In Conversation With Carean Oh – Founder of Writers Studio School of English

English is the mainstream language and in academics, it’s an integral part of any child’s learning journey. It’s the language that will be the core of everything we do whether it’s study, work or life. To master English, it’s necessary to have a strong grip on its grammar. To express our thoughts and feelings, speaking in English and creative writing should be solid. English is a fun and, at the same time, tricky language. If children have to master English for academics and beyond, parents must rely on great teachers who will enrich and empower children’s English learning journey.

Carean Oh is an award-winning teacher and founder of Writers Studio School of English. Since its establishment in 2012, her heart-based teaching philosophy has been well-proven to help children succeed in English and creative writing.

Carean Oh’s Writers Studio provides an all-in-one training programme that benefits children from lower to higher ability groups. Students are mapped on three main learning pathways to acquire language based on their prevailing language proficiency levels. She trains a team of teachers at Writers Studio who share her philosophy, that is, to create a heart-based environment where students feel comfortable expressing themselves and building authentic connections with their teachers. This empowers students to become self-directed learners to ensure success within and beyond the classroom.

Writers Studio School of English is now located in its brand new premise at 144 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Beauty World Centre, #03-06. In its 3000 square feet space, Carean Oh and her team spend their time inspiring the minds of primary and secondary school children to hone their language mastery.

We e-interviewed Carean Oh recently to learn more about her inspiring journey and gained lot of meaningful insights from her. Read on!

Hi Carean, first, let me tell you that I have heard strong reviews from fellow mums about Writers Studio and it’s our pleasure today to learn directly from you regarding the vision, mission and methodology of Writers Studio.

Q 1: Tell us briefly about how it all began? Did you always want to be a teacher?

It all began with my father who inspired me to read since young. He believes in the power of words and the pen. My father belonged to the baby boomer generation. In those days, being educated was a privilege. He was given the gift of education and among the subjects he took, English stood out as a very important and useful language. He made sure that we (his children) understood its significance by exposing us to English Language in as many ways as possible. He was creative –  the radio, the television, the newspapers and made it a point to bring us to the library every weekend. He was, in many ways, my first English teacher. I still remember how he used the comics series, Garfield, to ignite that interest in us in a humorous way. He taught us English sentences through songs, how to write instructional texts through cooking sessions on Sundays and create journals in diaries which I receive on every birthday. I have always thought I would be something else – an accountant, an engineer or (gasp!) a detective. But I found my passion gravitating towards being an English teacher because I could somehow attune myself to the weaknesses of younger kids around me and share what I knew about the mechanics of the language with them.

Q 2: When you founded Writers Studio, what was the motivation? Any challenges and how you navigated the same?

Writers Studio was never meant to be a commercial school or enrichment centre. In fact, I occupied our very first premise for two years before 2012 as an office, where I would write materials for my private students located in the estates along Dunearn Road. Because it is located in a retail mall, word soon got around that there is a new English teacher in Beauty World Centre. I started receiving walk-ins to enquire about my services. My first few batches of students all scored distinctions in English and made it to prestigious schools like Raffles Institution and Hwa Chong Institution. Demand grew and I found myself teaching more classes. The cause-and-effect association was strong. Whenever I produced resources and ran classes, the outcome was satisfactory to the clients. I was (and still am) motivated very much by the fact that my students transformed their learning attitude and raised their language proficiencies enough to clinch places in their dream schools. Even more motivating was that the parents were exceedingly appreciative and helped me along my journey to establishing the centre. I remember receiving calls from Korea and Dubai where parents specifically requested to reserve my teaching slots during their summer break. A few years later, a professor from the Singapore Management University requested to have CNA film a footage of my creative writing lessons. His daughter was one of my PSLE students. One other parent who works as a senior doctor in NUH gave me a donation for the free library that I set up –  for every distinction that her three kids could score, she would generously fund our library for a year’s worth of books.

The greatest challenge was time. I struggled to create a work life balance as it was passion that was driving me to work harder as a teacher. Yet, I have to be thankful, because teaching is my passion and I am lucky that it has also become my career. With less time to spare for my family, I took up sports so I could spend more time with my husband. We would start our golf and tennis routines at 8 am on weekday mornings and spend time organising gatherings with friends and family where we would cook for them. (I love cooking!) We also signed up for diving lessons together where we would spend my semestral breaks exploring the water, looking for turtles and chasing reef sharks – it’s very therapeutic!

Q 3: When it comes to English and especially Creative Writing, things can get tricky. How does Writers Studio help students to excel?

Writers Studio only takes in students whom we see a fit with our teaching philosophies and methodologies (we recruit carefully). As such, we spend quite a lot of time understanding what the parents need. We have a questionnaire for parents where they provide more information about the learning issues and language gaps their children face. Then, we assign them to the most suitable language learning pathway and teachers who would both teach and mentor them. My teachers have a class size of 4 to 8 students, depending on the children’s proficiency levels and competencies in grasping the skills that we teach. 

When teaching English, we focus on conditioning the students. We analyse their strengths and weaknesses and confer with our team to discuss how to stretch or help the students improve. We focus much on skill building. There is also plenty of exposure to the latest question styles and types required in the exams. Every set of materials hinges on a wide variety of texts, to help bridge the most common gap in students today –  the lack of reading. Take for instance, our STELLAR Integrated programme for primary school. Our materials are designed to expose students to both the fundamentals of language and its application across important elements of English including spelling, contextual vocabulary, word transformation, reading comprehension and the synthesizing of sentences. We do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. So, our learning materials are actually differentiated to cater to the language learning proficiencies of our students. There are techniques and questions for beginners, intermediate and gifted stream students. And besides the written paper, we activate the speaking and listening skills of our students by including our in-house oral training and listening comprehension techniques. It is getting significantly harder to score an AL1 at the PSLE and many of our clients are contented that we prepare their children holistically to excel.

The latest product that we have is STARBRIGHT creative writing, an organic way to help primary school kids write better. Writing is often reduced to a pen and paper activity. We believe that writing is an activity that is more alive than we expect. So, we teach writing through a multi-sensory approach that enables children to watch, hear, see and do. They emulate the experiences of story characters so they could think through their actions and create realistic depictions of their experiences. Role play, games and craftwork are included in the lessons to create empathy in young writers so they will be more mindful of being more expressive and accurate in making vivid descriptions in their writing. This approach is not new to our students. STARBRIGHT has seen four years of pilot testing before it is officially launched in 2023. It is a modern writing programme that has responded well to the latest shifts in PSLE writing trends and the growing number of students who performed well in our soft launches, affirms that this is a great programme that can be shared with the broader public.

Q 4: Tell us more about Writers Studio’s signature programs that aid the students to grasp the language and score well in exams?

Our signature programmes are STELLAR and STARDREAM Integrated. These programmes have seen thousands of successful graduates. We do not believe in shouting our success numbers whenever students do well, but pride on the fact that there is a strong word of mouth for these programmes.

STELLAR Integrated is a unique programme which fortifies a student as they progress from one lesson to another over time. The programme is very intricate. It covers every skill possible to do very well in the PSLE if the student is attentive and diligent. STELLAR Integrated is created with the mindset that modern parents are unable to coach their own children due to their growing commitments at work in this competitive society. We take on this responsibility through STELLAR Integrated lessons that provides the exposure, experience and exemplary standards to help children succeed in the English Language.

STARDREAM Integrated is the second leg of STELLAR. What many do not know yet is that we have a substantial number of secondary school students who score an average of B3 to A1 at their O Levels. STARDREAM is a sophisticated and extensive O Level programme where we only allow qualified secondary school tutors with sound track records to teach. Our teachers are registered with the Ministry of Education through a stringent interview process. This is our commitment to parents, to ensure that their teens are in good hands. STARDREAM trains O level students to handle a broad range of essay questions, reading comprehension and other essential components. They are given lessons on the best practices when it comes to writing, and we offer advice on how to study smart. Our O level students have also benefited from free consultations outside of class hours, which give them the much-needed motivation.

Q 5: Any tips that you would like to give to parents to support their children in learning English?

English should never be taken for granted. Many of us believe that so long as we speak English on a daily basis, our children can pick it up. English is acquired both accidentally and intentionally. Parents have to be involved in helping to provide the most conducive environment so that their children can be more motivated to use English with pride and perfection. Reading the news with young children, exposing them to the importance of reading subtitles as they watch documentaries and organising outings to plays for an exposure to popular stories of Macbeth, The War Horse, and so forth, can go a long way to ignite interest. Expose your children to a variety of language genre.

An active way of acquiring language is to teach children how to retain words that they see in books. Don’t simply nag at your children when they read too fast. Explain to them that they could pause and think about the chapter that they have just read, even if it is just for a few seconds. Encourage your child to recall the way the people in the stories were speaking. How did they know that the character was upset? Was it due to the way the writer described the emotions? Or the character did something that showed he was upset? As such, the concept of “show, not tell” has already been demonstrated.

Q 6: Where do see Writers Studio 10 years from now?

I see us expanding geographically to benefit more children. We will morph further into a school that utilizes technology to teach English. This enables children to learn remotely and offers an option for self-directed learning. Not all children require lessons with a tutor. Not all children need language lessons for every aspect of English. Hence, more malleable options will be made available for learners. Writers Studio will also expand its outreach programme to benefit underprivileged learners, as we believe in giving every child the opportunity to be a proficient writer.

Q 7: Any message to students to perform well in Creative Writing and English in general not just for exams but for life?

Creative Writing is getting more important in this world due to the proliferation of social media. We need to be creative writers not just for writing fiction but to create stories that promote awareness of products, services and social advocacies. The ability to write creatively helps draw attention to any central message that we wish to send across to our audience. English will also remain indispensable. Because it is always evolving, English will continue to be an important medium for bridging relationships across cultures and the ability to communicate well gives us the advantage to convince, persuade and negotiate. Speaking good English is not about winning that first impression, but to be heard and have doors open for us because we know how to speak our way to the top.

Get started with your child’s Creative Writing and English Journery with Writers Studio. Sign up today!

Here is a complete list of Writers Studio offerings:

Writers Studio is located at 144 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Beauty World Centre, #03-06. Email: [email protected] Phone: +65 6469 3997 | +65 9122 4880

Thanks for your continued love and appreciation for our media. We love to collaborate with brands and we love to get feedback from our readers. Did you check our platform “SocialMediaMomSG” for mompreneurs, local brands and ladies?
Drop a line on [email protected] / [email protected] or Click here to get in touch with us. Happy to connect!