Tuition … looking back: A student’s perspective

02 Jul 2019
Tuition … looking back: A student’s perspective

A question I often get asked when I bumped into any of my friends’ parents was “Do you have tuition?”, upon finding out my grades were slightly better than my friends. After getting asked this question once, I shrugged it off as an overzealous parent trying to show concern for their child’s education; but it is precisely a parent’s instinctive desire to better the lives of their children, that they often turn to tuition as a means to improve their grades, sometimes even against the will of their children. When I have my own children one day, these are some considerations I’d remind myself of.


Parent-child communication in deciding tuition

 In my personal capacity, as well as feedback from my peers, I found that tuition is most effective once we view tuition as something that will help us. Growing up, especially in primary school, I viewed going to tuition as a chore, something menial that I did not want to do. Only when I get older, became more sensible, that I understood the value of tuition and why I needed and wanted to go for lessons. To parents, when thinking about sending your child for extra lessons, engage them in the decision making process, learn their wants and needs before determining whether tuition is right for them. There is no right answer to whether tuition is a definite good or harm.


Tuition fatigue – deciding alternatives

 Parents, in a desire to drastically improve their children’s results, may pack their schedule with classes. A classmate in my JC class went for six different tuition classes (and we only had five subjects!). Overworking your child may not be a sustainable way to education, as long hours and inadequate rest may lead to burnout, exhaustion and not healthy in the gear-up to major examinations. The key, as with everything, is moderation: moderating the frequency of tuition classes, the number of classes and even the number of hours per tutoring session. An alternative to consider may be Internet Tutoring: cutting down on travel time needed for tuition and adopting a more flexible schedule may be beneficial in reducing tuition fatigue. Discussing with your child for such arrangements would go a long way in ensuring their welfare while maximizing their learning.


Exams-smart vs critical thinking and problem solving

 A potential hazard that students may face when going to tuition is that agencies, in a bid to show good grades to their parents quickly, is that they use cheap gimmicks and tricks to cram information into the child without actually teaching them anything. This tactic hinders your child’s development in the future. Look out for centres that stimulate cognitive ability and encourage problem solving. The ills of short-term exams-smart tactics will show as the student progresses into higher level where examinations drift away from rote memorization and more towards an assessment of the ability to think and rationalize the world around them. So, do prior research to tutors and agencies beforehand, observing whether their methods really enrich your child’s learning or are they solely motivated to churn out the right answer.


Considering alternatives

 In this digital age, a new trend of ad hoc tutoring has been created aimed at improving the specific weaknesses of students and catering to their needs. I feel that, this may solve the problems laid out earlier about rote memorization, as tutors are now able to focus on distinct skill sets that students are weak in and improve how they solve problems in the future. This ensures that the skills they learn in one particular class remain transferable to other areas in life.



 The opinions expressed in this piece are shaped by my own experiences growing up in the Singapore education system in the 21st century and is supported by the feedback I have gotten from my peers regarding their experiences with tuition. I cannot definitively say that these views are representative of all students in Singapore, but I would say that these are the most common pitfalls for tuition that students struggle with that are easily avoidable. In a bid to ensure the best for your child, remember the age old saying: “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”.

By Ryan who recently graduated from junior college and is going to pursue a concurrent undergraduate and master's degree at law and public policy at NUS. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, writing and debating.