MYTH: 'My child has to have a private tutor - tuition is a necessity these days.'
REALITY: It works for most children, and the best results can be achieved in subjects like Mathematics.
NOT for nothing is Singapore called a 'tuition nation'. A Sunday Times poll last year of 100 primary, secondary and junior college students found that only three had no tuition at all.
Of the other 97 students, 49 had private tutors, while 32 attended classes at tuition centres. The other 16 had both types of coaching.
The most popular subjects are Mathematics and English, and a typical session lasts two hours, and is either held at home or at a centre.
The poll found that students at tuition centres were getting younger, with the parents of kindergarten and nursery-level children asking for tuition in phonics and conversational English.
The market rate for private one-toone home tuition is between $20 and $150 an hour, depending on the student's level and the tutor's qualifications.
Group tuition classes cost between $60 and $350 monthly.
WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS
Studies show that private tuition does help children do better in school. Individual one-to-one tutoring benefits students lagging behind or those with learning disabilities.
Students can be coached by a range of people, including retired schoolteachers or their own parents.
Many schools have peer tutoring where children who are strong in certain subjects tutor the weak.
Some research shows that student tutors provide the most emotional and personal support to students, but professional tutors provide better academic outcomes.
Other studies show that parents make effective tutors for their own children, especially in their early years. This helps parents understand what their children are learning in school and also helps build a better relationship between them and their young ones.
Academics have looked at whether tuition is better for certain subjects. Results show that it is best for Mathematics, largely because the subject is easier to teach.
Tuition is also more beneficial when the tutor uses the same textbooks and supplementary materials as those used in class.
Experts say the computer-based tutoring programs many parents are increasingly using, although inferior to face-to-face tutoring, can be beneficial.
But they warn that a lot of software can be sub-standard and a waste of time and money.
Good educational programs are interactive, interesting and motivate students to want to learn more, and are closely linked to what is being taught in school. They also encourage independent thinking and help develop problem- solving, research and analytical skills.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO
Consider the type of tuition that best suits your child - group tuition or one-to-one.
A popular misconception is that one-to-one coaching always gives the best results. A child involved in such coaching can become anxious, as the scrutiny of the teacher is fully focused on him for the whole lesson.
But if you decide to send your child to group tuition, ensure that it offers a plan specifically tailored to your child's school curriculum.
When hiring a tutor, ask for referrals from other students' parents to find out more about their teaching methods. When hiring a tutor from a tuition agency, be sure to read and understand the terms of the contract. If they claim to have certain qualifications, whether it is a degree or teaching diploma, ask to see the certificates.
In Singapore, there are cases of tutors claiming to be 'registered with the Ministry of Education'. The ministry has no such scheme. But it does require tuition schools to be registered as private schools.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on February 07, 2009.