Monday, June 25, 2012

When help is needed - to tuition or not?

There have been many discussions lately regarding the primary school education system in Singapore with many parents airing their concerns in the local media over the academic stress and focus.

So, how does a parent determine when and if help is needed? And, what should the selection criteria be?

In this post, I reached out to Pamela Gordon, an ex local primary school teacher-turned-tutor to share her thoughts and some tips in choosing tutors / tuition classes.

It’s quite a common sight to see kids in Singapore going for tuition and one cannot deny that tuition centres are doing very well. There are many reasons on why parents send their kids to tuition classes or spend exorbitant amounts to hire private tutors for their children. We can blame the education system but since it’s here to stay (like it or not), we could perhaps look at whether tuition is really necessary and if so, how can it benefit your own child.

Q1: Pamela, how does a parent decide if his/her child require tuition?

Pam: Your child only needs tuition if he/she is not coping in a subject in school. As most primary schools now do not have exams for Primary 1 children, there is really no need for your child to attend tuition classes. However, schools do conduct informal assessments and through the teacher’s feedback, you will be able to understand your child’s progress in school. Try to set aside some time everyday after school to go through your child’s work and get them to recall what had been taught in school for that day. Consistent revision is vital and eases your child’s stress.

Importantly, ask yourself these questions: Is my child failing or doing badly in exams? Is my child finding difficulty in coping in school? Have my child’s grades fallen drastically? (A drop of marks from 100 to 95 does not constitute a drastic change). If you have answered ‘yes’ to all 3 questions, you might want to consider tuition.

Q2: So how does a parent decide on which is the best tuition centre or where can I find the best tutor for my child?

Pam: There is no best tuition centre or tutor. What’s important is to find a perfect fit for your child to benefit from. Bear in mind that some tuition centres are enrichment centres and their standards may be higher than schools in general. Determine your child’s learning needs before deciding which centre your child should go to or if you should hire a private tutor for your child.

Q3: Should a child attend a group tuition class or have one-to-one sessions?

Pam: This depends on your child’s learning style and grades in school. If your child is doing badly (i.e. marks below 50%) you may want to consider one-to-one sessions. Otherwise group sessions can be beneficial too.

Q4: What tips do you have for a parent find the right place for his/her child?

Pam: Do visit the centres to ask more about their programme and teacher-student ratio. Ask if your child can do a trial and have a quick chat with the teacher after the session. For one-to-one, you should be able to see improvements in your child’s grades after half a year.

Pamela Gordon is a mum to a 3 year-old girl and has taught in local primary schools for eight years. To continue with fuelling her passion in educating young minds, she is now a private tutor.

Pamela Gordon can be contacted at

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