Eternal Youth Is the Next Big Bet for Singapore Venture Capitalist

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Photo: Bloomberg

Baidu Inc. is often referred to as China’s Google with a market value of more than US$60 billion. But in 2000, it was an upstart struggling to get any attention from investors—except from a guy named Finian Tan.

Tan, then head of Asia at DFJ Eplanet Ventures, began investing in the search engine, betting that 1.3 billion Chinese would eventually embrace the internet. When it went public five years later, Tan’s firm emerged as the bigger beneficiary with a stake larger than the 22 percent held by Baidu co-founder, and now billionaire, Robin Li. He’s making a similar bet on San Diego-based regenerative medicine company Samumed LLC, which is valued at $12 billion.

What attracted Tan was Samumed’s approach to treating arthritic knees, hair loss, scarring of the lungs and degenerative disc diseases. The company is pursuing novel therapies for those conditions and cancer with drugs that target a cell-signaling pathway that offers promise in reversing the biological processes of aging.

Read more on Bloomberg.

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CHECK OUT this lively Math website by full-time graduate tutor and First Class Engineering graduate Alvin Au (pictured above)

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Author and website owner Steven Ooi, a First Class Honours grad from NUS, retired from a distinguished 14-year career as an English and GP tutor at the age of 42.

To view tutors recommended by him, click here.

English or GP tutors keen to be listed on this website (consistently ranked  top 10 on Google for GP tutors) as a Recommended Tutor, please email stevenooi18 @ yahoo.com (remove the spaces). Those interested in having links to their website can also contact him.

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‘Human actions should be based on scientific fact, not religious faith.’ A model essay

Note from author: This essay is over 1,800 words in length. Please do not feel that you need to write so much to score an A in GP. Indeed, a compact 750-word essay can do very well if it is of high quality. I decided to express my thoughts at greater length because I wanted to share more with you. This also happens to be one of the topics I am most passionate about.

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‘Human actions should be based on scientific fact, not religious faith.’ How far do you agree with this statement? (A-level General Paper exam, 2015)

By Steven Ooi, website owner and retired GP tutor
B.A. (First Class Honours), NUS

science-vs-religion

The relentless rise of science over the centuries, from the days of the great ancient Greek philosopher-scientists such as Democritus and Aristotle to the present day’s biological experiments with implanting human glial cells into the brains of rodents, has not only captured the imagination of the human race but also gradually planted and nurtured the seed of doubt in the human consciousness about our traditional religious beliefs. Today it has become fashionable to express extreme scepticism about the claims of time-honoured scripture or even decry religious belief as being the domain of irrational, ignorant fools. Fixated on the purported ‘objectivity’, ‘reliability’ and ‘rationality’ of science, the modern man often gravitates towards putting his ultimate faith in science; relying on it as the ultimate basis of Truth to the exclusion of all else; and letting it be, to an overwhelming extent, the basis of his actions. While I acknowledge the immense value of science in bringing greater objectivity to our understanding of the world and our lives, I believe that human actions should be founded mainly on scientific fact rather than religious faith only in areas where science is well-equipped to provide more definite answers and reliable solutions than religion.

There is no denying that science often provides more objective evidence on many matters – based as it is on observable, measurable evidence – and therefore serves as a more rational basis for our actions in numerous life situations. This is particularly true on matters of physical reality such as the causes of disease or the operation of an aeroplane. In pre-scientific times, man believed that disease had purely supernatural causes – one fell ill because one had offended the gods. The remedy, therefore, was to repent and undertake penance. Thanks to science, we know today that diseases have identifiable natural causes such as viruses, and we can treat our maladies much more reliably with medicine formulated based on scientific evidence and find relief (whether or not the gods were involved in the development of the disease). Thus human action on such matters should be guided more by scientific fact than religious faith as the former is proven to be more reliable and effective in these aspects of life.

Be that as it may, there is equally no denying that all the glorious discoveries and inventions of science provide extremely limited guidance on one of the most important facets of our lives: morality. Regardless of language, culture or religion, the human being has a deep need to feel that she is living a good life in moral terms – suggesting that this is a fundamental human need. But science, being rooted in physical reality, has little to no capacity to provide answers to such abstract questions. It can help us build a smartphone, but not teach us whether to use it to communicate with sincerity and devotion. It can enable us to build a gun, but not give us clarity on whether we should pull the trigger. It can enable us to conduct bizarre genetic experiments, but not answer the question of whether we should. Religion offers us answers to these questions not through empirical investigation, but through dictate. One could of course argue that religious teachings are morally problematic, and that some principles once regarded as sacred are now often seen as oppressive, such as the Christian prohibition on homosexuality. However, the vast majority of religious moral teachings such as the Christian commandment to be honest, and the Buddhist precept of kindness to all sentient beings, are almost universally accepted as positive, even by free thinkers. Of course this begs the question of why one would need religion if one could accept these moral ideas to be true even without a faith. I contend that religion provides an authoritative basis for acting in the right way for those who choose to adhere to it. In the absence of religion, it can be difficult to provide any other strong basis on why one should be honest – one could proffer a logical or scientific argument on why one should be so, but it would be equally easy to construct another argument on why one should not. On such matters, science does not provide many conclusive answers and thus, human action should use religion rather than science as its compass.

Beyond morality, there are other questions that stubbornly occupy the minds of a very substantial proportion of our species – notably the origins of our existence, and its meaning. Where did we come from, and why are we here? Contentious as it is, I put forth the assertion that science fails to give any answer that is truly satisfying on either an intellectual or emotional level. On the matter of origins of humanity and of existence, its answers are incomplete and in particular, lacking in some of the most critical areas. The Theory of Evolution and subsequent research provide an impressive body of evidence that we evolved from ape-like creatures, and ultimately from a single-cell organism (possibly Darwin’s “universal common ancestor”). However, it begs the question, where did the first organisms in this process come from? How did such supposedly simple organisms have the amazing functionality of not only being able to reproduce, but also to steadily become millions of times more complex? In other words, even the simplest single-cell organism is a more complex and intricate machine than any device man has ever created. Could such intricate functionality and powerful purposefulness arise by chance? Even though science has raised many doubts about the idea of a divine creator, it has never been able to disprove it comprehensively, nor replace the idea with a truly factual alternative. Even if one were to believe that the universe came into being through a Big Bang, and living creatures came into existence by chance and then evolved, science provides little or no conclusive answer to what the meaning of our lives is. Religion, on the other hand, offers the conceptually straightforward idea of a relationship with a divine being or the pursuit of a divine quest through an act of faith as the basis for a good life – which is one that brings immense fulfilment to millions around the world. I do not deny that religion is a highly problematic thing that contributes to strife and conflict, and that many religious believers are delusional or irrational. But the fact is that not all are so. There are highly logical individuals who have found great meaning in religious faith, such as former US president Barack Obama, Nobel prize-winning physicist Max Planck, and the Dalai Lama. There are millions who testify to this effect of religion, whereas one would be hard put to find more than a few who say that science has brought similarly deep emotional fulfilment as a basis for how they live their life. Hence in regard to the search for meaning in our lives, I hold that religion forms a better foundation for our actions than science.

Finally, while it is a pervasive argument that science is provably factual and religion is less objectively so, we should ponder this question: is so-called scientific ‘fact’ really fact at all? This may come as a shock to 21st-century sensibilities, but a fundamental basis of scientific assertions is their falsifiability. All scientific claims are made with the readiness to be retracted in the presence of contradictory evidence in the future. One thinks of how Isaac Newton’s idea of absolute space – once considered to be fact – was debunked later by Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which turned the foundations of physics on their head. Can anyone guarantee that Einstein’s theory will not, in the decades to come, be shown to be myth? The so-called ‘facts’ of science are really beliefs rooted in the shifting sands of constant theoretical challenge and empirical inquiry. Indeed scientists, if true to the spirit of science, do not advance any of their claims as absolute fact; religion, however, does. Absolute fact forms firmer grounds for deciding what one should do in life.

The atheist would no doubt argue that the falsifiable claims of science are still more reliable than the baseless claims of religion. Well-known intellectuals like Carl Sagan deride religious adherents as following a belief without a shred of evidence. We should, however, not be overly narrow in our definition of evidence. The scientific paradigm – repeatable experiments, observation and measurement under pre-defined parameters – need not be the only paradigm through which we can derive truth. Speak to one or two hundred believers of different faiths, and you will hear many striking accounts of events in their lives that they believe were influenced by metaphysical forces such as God or karma – events that substantiate the claims of their scripture and cannot be explained by science or mathematics. For instance, a believer narrates that she prayed to God to reveal himself to her and guide her on which religion to follow. While asleep in a taxi, she is woken by an unexplained feeling of a tug on her arm. She awakes to see a place of worship outside the taxi with a banner that beckons her to come in and experience God. She then asks God for confirmation. That week a friend meets her for lunch, testifies to how God changed her life, and invites her to the very place of worship that she passed in the taxi. Testimonies like this abound among the religious. Science and mathematics cannot explain how this happened – indeed the probability of such an event happening by chance is minuscule. While there is no way to provide proof in as observable a way as science, in a laboratory, such events serve as quite objective evidence to religious believers in a way that often only each individual believer has access. We should not be too quick to dismiss religious beliefs as groundless or religious testimonies as delusional – indeed, we often have no proof of that.

Thus, it is my position that human action should be based primarily on scientific fact in areas where science provides relatively greater certainty than religion does – such as the treatment of physical illness – but in other domains of action where science does not possess this advantage, our path in life should be guided more by religion. Indeed, even in realms such as physical health, there is sometimes a case for choosing a spiritual rather than medical course of action. There are many testimonies to how prayer created what appears like a miracle when many medical therapies had failed. Even if the supposed ‘miracle’ does not materialise and the believer dies, he may do so happy in the belief that he is about to go on to a better place. Whether we are atheist or religious follower, we should keep our minds open to anything that has not been comprehensively falsified.

Copyright 2017 Steven Ooi. All rights reserved. No part of this work is to be reproduced without the written consent of the author.

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Author and website owner Steven Ooi, a First Class Honours grad from NUS, retired from a distinguished 14-year career as an English and GP tutor at the age of 42.

To view tutors recommended by him, please click on ‘Recommended Tutors/Testimonials’ above.

English or GP tutors keen to be listed on this website (consistently ranked  top 10 on Google for GP tutors) as a Recommended Tutor, please email stevenooi18 @ yahoo.com (remove the spaces).

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Asean, Singapore and the challenge of a protectionist America

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Illustration: The Straits Times

A very good analysis by Grace Leong of the Straits Times on the likely impact of Donald Trump’s avowed protectionism on Asia, and Singapore in particular. I doubt he will be able to live up to his anti-free trade bluster. If the US closes its doors to Asia, big Asian economies will close ranks and China  which is more than willing to open up its economy and establish new trade links in order to expand its global market space  will dominate the whole region. Asian countries and even those in other continents will pivot towards China if the US closes its doors to imports.

The China-backed Regional Cooperative Economic Partnership (RCEP) as well as China’s mammoth One Belt, One Road vision speak volumes of the regional and global ambitions of the rising superpower. China understands that in today’s world, a country’s power is derived at least as much through economic influence as military might. If the US retains any desire to remain a superpower, it cannot afford to isolate itself economically. – Steven Ooi, webmaster

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By Grace Leong, The Straits Times

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is stalled, but all is not lost as the US could renegotiate or Asia could proceed with an alternative trade deal backed by China.

Mr Donald Trump’s inauguration as the next US president is less than three weeks away. Judging by his appointment of ardent China hawk Peter Navarro to head a newly formed White House National Trade Council, hard-nosed trade negotiations with US trade partners are in store during his term.

On trade, Mr Trump has promised to withdraw the US’ pledge to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade pact that has not been ratified by US lawmakers. And he has called for the US to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Does this spell the end of the TPP? In name and form perhaps. But the US is also unlikely to walk away from a trade pact that accounts for more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP, and leave the door open for the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade deal pioneered by Asean and its free trade agreement (FTA) partners.

“Much of China’s economic diplomacy is beneficial, but the hidden cost is that, at this stage, China is not committed to the open trading system that the US had sought to build, and will not likely promote open trade in services or reduction of non-tariff barriers such as subsidies,” says Mr Philip Jeyaretnam, senior counsel and regional chief executive at Dentons Rodyk. In short, a regional trade pact that does not involve the US is not desirable.

Read more here.
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Webmaster Steven Ooi, a First Class Honours grad from NUS, retired from a distinguished 14-year career as an English and GP tutor at the age of 42.

To view tutors recommended by Steven Ooi, please click on ‘Recommended Tutors/Testimonials’ above.

English or GP tutors keen to be listed on this website (consistently ranked  top 10 on Google for GP tutors) as a Recommended Tutor, please email Steven Ooi at stevenooi18 @ yahoo.com (remove the spaces).

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How Purple, Uber and Airbnb Are Disrupting and Redefining Old Industries

taxi

Image credit: Pexels

Larry Alton
Contributor
Freelance Writer & Former Entrepreneur

When you look at traditional industries in the U.S., it’s clear that many are outdated and boring. However, customers continue to do business with the companies within these industries, because there are no practical alternatives. But when a new company that’s sleek, modern and clean comes along, something changes.

The word “disruption” is largely misused in entrepreneurial circles. Over the years, entrepreneurs have confused innovation with disruption. And, while disruption certainly involves a lot of innovation, they are not one and the same.

Whereas disruption turns an industry on its head by offering customers something that previously didn’t exist, innovation merely makes an existing value offering better, cheaper or faster. Do you see the difference?

Read more at entrepreneur.com

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The blogger, a First Class Honours grad from NUS, retired from a distinguished 14-year career as an English and GP tutor at the age of 42.

To view tutors recommended by the blogger, please click on ‘Recommended Tutors/Testimonials’ above.

If you are an English or GP tutor keen to be listed on this website (consistently ranked  top 10 on Google for GP tutors) as a Recommended Tutor, please email Steven Ooi at stevenooi18 @ yahoo.com (remove the spaces).

For GP model essays, click here.

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Why Women Still Can’t Have It All

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A forthright examination of a long-burning issue by a woman who has held some of the highest positions in academia and public service. The article is extremely long, but provides a rich source of experience, examples and research to those who are interested in gender issues. Published in The Atlantic.

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Eighteen months into my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls—invariably on the day of an important meeting—that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends.

As the evening wore on, I ran into a colleague who held a senior position in the White House. She has two sons exactly my sons’ ages, but she had chosen to move them from California to D.C. when she got her job, which meant her husband commuted back to California regularly. I told her how difficult I was finding it to be away from my son when he clearly needed me. Then I said, “When this is over, I’m going to write an op-ed titled ‘Women Can’t Have It All.’”

She was horrified. “You can’t write that,” she said. “You, of all people.” What she meant was that such a statement, coming from a high-profile career woman—a role model—would be a terrible signal to younger generations of women. By the end of the evening, she had talked me out of it, but for the remainder of my stint in Washington, I was increasingly aware that the feminist beliefs on which I had built my entire career were shifting under my feet. I had always assumed that if I could get a foreign-policy job in the State Department or the White House while my party was in power, I would stay the course as long as I had the opportunity to do work I loved. But in January 2011, when my two-year public-service leave from Princeton University was up, I hurried home as fast as I could.

Read more here.

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The blogger, a First Class Honours grad from NUS, retired from a distinguished 14-year career as an English and GP tutor at the age of 42.

To view tutors recommended by the blogger, please click on ‘Recommended Tutors/Testimonials’ above.

If you are an English or GP tutor keen to be listed on this website (consistently ranked  top 10 on Google for GP tutors) as a Recommended Tutor, please email Steven Ooi at stevenooi18 @ yahoo.com (remove the spaces).

For GP model essays, click here.

 

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Yeo Jiawei amassed $23.9 mil just 15 months after leaving BSI: Prosecutors

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Photos of Yeo at the Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao boxing match in Las Vegas in 2015 (Photo: The Edge)

Read about Singapore prosecutors’ descriptions of how young Singapore banker Yeo Jiawei allegedly amassed S$23.9 m in just 15 months to attain a net worth of S$26 m by the age of 32. He is accused of money laundering and witness tampering in relation to scandal-hit Malaysian state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The source is The Edge, a respected business and investment newspaper from Malaysia which also has a Singapore edition.

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By Chan Chao Peh / theedgemarkets.com.sg | November 22, 2016 : 7:35 PM MYT

SINGAPORE (Nov 22): Prosecutors say former BSI wealth planner Yeo Jiawei accumulated a net worth of some $23.9 million in just 15 months through “secret profits” after he left the bank in June 2014.

Yeo, who turned 34 on Monday, is on trial for four counts of witness tampering. He faces seven other counts of money laundering, which will be heard next April.

In court on Tuesday, Yeo revealed that his net worth was around $2 million when he left the now-defunct BSI bank in Singapore. This was from his basic salary and bonuses earned while he was an employee there.

When the Commercial Affairs Department raided Yeo’s house in Oct 2015, the investigators seized Yeo’s iPad containing a document titled “Wealth Statement”.

In this document, Yeo had a list of his assets, including three properties in Singapore and two in Australia, as well as cash held in various currencies at several banks such as HSBC and OCBC. The total value of assets listed amounted to $25,988,735.

This meant that in just 15 months after leaving BSI bank, Yeo had accumulated some $23.9 million.

Read more here.
For reports on Singapore prosecutors’ accounts of how Malaysian businessman Jho Low was allegedly involved in the laundering of 1MDB funds, click here.

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The blogger, a First Class Honours grad from NUS, retired from a distinguished 14-year career as an English and GP tutor at the age of 42.

To view tutors recommended by the blogger, please click on ‘Recommended Tutors/Testimonials’ above.

If you are an English or GP tutor keen to be listed on this website (consistently ranked  top 10 on Google for GP tutors) as a Recommended Tutor, please email Steven Ooi at stevenooi18 @ yahoo.com (remove the spaces).

For GP model essays, click here.

 

 

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If you’re a young Singaporean and you’re not an entrepreneur…

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Pop-up store of Singapore fashion firm Love, Bonito in Publika, KL

Recently I attended the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of a Singaporean company in the electronics business. All shareholders get to attend AGMs, which I highly recommend for anyone who hopes to become a successful investor. There you get to meet the company directors and management figures who oversee or run the business. When you are thinking of putting serious hard-earned money into any business venture, you should meet the people running the show to get a feel of them – their calibre and their character, especially their integrity (you can buy a little bit of the shares first, say, $100 worth, just to attend the AGM before you decide to put in serious money). Sadly, the typical mentality of the man in the street is that he wants the profits from the stock market but doesn’t want to do the hard work of learning about the business he is investing in. This is one major reason why most people lose money in the stock market.

At this particular AGM, I had the most engaging conversation with one of the directors. Like several of his colleagues on the board, he went for the lunch buffet after the official meeting and mingled with shareholders (a very good sign when directors do this – it indicates a willingness to engage with investors, be transparent, answer difficult questions and build up the company’s reputation in the market).

This man is a seasoned venture capitalist and fund manager who has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into a plurality of startups in the Asia Pacific, including a biomedical science company now carrying out clinical trials for a drug for Alzheimer’s Disease.

He is an incredibly passionate individual whose enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and constant learning about the world is infectious (would probably make an outstanding GP student!). Here are some highlights of what he said to me:

“Singapore has traditionally relied on good infrastructure to attract MNCs to invest here. But good infrastructure is no big deal anymore. Good roads, good airports – other countries can do it too [Blogger’s note: And they have much larger and cheaper pools of talent to draw on as well]. Thus the only way forward for Singapore and Singaporeans is to be entrepreneurial.

“And it’s easier than ever to be an entrepreneur! Today you don’t even need a physical shop to sell something. All you need is a product and a smartphone app, or website. If you want to let people touch and feel your product, just rent a cupboard in someone’s shop. Or rent a little pushcart stall. If people like your product, they can order online. For instance, a little food business can scale up rapidly if it hooks up with a food delivery business like Foodpanda or Deliveroo. The Internet is an enabler. The barriers to entry have never been lower.

“From Singapore, you can easily access larger, fast-growing economies like China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

“So if you are a young Singaporean today and you’re not an entrepreneur, what the hell are you doing?”

I was honestly quite stunned by what he said. I believe this sentence is going to stay with me for life. Singapore is one of the best places in the world to do business a fact borne out by surveys such as this one by the World Bank. This is also an age where the life cycle of skills is rapidly contracting and traditional job security is more and more threatened by globalisation (I have a friend who was laid off in his 40s after his well-paying job at a bank was sent to lower-cost India, and has not been able to find another PME job after two years) and technological disruption. Thus the traditional model of success  study hard, score A’s, get a well-paying job  is becoming less and less assured. Yet so many JC students and their parents still seem trapped in the mindset of 20-30 years earlier.

No doubt traditional academic excellence still has its place. Solid literacy, numeracy and a foundation in logical and critical thinking will always be applicable to the world of work. But the spirit of the entrepreneur always curious, learning, exploring and boldly innovating are just as much or even more needed in the world of today and tomorrow.

I leave you with the words of the venture capitalist:

“When I hear about a primary school kid who fails his PSLE and then commits suicide, I think to myself, ‘What a pity!’ It’s not the end of the world. Opportunities still abound for such individuals who didn’t do well in school. We are in a world that is very different from the one their parents grew up in. I am right in the thick of that world; I know that world!”

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The blogger, a First Class Honours grad from NUS, retired from English and GP tuition at the age of 42 after a distinguished 14-year career. He is now inviting other tutors to list on this website (which is consistently ranked among the top 10 websites on Google for GP tutors) after being assessed by him. All interested English and GP tutors can email Steven Ooi at stevenooi18 @ yahoo.com (remove the spaces).

For GP model essays, click here.

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