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Thursday, 7 April 2016

Tuition Fever: Madness in Singapore?

During a recent conversation with a friend, we began chatting about the tutoring frenzy in Singapore, which I've written about before here.

While it's common knowledge that local Singaporean kids engage in hours of tuition, often in all their major subjects, it may come as a surprise to some that kids in international schools attend almost as much tuition as their local peers.

Divesh Shah, of the famed Math Vision Center, tutors thousands of international school kids in math and Science. Many of his pupils are young -- they start as early as grade 2. And now, apparently, there are also a host of tutors for English, History, and Economics. High school kids, apparently, are even skipping school to attend tutoring sessions... Why would any high school student require extra tuition in every subject?

I can't help but wonder at this phenomenon. I can understand tutoring in a subject or two -- when a child is really struggling. But tutoring in every subject? How is that helpful?

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

1. If parents and teachers work together in the early years to ensure that kids have strong academic foundations/skills, then kids should not need tutors when they get to middle and high school. Much of this tutoring frenzy, particularly for international school kids who move around alot, may be the result of major academic gaps in the early years.
Parents: help your kids build strong foundations in math, reading, and writing early on, and high school will be a whole lot easier.

2. Relying on tutors can be dangerous in the long run. Kids have to learn to study and work independently at some point. They've got to be able to use resources available to them on the web and in books to help them, and they've got to be proactive about seeking extra help from teachers at school. There are no private tutors in university, and there are no tutors in the workplace. So, getting kids to rely so completely on tutors may backfire down the road.

3. Calm down everyone! If kids are attending these tutoring sessions just because everyone else is doing it, and if anxiety is fueling this tutoring craze, then parents and students need to take a deep breath and calm down! By all means, kids should get customized, individualized help in subjects where they're really struggling or the school isn't delivering at all, but beyond that, they should have the confidence and courage to study and work on their own. 


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