An educator (and mama) shares the pros and cons of tuition in Singapore, and how to choose the best tuition centre or tutor to help your child
Our children really have one up on us, don’t they? That pure sense of joy, that adventurous spirit, that insatiable curiosity… and boundless energy for it all! I will never forget dressing my daughter and preparing her backpack for her first day of nursery.
She was so excited for what lay ahead, with no worries about anything, really. I know it might not always be this way. For eight years, I taught at a top school in the Chicago suburbs and watched many students (and their parents) face the challenges of complicated mathematics.
It can be utterly painful to watch your child struggle, but in Singapore, he or she doesn’t have to endure it alone. This tiny, red dot of ours is simply covered in resources for students of all ages; in Singapore tuition has become a $1.1 billion industry. As of 2014 there were 850 tuition centres registered with the Ministry of Education, up from 800 in 2013 and 700 in 2012! And it’s not just for local students, either: according to the Straits Times, a number of tuition centres have seen a huge jump in expats seeking tuition. At one large centre they accounted for just 5% of students in 2014, but that jumped to 20% by 2017.
So yes, tuition is a booming industry in Singapore, and choosing the right help can be as daunting as a trip to Mustafa on the weekend. No worries, mama! I’ll equip you to make the right decision for you and yours, and give you some of my favourite home help resources.
Do I Have To Get Tuition For My Kids?
It sometimes feels like everyone is getting tuition for something. So is it mandatory? No, certainly not. However, if a majority of the students at a school are getting outside help, they will generally progress faster, thus setting the bar higher. In 2008, about 97 percent of Singaporean students enrolled in tuition and enrichment compared with 49 and 30 percent of primary and secondary students in 1992. A recent household expenditure survey showed an average of $106 spent per month on private tuition and other educational courses. Keep an open mind that your son or daughter may need help at some point to ease things along, whether for remediation or a little enrichment.
When To Get Help
One of the biggest barriers to learning is self-confidence. When kids believe they can achieve, they truly can. When they don’t understand something, their confidence erodes. They procrastinate and homework battles commence. Hire a tutor to interrupt and reverse this negative cycle.
Though we are certainly capable of helping our children at home, they don’t always have open ears for what we have to say. A tutor can act as a buffer, salvaging your time and sanity.
Watch out for these typical trouble spots in the primary years: learning to read, comprehension, reading for main idea and author’s purpose, making inferences, regrouping (when subtracting), fractions, percents, ratios, long division, the start of algebra, and mother tongue language acquisition.
You may also seek help when your son or daughter expresses frustration with a particular teacher. An attitude of cooperation and perseverance is helpful, but some outside assistance can smooth over learning gaps during a time like this. A tutor can also spot exceptional learning needs or disabilities that may require accommodations in the classroom.
When your son or daughter is not adept at studying, organisation, and test taking, visit a tutor for ways to make general improvements. In my private tuition practice, I teach a variety of methods designed to help your son or daughter become a more responsible and independent learner. These skills, like previewing difficult material, processing notes after school, and using more engaging study strategies, lead to better information retention and can be used across subjects throughout his or her life.
What are my Tuition options?
According to private tutor matching websites ACE Tutors, Scholars Academy, and Champion Tutor, you can expect to pay $20-$30 for an undergrad to tutor your primary level student, on up to $80-$130 for an MOE teacher to tutor at the junior college level. One benefit of using a private tutor is the individualisation he or she can provide, especially if your child has learning issues.
Some key things to keep in mind when choosing a tuition centre:
- If your child is easily distracted, a one-on-one situation will be best.
- A tutor with more experience and more education will be able to provide more to your child in terms of learning methods and solutions to learning problems.
- A tutor or centre may sound good on paper, but the proof is in the pudding—ask to sit in on a session.
- Tutors should be able to remediate, increase confidence, and/or extend your child to grow further. Communicate your expectations to the tutor for the best possible results.
- Ask to do a trial session before purchasing any long-term programs. If your child is not happy there or does not like the tutor, tuition will not be worth the investment. In general, look for a tutor who is positive, confident, and flexible. If growth stalls, try a new tutor or a different method.
What You Can Do At Home
With the Internet, help is at your fingertips. Want to help your young one add fractions? Here is a YouTube lesson, a visual explanation, a simple candy activity to do together, songs to encourage and explain, and games to help them review. For free math help, the Khan Academy has wonderful tutorials and tons of practice questions organized by topic that come with hints and explanations.
For the littlest ones, try the free website Starfall that has four sequential levels: ABC’s, Learn To Read, It’s Fun To Read, and I’m Reading. Here is some guidance to where your child should be at what grade in Singapore in reading and in maths. Feeling lost? Visit a private tutor for a consultation and pick his or her brain for some resources.
Don’t forget to keep some balance in there too, mama! Current brain research dictates that good sleep and 20-30 minutes of exercise twice a week result in significant cognitive benefits.
Whether you choose to go it alone or partner up with a tutor, there are vast and valuable resources for education all around you in Singapore. Use them for consultation, occasional help, or for consistent enrichment; it’s all up to you.