Private or Group Tuition? The Definitive Guide for Singaporean Parents
by Keynote Editor
It’s a dilemma that most of us with kids have been through: Should I hire a private tutor, or enrol my child into group tuition?
If you’re reading this post, you are probably aware that it’s not simply just a case of finding the most affordable solution – there are other factors involved that determine the type of class that suits your children’s needs.
So where do you start? This post will guide you along through a step-by-step process, summarising the primary advantages and disadvantages of both types of tuition to help you make the best decision. Let’s begin.
Step 1: Determine which subjects your child needs tuition for
Firstly, understand that the effectiveness of tuition depends on the nature of the subjects taught. For instance, schools across the country may teach the syllabus of technical subjects such as Math, Science and Humanities at different paces – which can make it hard for group tutors to cater to each and every student’s level of progress.
Language subjects on the other hand, such as English, Chinese, Malay & Tamil languages, emphasize instead on the improvement of vocabulary and the general grasping of how the language works. In this case, larger group sizes may work better as there will be more opportunities to communicate with the language being taught.
Step 2: Identify specifically what your child needs from tuition
Students attend tuition classes for either one for these two purposes:
A. To learn a new subject or topic from scratch
B. To practice on a subject that he / she knows but is unfamiliar with
Which category does your child fall under? Speak to them and find out the root cause for their underperformance. Are they unsure of a method or two, or are they completely clueless about the topic?
If they fall under category A, getting a tutor who can focus solely on making sure your child understands the topic would be ideal, making private tuition the better option.
But if they are leaning towards category B, then what they might require is discipline – a set period of time where they can focus on practice, perfecting formulas or key concepts. Here, group tuition can prove to be your child’s helpful community where students bounce problems and ideas off each other.
Knowing what your child needs will give you the ability to assess whether your objectives have been met over a period of time, and whether you should stick with a specific tutor or tuition group.
Step 3: Weigh the pros and cons
With your subjects and purpose of tuition identified, it’s time to make a decision. Here is a summary of the main advantages and disadvantages that come with each type of tuition. Consider them carefully before making your choice.
Advantages of Group Tuition
Positive environment: One potential benefit of group tuition is the tutor’s ability to create an environment where students are willing to learn.
Studies have shown that teenagers are more susceptible to peer pressure and the influence of others in a group setting. If your children find themselves surrounded by peers who are focused on learning, chances are, they too will adopt that mentality and be a beneficiary of that positive environment.
Better for discussion: Group discussions in tuition can also be very beneficial. Apart from promoting dialogue between each other, lessons are more interesting when students are encouraged to think and speak for themselves, instead of simply accepting what the teachers say to be the truth.
Also, the habit of exchanging points of view tend to be better fostered when more than two people are around – otherwise, the person perceived to be more knowledgeable (the tutor) is likely to lead the way and impart opinions rather than discuss them. In a group of peers however, students are able to converse more freely and be exposed to a wide range of opinions as opposed to just one.
Affordable rates: Due to a larger class size, tuition centres tend to charge cheaper hourly rates for group tuition as compared to private lessons. Several centres also provide free trial classes that allow students to decide if the teacher is a good fit for them before signing up permanently.
Tip: Make full use of these lessons by going in prepared with a list of questions that you need help with, so you can get a good gauge of your understanding of the tutor’s explanation.
Disadvantage of Group Tuition
Lack of individual focus: The larger the size of the tuition group, the less attention your child will inevitably receive from the tutor. This is already the case in many primary and secondary schools in Singapore.
According to a 2013 survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in which 34 countries took part, Singapore ranked the highest above other Asian countries like Japan, Korea and Malaysia with an average of 35.5 students per class.
Whilst there haven’t been many conclusive studies about the effectiveness of smaller class sizes on eventual academic success, it can be argued that students who require close supervision would not fare well under a group tuition setting either way.
Advantages of Private Tuition
Undivided attention: On the contrary, private tuition can be excellent for guiding students along difficult topics step by step, providing your child with the opportunity to clarify specific questions readily.
Because of the flexibility of the lesson’s pace, there is no pressure for the student to move on to another topic if he or she hasn’t fully understood the first one. For students who are inherently shy about speaking up in class, one-to-one tuition can be their saving grace.
Disadvantages of Private Tuition
Inexperienced tutors: In recent years, the number of polytechnic and university undergraduates taking up part-time tutor jobs have increased. It is, to them, a relatively easy source of additional income, and the fact that no official license is required to be a private tutor makes the process even more convenient.
The result however, is the dilution of qualified teachers in the industry today. If you do end up with one, they are less likely to guarantee improvement in your child’s results due to their relative inexperience, in contrast to a seasoned tutor who can identify a student’s root problems with ease.
Influence of other traits: There is also a possibility that students can take up not just academic advice, but life advice from their tutors too, especially if a friendship has been cultivated between the two.
It is hence important that you conduct at least some basic background checks on the tutors you intend on hiring for your children, and ensure that they are in good hands both academically and morally.
Expensive rates: The cost of hiring a private tutor can range anywhere from $15 to $70 an hour depending on student level and the qualifications of the tutor. The 2012/13 Household Expenditure Survey showed that Singaporean parents spent $1.1 billion a year on tuition, already $280 million more than in 2008 – and you can expect costs to rise even further in the coming years.
Ultimately, your choice of tuition should come down to what works best for your child. If you can afford it, you’re better off paying a higher price for the right service than to spend slightly lesser on tuition that won’t improve results at all.
Any pointers we missed out on? Let us know in the comments below.
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