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The global pandemic threw a glaring spotlight onto the world's varying educational infrastructures. Some creaked and strained under the pressure, and some crumbled, while others introduced innovative, technology-based mechanisms designed to keep students learning during lockdown.

The widespread shift towards remote learning in Australia inevitably raised questions of educational quality. Nonetheless, 77% of educators believe that technology is a great means of engaging students, while 76% teachers underline that the use of technology helps them to do their job more effectively.

Thuy Pham
Thuy Pham

While remote learning was attempting to hold the fort, there was no hiding the fact that the pandemic highlighted a growing teacher-shortage crisis across Australia, as well as underlining the need for a revamped approach to education.

Through the Melbourne-based Spectrum Tuition, Thuy Pham is setting out to combine the best elements of in-person teaching and online tuition. Spectrum Tuition is rapidly expanding its range of franchised tuition centers across the country and is quickly establishing itself as one of the most esteemed tutoring firms in the country.

When the pandemic hit, founder Pham was forced to think on her feet, and single-handedly recorded a series of tutorial videos to cover the entire Spectrum curriculum. The focus, however, remains on the in-person classes at their growing number of Australia-based centers. Armed with a curriculum specially curated by Pham herself, Spectrum Tuition is gaining a reputation for plugging gaps left by Australia's severe teacher shortages and giving a much-needed boost to an education system that has long been struggling.

Thuy Pham's own journey to this point has been nothing short of inspirational. Pham started Spectrum Tuition in 2001, having just finished high school. Her decision to venture into this field stemmed from the fact that, throughout high school, Pham and her brother were constantly asked to tutor the children of other members of the Vietnamese-Australian migrant community they grew up in.

"We were tutoring around three hundred children at one point at our initial location. My brother was hugely intelligent, and I was performing well at school, but I still couldn't understand why anyone would want to send their child to an inexperienced eighteen-year-old for lessons. Yet people kept returning," outlines Pham.

Once Pham had graduated with her initial degrees in Commerce/Arts, she decided to stay on and obtain a Bachelor of Teaching from the University of Melbourne, from which she graduated with Honours.

"While doing my placements at a number of schools, it became shockingly clear to me how inconsistent the teaching was. I'd presumed that everyone would just follow the curriculum, but the standards and style varied wildly from school to school," stresses Pham.

This inconsistency and inequality provided the touchpaper that sparked Pham's decision to start to rebuild the education model for grade prep to year 12 from scratch. Through just three hours per week at her initial tuition centre, she was able to successfully guide students through the entire curriculum within the year.

Spectrum Tuition has always been based on the idea that the curriculum should be tailored in a way that suits student learning, rather than being a rigid, dry set of rules.

Spectrum Tuition has now branched out into franchising, with eight Spectrum locations, with new centres opening in 2023. Pham has plans that are already underway to continue expanding this range of locations across Australia, and ultimately further afield. Her sense of purpose to deliver access to high quality education to children around the world continues to drive her - and has not been without its challenges.

Thuy Pham
Thuy Pham

"Whenever I run into difficulties, I think of my parents, who made the treacherous journey from Vietnam to Australia at a time of intense conflict. They set sail with dozens of others on a small fishing boat that was designed to hold just a handful of people. They experienced every hardship imaginable, including pirates attacking the ship three times and murdering passengers in front of them. A lot of my strength comes from knowing that, however hard it might get for me, it will never be as tough as being on that boat," muses Pham.

Thuy Pham is using this fearless, risk-taking approach to education to give students better opportunities and brighter futures. She recalls teaching a student despite being significantly behind in her course because she was being bullied, but this did not deter her; instead it motivated her to seek a better environment for herself. After going through the Spectrum Tuition curriculum with Pham, as well as hard work and perseverance, within a 6-month period she was able to surpass the academic standards to secure a place in the selective school of her dreams.

"It took about five years of working consistent 18-hour days in order to create my own curriculum for Spectrum. At the end of each term, we review it and see which aspects we can hone and tweak to improve them, to ensure it is as effective as it can be. The results we are seeing are hugely encouraging, and the success of our students serves as a constant reminder as to why we started Spectrum in the first place - to give every student who is willing to learn the fighting chance to succeed," concludes Pham.