Coffee Chat with Mr Calvin Kong – Founder and Principal Tutor of Concept First

Coffee Chat with Mr Calvin Kong - Founder and Principal Tutor of Concept First

Mr Kong holds 20 years of teaching experience as a former tuition teacher, MOE Senior Teacher for Physics, and Subject Supervisor for Physics O-Level Practical Examinations, and held an outstanding contribution award from MOE. Being able to break down difficult Physics concepts into simpler bite size ideas, he broke national record by bringing a group of students of T-score 200 to ace the O-levels with majority attaining distinction grade. It was a momentous time of his life where he discovered that the strategies which he had developed work!

Today, he is the Founder of Concept First (CF) Physics Specialist Centre and heads the Curriculum Design and Teaching Strategies Team.


Q: Were you good at Physics even as a student?

It will be surprising to some that I actually took Combined Science (Physics / Chemistry) when I was in secondary school. Back then, the only triple science option that my school offered was Pure Biology and Combined Science (Physics / Chemistry). Combined Science Physics was manageable at secondary level and I managed to secure A1.

The real challenge came when I went on to take Physics in JC. The jump from combined science Physics to (H2) Physics was huge. What was also interesting was that back then, the happy-go-lucky me was not aware that I was disadvantaged for not taking pure Physics at the O Levels. This ignorance was a blessing as I then took on the subject with an open mind, with a lot of exploration in study methods and techniques.

The arduous journey paid off when I achieved A for Physics at A Level too. The good grades did not come easily as I invested a lot of time in figuring out the concepts, ideas and common questions etc. It was through this journey that I discovered an effective way to learn Physics – breaking it down into simpler language, practicing repeatedly, identifying gaps by making mistakes, reflecting and teaching others. I later discovered that this method was close to the Feynman Technique, used and named after the late Physics Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman.

Q: In your many years of teaching, what is the most common explanation for why students get stumped by Physics?

Physics is a discipline that requires mastery of abstract concepts. They can be grasped easily if well-demonstrated by proper apparatuses and set-ups. Students who are not exposed to these will find it very tough to visualize and appreciate the subject!


Q: How do you ensure effective teaching and learning at Concept First?

At CF, we believe that more learning takes place when learning is made enjoyable. We unveil the wonders of Physics through interesting and safe demonstrations in class. We have inspired many students to start liking the subject and encouraged them to discover more on their own. We consider the battle half won when our students like Physics as a subject.

Having knowledge of something is also different from imparting that knowledge to someone. This is why our team of teachers are selected based on their skills in simplifying the subject and transferring the knowledge of concepts to students.

Lastly, we have created a systematic and highly efficient curriculum that focuses on concept mastery: something that I am always fine-tuning and making better for my students. This curriculum aims to empower our students to take on the challenge of the Physics subject with confidence and to yield good results.


Q: What is your biggest motivation for teaching?

In most cases, I have found that the reason for students underachieving for Physics is NOT because they are weak in the subject. I believe that if a student is armed with a good curriculum and supportive teachers to spur growth, he/she CAN score well. This has been attested by many students who went through the CF curriculum. Seeing their improvement not just in grades, but also in their level of confidence and joy, and the chance to maximise their individual potential, have been my biggest motivation for teaching. Physics is also a subject that hones critical and analytical thinking skills useful for students in the long run.

To find out more about CF teaching concept and learning system, click here