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Hiring a Less Experienced Tutor to Coach Your Child? Here’s How to Make it Work

So your child needs extra coaching, but you’re worried about busting the family budget?

At the primary school level, parents can expect to pay anything between S$15 and S$60 for an hour-long lesson by a private tutor. Individuals who have made a name for themselves as “star tutors” may charge even more. 

Those with children in secondary school and beyond could pay up to S$150 per hour for an experienced or in-demand tutor. (Read our article on tuition spending in Singapore here.)

It can all seem like a bit much, but yet, you’re aware that your child needs help—which you can’t provide, perhaps due to lack of time. Here’s the good news: affordable tutoring is available in Singapore. The catch is that you may have to adjust your expectations, and put in a little work of your own too.

Tuition centres catering to those living in HDB estates tend to charge lower rates, and if you know of a neighbour who is running group tutoring sessions from home, you may find the rates agreeable too. For instance, you could be paying slightly over S$100 per month, for weekly group sessions that are about two hours long. Thanks to social distancing, you can also be assured that home-based group sizes these days are small.

Instead of worrying about whether tutors have produced A* students in the past, you can ask about the rate of improvement for their students in the previous year. Some tutors take in students with learning needs, or students without a supportive home learning environment. They do the best that they can, during the limited time that they have with these children. These tutors tend to be more heart-driven than business-driven, which is not a bad thing at all, if you want to hire someone who will genuinely care for your child.

The biggest advantage of hiring an experienced tutor is familiarity with our local exams. They’ve seen enough questions to know which topics are significant, and they instinctively know how answers should be structured in order to gain the maximum marks. However, they may not be as well-versed in effective learning methods. For instance, they may hand out a different sample paper for your child to work on each week, and each time, you may receive the same feedback that your child is making careless mistakes or repeating certain mistakes.

If you are caught in such a situation, here’s what you can do:

  • Occasionally, tutors try to save on paper by printing two pages per sheet, for notes or sample papers that they hand out. The smaller print size could be an issue for your child, and if you suspect this might be the case, highlight this to your tutor.
  • During a typical tutoring session, after your child has completed a sample paper, a tutor will usually go over the solutions. If you know that your child has retention issues, ask the tutor to reprint the same questions that your child has struggled with during the previous session, for retesting. This way, your tutor gets feedback about how much information your child has retained from the previous session, and can use the opportunity to clarify concepts and answering methods with your child.
  • Some parents want “active” tutoring sessions, where a child completes an assignment prior to a tutoring session, so that a tutor can do more teaching during the session. In reality, this may not be ideal, because a child with a packed schedule may rush through the tutoring homework. Also, if too many days have elapsed between completing the homework and the tutoring session, your child might have trouble recalling the thought processes involved in answering the questions. Letting a child work on questions during a session allows for instant feedback, which may be more effective for learning and retention. 
  • If your child is taking a national exam this year, it is likely that the school will already be piling on the homework, and the last thing your child needs is more homework from a tutor. In fact, you could help to ease the stress on your child, by allowing him/her to bring along homework to complete during a tutoring session.

If you are thinking of hiring a less experienced tutor, either through a tuition agency or personal contact, here’s what you should note:

  • A less experienced tutor, such as a university student, may only have taught a handful of students before, or your child could even be the first. The tutor will likely not be familiar with the subject syllabus, exam paper formats, and what constitutes a “complete” answer for exam questions. However, younger tutors may find it easier to build rapport with children. If they are students themselves, they can be role models and pass on helpful advice about study techniques.
  • To support your new tutor, help him/her to gather materials and structure the learning process. You can decide which topic your tutor should focus on for each session, send him/her relevant notes to go over with your child, and, especially for science, look for assessment books that provide a step-by-step question answering framework, which your tutor can use. For online tutoring sessions, you can photograph the materials and send them over to your tutor.
  • If your child is doing an online session with the new tutor, prepare a notebook for your child, for note-taking and practice questions. If you don’t do this, your child is likely to grab the nearest available scrap paper to use, and over weeks, it will be hard to keep track of what has been covered.
  • You can consider a blend of sessions with an experienced tutor as well as a less experienced tutor. If you are doing this, get your money’s worth by ensuring that there is consistency—and no overlaps—in teaching. For instance, if you are using this arrangement for science, you could have the experienced tutor cover topics that are more likely to be tested in the open-ended section of the exam, while your less experienced tutor helps your child to review topics that will likely be tested in the multiple-choice section. If both your tutors are covering open-ended questions, brief them both about the preferred question answering framework that you would like your child to use. You can even show your tutors example videos of how it should be done—“star tutors” often make their teaching videos available on their social media pages.
  • To further reduce costs, especially for online tutoring sessions, ask if your tutor is open to having another child join in, at no additional charge. It is a way for new tutors to gain experience too.

A sure way to reduce tuition costs is to tutor your own child. But before you jump in, please read our guide!

 

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