When a student from Melbourne met an ex Wodonga student at the Australian National University in Canberra, comparisons about tutoring support between the pair became a talking point.
Shocked at the lack of access to tutors or revision seminars for regional students while studying for their VCE, Tiger Lin decided to do something about it, creating an online tutoring network for regional and rural students.
Border Cafe caught up with Tiger to discuss where his passion comes from, and how a Wodonga school played a pivotal role in the pilot program.
Tiger, as co-founder of Regional Education Support Network (RESN), where does your passion for helping regional and rural students come from?
I myself grew up in Melbourne, after my family immigrated to Australia when I was five. Coming from a Chinese background, I went through my primary and high school years with a great deal of pressure to do well in school and get into university, a process which was supplemented by a rigorous after-school tutoring schedule.
For students in Melbourne, it was definitely not unusual to have a whole team of tutors supporting you throughout the VCE, helping you with tricky questions every week and giving constant feedback so that you had an edge for exams.
However, after arriving at the ANU in Canberra, I made friends with many regional students from all around Australia, including Jacob Mildren, who is from Wodonga.
A consistent theme that came out of comparing our VCE experiences was the vast difference in tutoring support that was available in regional areas. When talking about having tutors reading over our work or even revision seminars before exams, the phrase that came up again and again was ‘we would’ve loved to have had that’.
The reality is that VCE is a competition that everyone has to participate in, and it is simply unfair that city students are able to so easily access abundant tutoring support while regional students may want help, but such services don’t exist where they live.
For me, it was this sense of injustice that drove me to start RESN – many of my friends were already doing private tutoring, and by using online technology, we could harness our skills to overcome the obstacle of distance that was acting as a barrier to more regional students being able to do well and get into university.
A Wodonga school participated in a pilot, and continues to be involved, what was the process?
The pilot program involved 91 students from Wodonga Senior Secondary College and Seymour College. Since then numbers for Wodonga alone have grown to 213 students.
Feedback we received from teachers was that even though we only launched the pilot program at the end of the year, it was still an effective tool in those final weeks for VCE students to nail their exams.
What are some of the most practical ways your tutors help students?
The way our service works is that students can submit tricky questions from any VCE subject, essays for us to proofread and give some advice on, or even ask general questions about study/exam/surviving-Year-12 tips and university life.
The most important thing about our service is that we reply to all questions within 24 hours, so students can get prompt and effective help – they aren’t left hanging for a few days.
While this has a focus on Victorian students, would the information be relevant for HSC students in NSW?
For students in Albury, we are definitely looking to grow in the near future. While many of our team are currently located in Melbourne, both my co-founder, Jacob Wilkinson, and myself (as well as our community relations team) are studying at ANU up in Canberra.
As a result, we have very strong contacts in NSW, and we are hoping to launch our HSC support either by the end of this year or sometime next year. We know that our online system works very efficiently, and once we have made sure regional Victorian schools are properly supported, HSC is the next step!