If you talk to teachers, you will get a very mixed set of opinions about tutoring. Talk to children and most do not want to be tutored. Talk to parents and most will say they have to have a tutor for their child. Tutoring has become a big business and many parents believe that without a tutor their child may not succeed. If you speak to a school, most would say tutoring is not required to the extent it is being used today.
I believe tutors do have a place within education, qualified tutors, those with experience and knowledge of the curriculum and exams a child is taking. A child might need a tutor at certain points in their school life. They do not need them all the time and for every subject. If you have tutors for your children to help them with their homework, then who are you actually helping? Your child may miss out on learning important skills of independence or being able to work through problems themselves. Yes, they will probably get good grades at school for this work, but in some cases they can’t cope at higher education because they have always relied on someone else.
When a child is struggling in a subject such as maths or languages for example, a qualified tutor can help to support and guide them through either the basic or more complex concepts to bring them back on track. For most children who struggle, they need some support to regain their confidence. A good tutor is one that helps your child understand what they are doing wrong and helping them to improve. They set supporting work for your child to do. They don’t simply help your child complete their school homework.
Often a child will come home complaining the work is too hard in class and that their friend who has a tutor is doing much better than they are. Now you feel you have to get a tutor so that they can keep up in class. Suddenly the class teacher does not seem to be doing their job and because of this you think you have to get a tutor. Every child is different and learns at different speeds and in different ways. Try not to compare your child with all the other children in the class. Get to know the class teacher so you can understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses. This way you can better judge if your child should be supported with a tutor or if there is no real need.
1. Some parents feel unable to help their child with some aspects of work from school. Some may find their children don’t respond well to their parents help. Someone outside of school and the family can be a great support to help guide your child in their understanding of the subject and so boost their confidence. This in turn supports their classwork and makes them realise that they can cope.
2. Tutoring can give individualised attention that a class situation does not offer. This is only true for one to one tutoring, not often found in tuition centres. Your child would then gain the confidence to ask questions that they might not in a classroom situation. It can also help children who aren’t challenged enough in school and are always waiting for others to catch up with them.
3. A qualified and experienced tutor will get to know your child’s strengths and weaknesses. They will be able to target specific work to help your child. They will coach your child rather than instruct. A good tutor knows how to encourage children to show independence, even in a one to one situation.
4. A good tutor will create an environment that is conducive to learning. They will encourage your child to work at a good pace that challenges and supports their learning. Without distractions your child has the opportunity to see what they can do. For some children, a distraction free environment is exactly what they need in order to be able to learn.
5. Your child’s self-esteem can grow under the support of a qualified tutor. This in turn will support their achievements across most subjects in school. As they achieve more, their confidence will grow and so too will their abilities. They may even be able to tell you they no longer want a tutor.
6. With an increase in confidence, also comes an increase in independence and the skills your child is developing will be with them for life and support future studies and be transferable to their working environment when the time comes.
1. Many tutors simply tell children what to do, or complete school work for them. This is ‘spoon feeding’ and does not help your child at all. In the short term, it looks like they are getting good grades. The good grades belong to the tutor, not your child.
2. A good school should provide your child everything they need to succeed, their teachers will be happy to give extra time to children who ask for it. If your child is in a good school there are not many reasons why you should need a tutor. From time to time, maybe, but not all the time for different subjects.
3. Often the decision for a tutor is the parents, not the child. This puts added strain on children and can cause work overload which leads to poor performance at school. This is then an indicator to parents that they were right to get a tutor and so increase the hours of tuition. It is like a negative feedback loop and is not healthy for your child.
4. Good schools invest a lot of time and money to ensure they safely recruit good qualified staff. Often these teachers will go through rigorous background checks with the Police, Ministry of Education and other authorities, here and from other countries they have worked in. Their qualifications will be verified and lessons observed to make sure they maintain certain standards. You have little control of who tutors are and few guarantees of their authenticity or credentials.
5. Some children feel depressed that they need a tutor, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and make them have low self-esteem. It depends on whose decision the tutor was and for what reasons. It can also depend on how often they have a tutor and how it impacts their life.
6. Children may become dependent on a tutor to complete their work (as pointed out in number 1), this does not support their independence or ability to learn or solve problems. In the long term, with an unqualified tutor, you could actually be damaging your child’s academic abilities.
Ian Gross is the Principal at Kinabalu International School, Sabah, Malaysia and is currently studying for a Doctorate in Education through Bath University, UK.
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