We’ve long been turning education on its head in Singapore – in all the best ways, of course. So reading this recent article in Channel News Asia was a much-appreciated affirmation that we’ve been long doing the things now recognised as the path forward for our kids. 

Enter peer mentoring. Stronger insights into learner dynamics growing in our educational awareness is exciting, to say the least. It’s never exactly been rocket science, however; learners helping each other out lends itself to positive outcomes for a myriad of reasons. Grasping academic material is all well and good, but they also pick up skills that no textbook can teach – the kind that’ll serve them beyond the classroom.

Let’s dissect the dynamics at play here. At Imagine If, we’re not enamoured with lofty educational theories; we’re grounded in the reality of creating classrooms where every learner can truly flourish, not just academically but socially too.

Research attests to the academic boost peer mentoring provides, showing that learners engaged in peer mentoring can outperform their counterparts who don’t have this support system. Research also suggests that the peer mentor’s ability to explain concepts nurtures a richer understanding in both the mentor and the mentee. It’s like teaching someone else solidifies your understanding – a win-win situation.

When a learner has a peer mentor, the learning process becomes a dynamic exchange, a give-and-take that isn’t just about mastering content but also understanding it at a deeper level.

Moreover, studies indicate that peer mentoring contributes to increased motivation and engagement in learning. When learners feel connected and supported by their peers, they’re more likely to actively participate in the learning process. This heightened engagement translates into better retention of information, a critical factor in academic success.

But the gold in peer mentoring lies not in its ability to spur academic success, but in how it’s a social catalyst. 

Social connection takes centre stage: research consistently shows that learners engaged in peer mentoring develop a stronger sense of belonging and connectedness within their learning community. This isn’t just a feel-good sentiment; it’s a crucial component of positive social development. Feeling connected to peers creates a supportive environment where kids feel seen, heard, and valued, laying the groundwork for healthy social relationships.

Peer mentoring also acts as a bridge builder. Kids, armed with a sense of camaraderie and trust developed through mentoring relationships, are more likely to engage in positive social interactions. The mentor-mentee dynamic encourages open communication and collaboration, nurturing crucial social skills like empathy and conflict resolution – skills integral to navigating complex human relationships.

Inclusive social dynamics also emerge as a hallmark of peer mentoring. Studies indicate that kids involved in mentoring relationships exhibit higher levels of inclusivity and acceptance of diversity – creating a social fabric where differences are embraced, and each child feels a sense of belonging regardless of their background or abilities.

Lastly, the mentorship experience encourages leadership skills in the mentors themselves. The act of guiding and supporting a peer not only enhances their own social competence but also instils a sense of responsibility and leadership. This reciprocal aspect of peer mentoring creates a positive social loop where kids not only receive support but also actively contribute to the social growth of their peers. All of this only serves to build an essential trait we try to instil in learners:  self-efficacy.

Yet, it’s the subtle enhancement of social skills that becomes the unsung hero in this narrative. These skills – collaboration, communication, empathy – are the real-world toolkit that doesn’t come with a syllabus but defines success in life.

The research paints a vivid picture – peer mentoring isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have for academic growth. It’s certainly a-long-overdue have. For us, however, it’s never just about acing exams, but about creating an environment where learning is dynamic, collaborative, and, most importantly, effective. We’re rooted in the social alchemy of this form of collaborative learning, cultivating a social ecosystem where kids thrive emotionally, learn the art of collaboration, and develop the nuanced social skills that will serve them well beyond childhood.

Shifting grading dynamics towards the ability to collaborate and learn the delicate and nuanced dance of cultivating social skills instead, is what we practise at Imagine If. It’s a crucial acknowledgement of the intricacies of existing beyond the classroom that is rooted in collaboration, to cultivate not only academic prowess but also vital social skills.

Far from being just a pedagogical experiment, it’s a conscious decision to say, “Hey, life isn’t a solo endeavour; let’s learn – and succeed – together.” 

This form of collaborative grading is a game-changer: teaching us how to value the art of collaboration and exchange. More than anything, it teaches our learners to find libraries beyond books, and in our fellow humans, friends, and peers. It teaches our learners that learning is never scarce. Above all, that learning and success can be enjoyed by all, and that there is enough to go around for us to lift each other up; ultimately enabling us to cultivate a healthier relationship with our ideas of self-improvement. 

The kicker? It works. We’ve seen how tapping into the talents of our learners can turn the classroom into a place of growth and empowerment by recognising their own light amongst others. The potential in our learners isn’t just a slogan; but an actualised truth we experience every day. Going beyond theories and grand rhetorical ideas; it’s about how real learners, real educators, and a real commitment to making education something more than a chore that takes a hit on your self-worth is practised here. Here is where kids feel heard, seen, and valued; above all, it’s felt from within.

From here, we can imagine–and create–a learning environment that’s not, for once, a battleground of individual performance metrics but a collective journey of growth. This represents a pragmatic response to a world that values not just what you know but how well you can work with others. So, when we toss around phrases like “redefining education,” it’s a strategy to build spaces where learners don’t just accumulate knowledge but develop the skills needed for a complex, interconnected world that also cherishes inclusivity. 

Instead of playing it, we believe in changing the game – into something where we all get to participate, and we all get to win.


Rick Hayman, Karl Wharton, Claire Bruce-Martin & Linda Allin (2022) Benefits and motives for peer mentoring in higher education: an exploration through the lens of cultural capital, Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 30:2, 256-273, DOI: 10.1080/13611267.2022.2057098