Advantages and disadvantages of private tuition

The questions that parents ask when their child is enrolling into primary school:

  1. Does enrichment lessons really benefit my kids?
  2. Does my kid need tuition?
  3. What kind of tuition to choose? 1 to 1 or group tuition?
  4. Which tuition centre to go?

When it comes to tuition, there are two; private (1 on 1) or group (class setting). This is what I think from my years of experience, having 1 to 1 tuition, small group tuition, and even larger groups in one of the more established tuition centres in Singapore.

For clarity, 1 to 1 tuition (private tuition) refers to tuition where one tutor faces one student, either in a home setting or within a tuition centre.


Advantages of private tuition

In my earlier years when I’m still new to the teaching, I had thought that 1 to 1 tuition is the most effective form of tuition. The common advantages:

  1. Undivided attention – The student has the tutor all to himself/herself
  2. Instant feedback for student for maximal learning – Timely feedback is the way in which students learn
  3. Flexible lesson schedule – It is easier for you to change schedule with the tutor

As long as a parent could afford the expensive fees of 1 to 1 tuition, why not go for it right?

For majority of the students out there, it’s not true. In fact, the “pros” may actually be bad for your child. In addition, there are many more hidden cons that no one else has really talk about.


Disadvantages of private tuition

1. Undivided attention
While it is true that your child will get the best possible help from the 1 to 1 tutor, this builds over-reliance on the tutor over time. One key to a sustainable learning attitude is independence, and hiring a 1 to 1 tutor goes counter to it.

Yes, you will be able to help your child cross the current education hurdles. In Primary school, Secondary school, Junior college. But what about university and beyond?

Will your child be able to handle learning in a group setting in the future, especially with years of learning how to learn from a 1 to 1 tutor?

It may be many years ahead for our kids, but as parents, we need to think far ahead for them.

2. Instant feedback
Timely feedback is of utmost importance for learning. I will not deny it. But overly instant feedback?

We want our kids to be able to analyse questions, go through a proper thinking process (something we always preach and teach at Eton), and check for careless mistakes. We want them to be independent thinkers and take responsibility for the answers they have made.

Instant feedback sometimes go counter to this. The feedback comes before the student have the time to process, to think, and to check through the questions and their answers. It usually stop short children’s train of thought – I mean, would you pay good money for a 1 to 1 tutor to just wait for your child to think?

While I provide WhatsApp help to my students, I am unable to respond immediately as I may be in lessons or be busy with other personal events. I realise that frequently for students, in the process of typing out the question, they manage to think through the question, and are then able to solve the question before I even answered them. They are able to follow through proper thinking processes that were taught and emphasized in my classes, and apply them, before I give feedback. This helps many of my students score As in the national exams.

If the feedback was instant, they would be over-reliant, and may even be so for the rest of their study career.

3. Flexible Lesson Schedule
For most students, once a weekly schedule is fixed, most would not change. And this is good, as it builds a habit and good discipline of following structure. Most of the experienced and good 1 to 1 tutors will not allow flexible lesson schedules anyway, because their schedules are usually packed early in the year.

4. Lesson structure
Most 1 to 1 tuition do not have any proper lesson structure or planning.

More often than not, most 1 to 1 tuition at home are just the student asking the tutor school questions, using school notes, school worksheets. At other times, the lesson will be using store-bought assessment books of random question compilations.

When conducting small group tuition lessons at Eton, we plan our lessons (in terms of what to teach, and timeline). We use our exclusive in-house materials, consisting of notes and concept-building worksheets that teach students to identify the kinds of questions that could appear. In addition, we use lesson props to let students experience kinaesthetic learning first-hand.

How many 1 to 1 tutors would bring lesson props to your house for learning?

5. No peer interaction
There is zero peer interaction in 1 to 1 lessons.

In terms of small group tuition, peer interaction allows students to know how they stand in relative to their peers from other schools.

Peer learning is already done in schools, but this only let students to have a glimpse of how well they are doing in their studies compared to their school mates. However, national examinations are across the entire nation, and not just for a single school.

Done properly, this could help spur students on in a healthy competition to be a better version of themselves.

6. Tough to hire experienced tutors
There are many 1 to 1 tutors, but experienced and good 1 to 1 tutors are not easy to find.

The experienced and good 1 to 1 tutors usually have their schedules filled early in the year. Think of this, a hardworking tutor working 7 days a week could may only teach a maximum of 2 lessons a weekday and 4 lessons a weekend. That means a maximum of 18 students. How fast do you think it would take for 18 slots to be filled?

This number reduces if you consider that the tutor may not be full-time, or may want a day or two of breaks.


So who really needs 1 to 1 tuition?

Definitely, there will be some unique cases where 1 to 1 tuition is more useful, provided you get the right tutor.

  • Students who need extra attention and the exams are just around the corner
  • Students who are extremely strong, already scoring 85% and above (at least for sec and JC), and want to achieve even higher to top the school

I believe most students will not be in these categories, and small group tuition lessons will actually be more beneficial in the long run. If your child does not belong to the above category, feel free to contact us for a trial session of group tuition.