This blog is managed by Song Hock Chye, author of Improve Your Thinking Skills in Maths (P1-P3 series), which is published and distributed by EPH.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tuition or No Tuition? (Part 2)

This is a continuation of last week’s article Tuition or No Tuition? (Part 1)

This week, we will take a look at what are the points parents have to look for, when they sign up their child for tuition. Here are some issues parents need to note.

1. My child has had many tutors. Yet, there still is no improvement in his performance.

Some parents think tutors are magicians. Just because the tutor has the qualifications, does not mean that your child can produce the results you want. Could it be that your child is disinterested in the first place?

Parents must take note that any relationship between two people takes time. The same goes for tutor-pupil relationship. If you keep changing tutors every few weeks or months, you may not give the tutor and pupil enough time to build a close and cordial relationship.

2. The tuition centre my child attends has been producing many A* students. Why then is my child not producing A* for his subjects?

Firstly, parents must remember that each child’s ability is different. Some are good at studies. Others are good at sports, while still others may be strong in the humanities area like art, music, dance etc. No two children are the same.

Secondly, it could be that many of the students who attend this centre are bright students to start with. If that is the case, and if your child is average, in all probability, the tutor has been tailoring his lessons to suit his bright students – which means your child is lagging behind.

Rather than enrolling your child in an “A* producing tuition centre”, your child would be better off being tutored in a centre, where the ability of his peers is around his ability.

3. Almost every other centre claims to have marked improvements in their students’ scores. Are they believable?

Rest assured, they tell you the truth. But hold on there, there is more to it. It is a “secret” within the education industry, that students who are performing well will stay with the centre, while students who don’t perform, will leave. This is what is called the “natural attrition of weak students”.

Thus, by the end of the academic year, the bright students who stayed with the centre, will produce the results the centre can be proud of. At the same time, the non-performing students would have left the centre months before the year end. This then causes the centre to have a high percentage of students with high scores and improved results - which the centre proudly tells you.

So next time you see an advertisement that claims that such and such a centre produces high scoring students with improved marks, just take note the subtle silence on their attrition rate.

4. My child is weak in Science only, but the centre (or tutor) does not teach Science only.

Because it is easier to teach Maths than any other subject, you can find many tutors and centres that teach Maths. English tutors are a little more difficult to find than Maths tutors, because teaching English requires a different set of skills. While the skills to teach Maths can be acquired in a relatively short time, the skills needed to teach English are not so easily acquired. As for Science, qualified science tutors are the most scarce.

The law of economics in the education industry applies, just as with any other service or industry. If you need a subject where few tutors specialize in that area, you need to pay a premium price.

However, if you do not wish to match the price for a “Science only” tutor, you will have to expect Maths being thrown in with Science. The demand for “Maths only” among students is highest, while the demand for “Science only” is lowest.

There is a high economy of scale teaching Maths only, but a low economy of scale teaching Science only. It therefore is not very economical for a centre, or a tutor, to teach Science only.

As mentioned, it is all a matter of economics. If you are willing to pay the price to have a “Science only” tuition, the tutor will be willing to do the job.

5. My child is weak only in certain topics in a certain subject. Where can I find a tutor to tailor his lessons to my child’s needs?

Again, economics apply. The demand for specific topics within a subject is much less than the demand for any other combination of subject needs. This means for the tuition centre or tutor, it is not economical to concentrate on specific topics only. However, my guess is that there are tutors out there who will be willing to tailor their lesson plan to your child’s needs – with a premium price, that is.

One thing parents must realize is that if the child is weak only in certain topics, it may be more feasible to get him to ask the teacher to explain to him the topic again. It is the teacher’s job to teach. So it is the right of the student to ask a teacher for clarification or further explanation. Tuition in this case may not even be needed.

6. But I insist my child to have tuition so that he can maintain his A* in his subjects!

Well, as a parent, you know his capabilities. If you feel your child has that capability and he enjoys all the tuition you give him, all the best to him in his endevour to attain a high PSLE score.

This concludes Part 2 in the series “Tuition or No Tuition?”. Next week, in Part 3, we will discuss issues you have to be aware of, if you, the parent, decide to tutor your own child.


Related article:
Tuition or No Tuition? (Part 1)
Tuition or No Tuition? (Part 3) – Tutoring your own child


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Song
Thank you for your very informative and useful piece of advice on tuition.
One of the nagging concerns I have is whether or not additional tuition will breed a dependency mentality into our children. Take away this privilege, will one still be able to achieve desired results and grow up into independent learners? It’s scary to think what sort of adults our kids will grow up to be if one needs tuition from P1 to JC.
What’s your view?

Excel Eduservice said...

Dear Anonymous,

The decision to have tuition is actually personal. The best people to decide are still the student and parents. There are no right or wrong answers.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mr Song,

My daughter is having PSLE exams this year. She is quite weak in Maths (with border rate) though many ways to help her (one-to-one tuition and teach by myself). I am quite panic as few months left to PSLE. What else I can help her?
Due to the poor results, she has lost interest in Maths too.

Excel Eduservice said...

Whatever you do, you should appear strong in front of your daughter. If she sees you in a panic state, it will worsen the situation.

If you really need help, email me at and give me your contact number.

My wife may be able to advise you further from a parent-daughter perspective.

Anonymous said...

Would anyone be able to recommend me a good maths tutor for my primary 3 child, who is quite good in maths but wants a challenge?