Is There a Tuition Centre Ranking? How Do You Find the Best Tuition Centre or Tutor for Your Child?

Hoping to find a top tuition centre or tutor for your child?

Like you, many Singaporean parents have searched for “top tuition centres” or “super tutors” for their children. Typically, such parents fall into two groups: those with children who are genuinely struggling with academics, and those who want their children to attain good grades in milestone exams such as the Primary School Leaving Examination.

Although there are ‘best of’ lists for tuition centres, you’re unlikely to find a comprehensive and objective ranking system that scores these centres on a broad range of factors, such as value for money and the ability to help students of varying academic abilities. The lists that have gained traction online will likely mention popular and media-savvy centres such as The Learning Lab, Berries World (for Chinese), and The Physics Cafe. 

The reality is that there are (at least) hundreds of tuition services in Singapore. If you are checking out tuition centres, the first thing to do is to make sure that they are registered with the Ministry of Education (MOE). However, please be aware that the MOE does not endorse these tuition centres in any way. It simply means that these centres have the right to operate in Singapore, because they have met the basic requirements stipulated by the MOE.

Below, we’ll highlight some questions that you should reflect on before deciding to send your child for tuition classes, and selecting a school or tutor. We hope that by going through these questions, you’ll be able to find a tuition centre or tutor that best meets the needs of your child.

Does my child really need tuition?

In a Straits Times survey conducted several years ago, “better school grades” was cited as the top reason to pay for tuition classes, while the second most common reason was to help children “keep up with their peers.” In popular schools, it’s typical to hear that most children have tutoring in at least one subject. Your child’s schoolmates may also be a common sight at nearby enrichment schools.

Does this mean that your child needs tuition too? Not necessarily. Here are some questions that you can think about, to decide if your child will benefit from tuition:

  • What is your child’s biggest challenge in the subject — is it poor concentration, a lack of motivation, reading and comprehension issues, or test anxiety? How do you think tuition can address this issue?
  • Has your child’s subject teacher suggested that extra support is needed?
  • Would it be better to test your child for learning needs?
  • Is your child willing to attend tuition classes or work with a tutor?
  • If your child is experiencing issues with concentration and motivation across subjects, would coaching or counselling help more

Yes, I think my child needs tuition. What factors should I consider?

Your child’s weekly routine should be your first consideration. 

For children with hectic schedules, such as those on school teams, a private tutor is often the preferred option. These children already have unpredictable schedules and have to spend plenty of time in training sessions or at competitive events. There is much more flexibility with a private tutor to skip or reschedule a lesson, and children can learn in the comfort of their home instead of having to commute.

A private tutor is also preferable to an enrichment centre if your child is an introvert who is more comfortable with one-to-one interactions. Another group of children who may benefit from individual attention is those who have trouble grasping basic concepts in the classroom.

As for enrichment centres, they are well-suited for children who like group learning. If you’re considering a neighbourhood tuition centre without ‘star teachers,’ you should enjoy more affordable lesson rates as well ($30–40 per hour). In the Singapore context, star teachers or super tutors tend to be MOE-trained teachers who’ve taught at top schools or in the Gifted Education Programme. To some parents, such credentials are non-negotiable, while others are satisfied with teachers who are familiar with exam formats, and able to build rapport with their children.

To find an enrichment centre near you, Google is your best bet, and you can consult Google Reviews as well. You can also search on the KiasuParents tuition and enrichment forum for a relevant thread, or start your own conversation seeking recommendations. Naturally, don’t be too trusting online, and always check reviewers’ credibility by reading their post history. In fact, some parents may prefer to get recommendations from their friends instead.

In summary, the factors that you should consider when choosing a tuition centre or tutor are:

  • Your child’s weekly schedule, and available time
  • Location and convenience
  • Your child’s preference for one-to-one vs. group learning
  • A teacher or tutor’s credentials — do you prefer super tutors or MOE-trained teachers, or are you just looking for a responsible youth mentor?
  • Your budget for tuition spending

I’m visiting a tuition centre or interviewing a tutor. What should I look out for?

Have you decided to visit a conveniently located enrichment centre with good reviews? Here’s what you can observe:

  • Does the environment appeal to you and your child?
  • Do students look happy to be here?
  • Are the interactions between teachers and students positive?
  • Is there an option of a trial class?
  • Does the centre have a step-by-step learning process? Does it cater for students with different learning needs, such as visual learning?
  • Does the centre have a system for tracking student progress, and helping students set goals? (Examples include report cards or goal sheets with clear rubrics to outline expectations.)
  • Any red-flag moments, such as teachers speaking in a language that excludes some students, or making inappropriate remarks?

If you prefer to hire a private tutor, and have arranged a first meeting or trial session, you can ask some scenario-based questions to weed out ineffective tutors. Here are some examples:

  • If my child is unable to understand your explanation or repeats mistakes, what will you do? (See if your tutor has a backup plan or can cite a similar experience where such a challenge was resolved.)
  • If my child finds a task daunting — e.g. completing a homework assignment or memorising a passage — what advice will you give? (Good tutors will suggest breaking up an assignment into more manageable parts.)
  • How will you help my child to set goals, with a step-by-step plan for improvement? (This will help you to gauge if a tutor’s approach to goal setting is aligned with yours.)
  • Are you comfortable dealing with introverted children? How will you break the ice with my child? (Some kids take a long time to warm up to a tutor, so a tutor’s ability to build rapport will become essential.)

My child has started lessons with a tuition centre or tutor, but I’m not sure if it’s working out. What are some signs that it may not be a good fit?

A clear-cut situation is that your child is failing a subject despite having been tutored for six months or longer. Other red flags include frequent lesson cancellations or unprofessional behaviours during the lesson, such as constantly checking one’s phone. 

But very often, the signs that a teacher or tutor might not be working out are far more subtle. For instance, if you have more than one child, you could find that someone who worked well with your eldest child may not be as good a fit for your younger children, because of differences in the children’s aptitude and learning dispositions.

Here are some warning signs that you can look out for:

  • The teacher or tutor is giving feedback week after week that your child is making the “same mistakes,” without a plan to address this.
  • The teacher or tutor uses insensitive language when talking about your child’s progress, e.g. saying that your child “did badly” on a practice test.
  • The teacher or tutor doesn’t seem to be a subject expert. For instance, if you find that an English teacher misuses big words or provides materials that are riddled with typos, this would be cause for concern.
  • The enrichment centre or tutor overloads your child with homework, without considering your child’s weekly schedule.
  • The enrichment centre or tutor doesn’t seem to have a broader learning plan for your child, beyond supplying practice questions. (This is especially important for language learning.)
  • Your child dreads lessons and has to be cajoled to attend each session.

Although it’s painful to restart the search for a new school or tutor, it’s better to cut ties before more precious time is wasted. If you need a diplomatic explanation, you can always cite a schedule clash or use the results from weighted assessments and year-end exams as a reason. Thank the enrichment school or tutor for the time and effort, and close the relationship on an amicable note.

Want to chat with Singapore parents about tuition? Check out the KiasuParents forum!