In this month’s issue of Beyond the Classroom, we are very proud to present to you Chee Wee – Co-Founder of MAKE. MAKE was founded to nurture creative problem-solving competencies in young minds to allow them to be able to put the knowledge that they acquire to use!
1. Describe yourself and what you do?
I’m an ex-naval officer, father of two boys (7 & 10), an engineer by training and a tinkerer at heart. In 2017, I co-founded MAKE and created a curriculum-aligned, hands-on maker enrichment programs for 7-12 year olds. Our 3-stage learning model takes kids through academic reinforcement (REFRESHTM), knowledge application (MAKETM) and finally problem-solving challenges (SOLVETM).
2. Is there a story behind WHY you do what you do?/ To what extent have your talents/passions led you in any way to do what you do today?
I gave 19 good years to defend our waters, and was looking to further contribute to nation-building in a different way. Like many other parents, I wasn’t convinced that formal school can prepare my boys sufficiently for their future. I then started to design hands-on, interactive activities for them and realized it could be further developed into an entire program.
MAKE was hence created, to nurture creative problem-solving competencies in young minds so they can progress beyond “knowing something”, to actually “doing something” with that knowledge. It gives me great satisfaction to see kids beaming with smiles after completing their projects, and how we hear so often that MAKE is the only enrichment class they look forward to the whole week!
3. Share with us what you were like as a student and how school was like for you. In retrospect, how do you think that played a part in what you do now and who you have become?
I was curious and talkative, the type that would frustrate old-school teachers with never-ending questions! I later realized however, that it was my curiosity and joy in learning that made it all the more enjoyable and stress-free. Fast forward to the present day, I fear that kids are robbed of basic opportunities to fall in love with learning. Through MAKE, I hope to let kids see and understand the purpose of learning. Our students get a sense of ownership and achievement through their own creations, and also develop a deeper sense of understanding of the academic theories.
4. How do you reinvent yourself? What motivates you?
Till this day, I’m always curious and excited to learn about someone or something new. I like to go out and meet people, hear their stories and be inspired. I enjoy being at the intersection of ideas, even silly ones, and see how they sometimes lead to unexpected discoveries. My motivation comes from my children, as I see in them the builders of tomorrow. MAKE is therefore driven with that same vision to make a positive impact – to nurture creative future generations that can helm Singapore towards SG100 and beyond.
5. What’s the best piece of advice you ever received or given? Or Share ONE life lesson and how it changed the way you approached life.
There’s a Japanese concept called Ikigai – an ideal state combining our personal strengths, passions, the needs of the world and its willingness to reward one’s efforts. That concept gave me the clarity and courage to start MAKE, as it’s indeed what I feel our society presently needs, and something I’m passionate and confident to provide.
6. The future-ready educator should…
a) Understand that he/she does not know better what the future will hold
b) Preserve and encourage imagination in children
c) Develop critical-thinking and problem-solving competencies
7. What have you just learnt recently that blew you away? / Share an example of a life that you impacted.
Since MAKE opened its doors in Oct 2017, we’ve seen our fair share of enlightened parents and happy kids. Many parents tell us that MAKE is the most anticipated enrichment class to their kids all week. Another mother shared how after just 2 classes, her daughter cleared out a personal storage area just to display her MAKE projects! It’s also the first class after which, she will voluntarily share with them what happened in class.
8. How do you hope your business might do its part to transform or add value to the educational scene in Singapore?
It’s early days, but MAKE is honoured to be blazing the trail for maker education in Singapore. We hope that more parents can consider our balanced approach in educating their children. At the same time, we’re always looking for like-minded educators to join our team and help us spread this joy of “learn by doing” to more children.