Of A Your Life, Not The End Goal
TAP: What are your thoughts on the changed PSLE rules? What is your advice to students to ace their exams?
Kelly: While the PSLE rules have changed, it is still a system to evaluate students. Hence, stress will still be a big part of the experience.
My advice to students would be to recognise that PSLE is merely a small part of their lives. It’s more important to cherish the learning journey where students can garner life skills that will stay with them for a lifetime. These include stress management, problem-solving skills and some character-building fundamentals.
It is crucial to avoid studying at the final hour as it could result in anxiety and depression. Instead, students should plan their schedule that allows consistent revisions in the weeks leading up to the final exam.
Use Online Resources To Built Better Relationships With Your Children
TAP: What’s your advice to parents for HBL? How can they help their kids?
Kelly: HBL presents challenges as well as benefits. As it’s crucial to stay home and practice self-care, parents can encourage children by setting up daily routines to adhere to.
This can help develop discipline and mental fortitude. Now that families have more time with each other, parents can plan for more activities that forge meaningful bonds.
Parents always want to give the best to their children. In the digital age, parents can make use of the many online resources to pique children’s curiosity and motivation to learn.
Likewise, we aim to help students develop better relationships with their children by instilling curiosity, independence and communication skills through self-directed learning.
These skills will eventually lead to better character and personality development.