Since the start of the 21st century, the tutoring industry has been picking up steam, particularly in Asia where paper qualifications and grades are put on a pedestal.
China decimated the S$136 billion private tutoring and online education sector while Singapore's private education was worth S$1.4 billion, according to the last Household Expenditure Survey in 2017 and 2018.
The allure of private tutoring in particular has gripped ex-school teachers, undergraduates looking to earn some pocket money, and graduates who intend on becoming private tutors. Despite the glitz and glamour of private tutoring, not all that glitters is gold.
Is private tutoring worth it?
Below is a summary table showing the pros and cons of private tutoring:
|Pros of Private Tutoring||Cons of Private Tutoring|
|Flexible schedule||Dodgy agencies|
|Enhances many skill sets||You might need to OverTime|
The Pros of Private Tutoring in Singapore
Irrefutably, the market for private tutors has been lucrative, even more so than many popular industries if you go by hourly rate. The higher the academic level of the students, the higher the tuition fees. It is thus uncommon to hear of parents lamenting over how their child’s math lessons can be a whopping $100 or more for a mere 1 to 2 hours of tutoring.
What’s more, most of the fees (if not all) are directed to the tutors themselves. Tuition agencies such as Mindflex and Champion Tutor may charge tutors for the first 1 or 2 lessons, but all subsequent lesson fees will be lining the tutors’ pockets. It is no wonder that in 2016 alone, there were already private Singapore tutors reportedly making at least 1 million dollars yearly. Such high-earning tutors are dubbed super tutors.
Super tutor Janice Chua teaching primary school maths to fully-booked classes (Credits: Dan Murphy)
- Flexible schedule
Despite the fixed lesson times for tutees, tutors choose assignments that best cater to their preferred timings beforehand. Given the multitude of assignments dished out by agencies per day, it is not difficult to find several assignments that suit tutors’ schedules. Also, many tuition agencies have been using social media to expedite the changing of preferences as and when a tutor wants to.
SG Tuition’s Telegram bot with features allowing tutors to update their preferences
Some tutees are open to rescheduling too, whenever it is convenient for them. For instance, some students might request for more tuition sessions whenever examination day is around the corner.
Being able to iron out your timetable gives you a certain edge over those who work regular office hours, as you can better ensure that you have truly achieved work-life balance.
- Enhances many skill sets
When teaching, you are gradually honing your mentoring skills which could be useful in jobs that you might pursue in the future, and that require you to train fellow juniors or colleagues. Having the ability to convey complex concepts as succinctly as possible takes perseverance and time to sharpen, which is highly valued in the workforce.
Besides coaching, you are exposed to a diverse gamut of digital software to craft teaching materials, be it notes, slides or diagrams. Ever since COVID-19 struck the globe, private tutors have been turning to platforms such as VEDAMO Virtual Classroom and Evernote to sustain their tutees’ attention through the screen. Such technology requires a high level of skill to be utilized fully. Therefore, expect to be a lot more tech-savvy from tutoring, which can come in handy if you end up being keen on the tech industry.
Quiz app - Kahoot! (Credits: Kahoot)
The Cons of Private Tutoring in Singapore
- Difficult clients
As much as tutors may do their best to guide students along their academic journeys, how well the students perform largely boils down to how diligent they have been in their revision. Time and time again, private tutors have terminated assignments due to lazy tutees who merely depend on tutors to do all the studying for them. Since such tutees often do not progress from lesson to lesson, tutors see no reason to continue with the tutees.
However, there have been cases where the tutor turns a blind eye to this problem and carries on with lessons for the sake of earning the moolah. This paints a negative image of private tutoring as the tutees remain unmotivated and fare poorly in examinations, while the irresponsible tutors remain indifferent.
Aside from tutees, their parents may be less easy to deal with. There is the overprotective sort who would defend their kids when you explain to them that the tutee is not concentrating enough during lessons, for example. There is also the sort who would make late payments to tutors, leaving them with the unsettling feeling of not knowing whether they will be paid for subsequent lessons or not. And these types of parents are only a handful among the many that private tutors have seen over the years.
- Dodgy agencies
Some tuition agencies might over-charge tutors, compared to the standard market rates. This is worse for assignments that only last for a few months since the tutor would not be earning as much as he or she should.
The more dangerous agencies are those that adopt the fraudulent pyramid scheme, whereby tutors pay a hefty fee upfront before the agency helps to promote their services. The key word here is ‘promote’, meaning tutors might not secure any assignment if the promotions do not reach enough interested clients. Trust Tuition Agency is one such example that has been under fire for employing this scheme, yet it continues to find ways to attract vulnerable or new private tutors.
- You might need to OverTime
Yes, you read that right! Even though you have the flexibility to plan out your schedule as a private tutor, some students may need extra help to understand a topic. As such, you work after lessons to craft more simplified or visual notes, such as cheat sheets or summaries, or you start coming up with more questions to test the student. Don’t forget about the marking of questions and staying updated with syllabus changes, which can also eat up too much of your leisure time.
Credits: Payroll Partners
Despite the pitfalls of private tutoring, most private tutors learn to overcome them with grace due to their genuine passion for teaching and nurturing the next generation. This is why tutoring is not recommended for those who merely want to earn big bucks.
Even with passion, tutors must safeguard themselves against the pitfalls, such as by:
- researching a particular tuition agency before accepting its assignments,
- drafting their terms and conditions (regarding details such as the date due for monthly payments) for parents to sign before lessons,
- taking only a reasonable number of assignments to avoid being burnt out.