Ivy League Aspirations?

May 23, 2017 Elizabeth M. San Nicolas

GETTING ACCEPTED TO A mainland college is a lofty goal for many Guam students. But when all the Advance Placement courses on campus don’t seem enough, or their SAT scores aren’t exactly what they need to be, students may want to consider a private tutor that specializes in college and standardized test prep.

That’s where companies like Ivy Educational Services can help. Founded in 2003 by certified engineer Tae Oh, Ivy’s team of educators has seen it all. Oh says, “I think [foremost], we understand standardized testing. That's something everyone is struggling with.”

Oh adds that his team knows what college admission entails, and can adjust to different curricula from different schools. “Most of our tutors have experience in private or public school, some even teach at the university. They are very capable and flexible. They can teach different spectrums of Math—pre-Algebra up to Calculus.”

Ivy’s clientele is mainly made up of high school students, with about half of them high achievers looking to boost their test scores and be prepared to go after an advanced degree in college. Many of them are from private schools, but Ivy is able to help anyone struggling in school. Oh says, “I think most of our clients come here for standardized test prep. But we do have a few students that do come here for help with school. Math, English…we also do AP Chem, AP Calc, AP Physics, AP Bio.”

Ivy fills a void in Guam’s educational system by getting students ready for the kinds of challenges they’ll face when they head off to college. “A lot of the private school students are thinking about college. So that’s probably why they are thinking about standardized tests. And I don’t think there’s really any school here that helps the students out with standardized testing when it comes to advanced degrees. That’s our main focus. There seems to be a lack of that here on Guam,” Oh says.

He continues, “Trying to help students out so they can make the transition from local high school to…most of these kids are looking at mainland universities…there’s a disconnect. And the transition is quite difficult for a lot of these students. A lot of them do struggle once they go out there. What they’re trying to do is to make that as least painful as possible before they leave.”

While tutoring is a great way to help a struggling student, there is a big misconception out there, says Oh. “One of the issues we do have here is some parents think that like, if a student is struggling, then hiring a tutor would be the immediate solution. And if they hire a tutor it basically automatically translates to good grades. And that’s absolutely false. A lot of students that don’t do well, I have to say, is probably because they don’t know how to manage their academics on their own. I think that’s a very important skill that parents have to instill in their kids.”

The best tutor in the world can’t make a child be more responsible, or a parent more involved, which are the two things Oh believes add up to success. “Another thing I notice with high achievers is that their parents get fully involved in their academics. They know the details. The parents are really understanding what the kids need to do, what their requirements are, and get them help when necessary,” he says.

When Oh first opened Ivy’s doors in 2003, they were just looking to improve education here on island, because hearing about dismal performance and low test scores every day on the news was so terribly disappointing. He says he was surprised at the lack of interest when his company would approach certain institutions and offer to collaborate. “There are cases where certain schools would outright tell me, ‘Our school doesn’t need college prep because most of students go to UOG anyways.’ And I just don’t like that,” Oh narrates. 

“…I don’t think there’s really any school here that helps the students out with standardized testing when it comes to advanced degrees. That’s our main focus.”

He adds, “I think, in order to improve education here, what we probably need to do is change our attitude a little bit, and have an industry that can support these types of high technical skills. We gotta find a way to prioritize education and make people understand how important it is to really put some effort into improving the education system here.”

Perhaps the best thing about Ivy is the culture of learning it provides for kids who may not get that at home or in their classroom.

 “I think most of our students, when they come here, they realize they are really serious about learning. They’re really serious about their future, really serious about education. They don’t see that aggressiveness, that passion at their schools,” Oh says. “Most of our students here are very passionate about learning, very passionate about ranking in their school, very passionate about what their next SAT score is going to look like, and how much they are going to improve. We talk about a lot of that. The culture here is very academically inclined.”


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