NUS students uplift the community through mentoring

As a university that prioritises its impact on society through education, NUS has established Teach Singapore (Teach SG), a three-year programme that enables student volunteers to provide academic coaching and mentoring to children and youth from lower income families.

Supported by the NUS Office of Students Affairs (OSA), the university-wide programme has ambitious goals of empowering 1,000 volunteers to engage 3,000 beneficiaries over three years. Individual volunteers and groups are matched to students from primary and secondary schools through mentoring projects and community partners.

Volunteers will be formally trained and equipped with the skills to achieve their own learning objectives while meeting the needs of mentees. They will be nurtured to go beyond the roles of mentors and tutors to become life coaches and even role models.

Deputy Dean of Students Associate Professor Ho Han Kiat hopes that Teach SG will serve the community using the best of what NUS can offer – to educate.

“Our goal is not to become a pro bono tuition centre. Rather, we seek to elevate our beneficiaries’ confidence to learn, and to inspire them to forge towards higher education as a gateway for their desired future,” he said.

Volunteers are trained in coaching and mentoring skills such as rapport and trust building, and how to positively influence the beneficiaries with empathy. As part of their training toolkit, volunteers are also provided with a programme, onboarding materials, in-person and online activity and game resources, as well as survey templates to facilitate their mentoring sessions.

Forms of engagement between the mentors and mentees involve academic coaching and bonding sessions which take place over a minimum of 12 weeks.

“For me, it was my first time leading and planning for an entirely new longer-term project,” shared Celest Chiam who led a group of student volunteers, named Young Buds, to mentor Christ Church Secondary School students.

“I am really thankful for all the volunteers’ feedback too, which really helped to improve the sessions. It was a great experience as there is so much joy in sharing knowledge, and although we are the ones teaching, we learnt so many life lessons from the mentees as well,” said the Year 1 NUS Medicine student.

Year 2 NUS Computing student, Ritesh Kumar found the experience meaningful and rewarding.

“Personally, I have some teaching experience but have not done any teaching after entering university. I am very grateful to be able to teach the students,” Ritesh added.

Strengthening mentoring programmes with dedicated resources

The Teach SG programme operates as a resource hub and enabler for community-based tutoring and mentoring which seeks to hone underprivileged students in their academic and life skills.

"One of the critical components is to brush up on our hard skills and revise some of the content that we were teaching. I also reflected on some of my other volunteering experiences to crystalise some of the takeaways that I’ve had so that I can be a more effective mentor,” said Daryl Teo, a Year 4 NUS Business student who mentored at Tanglin Secondary School.

Through volunteer training and guidance provided by the programme, students can also opt to earn modular credits under the Design Your Own Module scheme, towards a flexible and self-directed learning journey, while becoming an inspiring mentor.

Teach SG is part of an ongoing partnership supporting the Ministry of Education’s UPLIFT initiatives such as GEAR-UP, an after-school mentoring and interest-based programme offered to 120 secondary schools.

To date, Teach SG has recruited 320 volunteers and deployed 180 mentors, with 19 ongoing mentoring projects and another 22 projects in the works.

Through 50 community partners such as People’s Association, Yayasan Mendaki, Chinese Development Assistance Council and social service agencies, the programme has outreached to 229 beneficiaries.