1. Describe yourself and what you do?
I am Lee Meng Hui, a father of two, a trained civil engineer who turned into an education entrepreneur 17 years ago. I run the Yen’s Academy learning centre at Bishan.
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 was giving ad-hoc academic support to people around me and found that I enjoyed what I did. I realised that I seems to be able to explain complicated things in simpler ways that most people can understand better. I felt very happy when I see students doing well, not just academically but when they become motivated in learning. I wanted students to have fun whilst learning and still achieve results. Yen is the name of my then girlfriend, now wife. I started the centre using her name to push myself to make it work!
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 enjoyed school when I was a student. I was studying at The Chinese High School (now Hwa Chong Institution) and the school left lasting impressions on me to continuously strive for excellence. I studied civil engineering at NTU and became an engineer with a Japanese company. I found that my passion was in teaching so I started my own centre in 2002 to inspire students to push themselves to excellence as well.
4. How do you reinvent yourself? What motivates you?
I believe in trying new and innovative ideas. Two years ago, we were the first to pilot the use of Singapore most popular Math portal, KooBits at our centre. We became a partner of KooBits and also started to use other technology such as NewsEd by SPH and Kahoots! to make learning more fun yet effective. We teamed up with Ignium Academy to strengthen our strategic position in this market. We also started working with likeminded companies that are innovative to be more creative at targeting parents, such as The Flying Cape. Last year, we conducted parents talks on Learning in the 21stCentury with The Flying Cape and Kiasu Parents.
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.
I am blessed to have received support during my own learning journey. I am especially grateful to my alma mater, The Chinese High School. A huge factor that enabled me to complete my O levels as the first independent school cohort at The Chinese High School was because my brother and I were allowed to pay highly subsidised fees throughout our secondary school years. Without this additional support, I am doubtful that we would have been able to afford the school fees which was much higher than the usual fees.
I’ve always believed that it is important to give back to the community, and it was only recently, while chatting with my partner, that I realised this is the 15th year Yen’s is providing free tuition for students from families seeking financial support. We are thankful to have the opportunity to work together with Residential Committees and recently Singapore Children Society to extend our reach further to more families and I am grateful for the opportunity to pay it forward.
Though the amount that we absorb through these free classes is relatively small, we are positive that our action has benefited some students over the years.
Yen’s and our partners are determined to continue to do what we can to support students who truly want to learn. Education is every child’s birthright and financial limitations should never get in the way.
6. The future-ready educator should…
Inspire students to bring out the best in themselves.
7. What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’d recently attended a personal development course and learnt a very simple but powerful lesson:
Be present. We have become so accustomed to sacrificing the present for the sake of the future that we regard the present moment as a burden that just needs to be tolerated until that one day when our bright future arrives. Because of this mindset, we have overlooked the importance of enjoying the journey because our only focus is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Yes, the future is important. But it is also equally important to live in the present and enjoy the moment. Give every day a fighting chance to become the most beautiful day of your life. You will never have today again so you must make it count.
8. How do you hope your business might do its part to transform or add value to the educational scene in Singapore?
We are pioneering ways to be more creative and effective in the use of technology to support learning. The best part of our work is when we see children doing well and become confident contributors to society.