The General Paper subject (commonly known as GP) taught at Junior College level is often deemed by many to be unteachable. Unlike other subjects such as science or mathematics, GP has no set curriculum, no fixed answers and a seemingly infinite number of topics.
But to Miss Kuik Shiao-yin and her fellow teachers at the School of Thought, that is precisely why they find GP to be such a fascinating subject, and also why they set up their own school.
Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, School of Thought’s company director
The idea for the School of Thought came about in 2001 where Mr Yee Tong, a university friend of Ms Kuik, had just started his training with the National Institute of Education.
During his time there, Mr Tong found that many local students were apathetic about current events in Singapore and around the world; even straight-A students.
But he also realised that there was a way to remedy this–through GP.
A mandatory requirement for university admission, Mr Tong found that the subject presented a great opportunity for students to learn and discuss pertinent world issues.
So he came up with the concept of starting an alternative tuition program that teaches students to excel in their GP exams while also imparting the deeper social implications of the topics – something not done in local schools.
Ms Kuik and another mutual friend, Elizabeth Kon, quickly caught on to the idea and the trio started planning for their first class.
Within a few months, class enrolment ballooned from 20 students to more than a hundred without any marketing effort. The trio, sensing they were on to something good, then decided to turn School of Thought into a full-fledged business.
While initially focused on weaker students, the school’s reputation spread so rapidly by word-of-mouth that it soon attracted students from top schools as well. Classes are in such great demand now that the school currently has a year-long waiting list.
To spread their message of social awareness further, Ms Kuik and her team made forays into the F&B and publishing industries in 2007 with the Food For Thought cafe and Thinktank Publishing respectively. Together with their newest start-up, a national education heritage trail company called Thinkscape, the four companies are known as The Thought Collective.
The four companies are known as The Thought Collective
The School of Thought may have started as an experiment of sorts, but Ms Kuik and her partners still paid close attention to the quality of their services and ran it like a proper business.
This is something Ms Kuik feels all social enterprises must do if they want to succeed.
According to her, many social enterprises fail because they assume people should buy something from them just because they do charitable work. But as the School of Thought has shown, you must first provide people with something they want.
And if it comes with a social angle, then that’s an added bonus.
Learn more about the School of Thought here >