Choosing the right home tutor for your child
Finding a good tutor for your child can be a huge headache. Here's a guide to help you navigate through the myriad of tutors in the market and pick the right one for your child's needs...
26-year-old Ms Nuraisah Muhammad has been asking within her circle of friends if they know of any good English tutors for her daughter Nureesha who is 7-years-old and entering Primary Two next year.
“Nureesha is doing rather well in school now, but I know it will get harder as she goes up to P3 and beyond. I can help her with Malay and Math, but when it comes to English neither her Dad nor I are good enough to teach her grammar and language nuances,” said Nuraisah.
Many mums and dads are finding themselves in a similar position to Nureesha’s mummy. While they may not be looking for English tuition, they may be looking for a good tutor to teach Math, Science or a Mother tongue language.
Here in Singapore, having the convenience and expertise of a home tutor who can coach their child to academic greatness is as almost as necessary as having domestic help.
Searching for the right tutors is also a daunting affair as much, especially for those without prior experience with tutors. So how do you go about picking the right tutor?
There are roughly 4 major categories of personal educators parents can choose from:
1. Student tutors
2. NIE trainees
3. Full-time tutors
4. Ex/current school teachers
The quality of these tutors and the rates that they charge depend on their experience and expertise.
For more details about these different types of home tutors, go to the next page…
Student tutors make up a significant percentage of the home tutor population.
Often aged 17 and above, they could be Junior College or Polytechnic students, awaiting enrollment into NS or University, or are Undergraduates or Post-Graduate students.
Some parents shun these tutors perhaps because they rank as the least experienced when it comes to teaching. But this group also have the advantage of charging cheaper rates per hour.
If you’re lucky enough to find a genius who recently topped his class or scored straight As in recent exams, then you’ve got yourself a winner!
These home tutors are also the closest in age to the kids they teach and so may be better able to connect with their students.
They charge between $15-$25/hr.
National Institute of Education (NIE) trainees
NIE trainees are essentially undergraduates who are training to become school teachers and thus are highly sought after.
Their in-depth understanding of MOE’s syllabus, format of examinations and supposed aptitude for teaching while commanding a lower rate than the next two types of educators, make them a popular choice among parents.
If you are interested to have an NIE trainee as a tutor, be prepared to pay slightly more ($20-$40/hr) than what you would pay for student tutors.
These educators make their entire living from home tutoring. Many of them also have had years of teaching or tutoring experience and are familiar with the MOE syllabus.
Most of them also specialise in a specific subject so you’d be getting a subject matter expert.
For instance, 32-year-old ex-English teacher, Roy, travels 4 times a week to students’ homes teaching only English in addition to holding classes at a tuition centre.
Commanding the upper range of tuition rates, they could easily charge you anywhere between $15 to $80/hr.
Of course, this category of personal educators is the most experienced and therefore most sought after.
For teachers who still hold their day jobs as educators in schools, their busy schedule means they can afford to take on at most 2-3 private lessons a week perhaps for a maximum of two students only.
Ex-teachers or retired teachers are able to accept more.
Most retired teachers prefer to have lessons at their own residence rather than to travel to their students’ homes, so parents will have to factor in sending and fetching your child to tuition or making arrangements in his schedule to include travelling time spent.
Teachers and ex-teachers also charge the highest fees; from $22 to $150/hour.
Their reliability coupled with their ability to almost guarantee that A+ in your kid’s report books make them the star candidates of home tutors.
Once you understand the types of home tutors in the market, what do you do next?
Well simple enough, you could engage a tutor by recommendation from friends, advertise in forums or even source one out from reputable tuition agencies which can now be done online.
Recommendations by word-of-mouth are often the safest bet as the educator in question has been tried and tested by someone you trust.
All you would have to do is fill up an application form online and they will get back to you within 24 hours with several tutor matches.
These agencies often work as the middlemen between you and the tutors.
Usually they are the ones who mediate on session timings and the hourly rates between the proposed tutor and yourself.
This is where we tell you to stop and insist on arranging an interview with the potential educator.
Many parents make the mistake of fully trusting the agents with the matches.Yet, only you as a parent know what your child needs from a tutor.
Once you’ve set up that interview (whether phone or in person); there are 5 things you’ll need to note and question. Read about these on the next page…
Some agencies or tutors embellish their resumes and educational background. Insist on having a look at their past academic achievements or proof of teaching experience.
While your decision should not be purely based on having a straight ‘A’ tutor, this would ensure that you are in the company of a trustworthy educator who will impart the same values to your child.
Get to know them a little better by asking these questions:
1) What kind of CCA or hobbies are they into?
2) Whether they have any special talents or abilities?
3) For student tutors, you can even ask them whether they have any younger siblings.
Fairly personal questions as such would give you some insight into the kind of person they are and whether they would be able to engage your kid during the lessons.
For instance, a male home tutor who loves soccer would probably be able to connect with your football-loving son and even will be able to explain some concepts in a manner that he would understand.
Meanwhile, student tutors with younger siblings and who talk of children endearingly are often patient educators.
Try also to learn more about their teaching style. Ask them how they usually conduct their lessons. Different tutors have varying methods of teaching.
Some tutors thoroughly believe in a reward system which works very well with younger children while other tutors tend to be more serious and disciplined.
Assess which type of teaching style would suit your child before you make the decision to engage the tutor.
Familiarity with MOE syllabus
Ensure that the tutor is familiar with the syllabus as well. For instance there is a difference between Higher Chinese, standard Chinese and Chinese ‘B’.
If your child requires a Higher Chinese tutor, ask him/her if they are familiar with the examination format as well as the content required for the subject.
Schedule and rates
Of course, once you are fairly satisfied with the tutor you have met, check if your schedules match.
While most tutors are rather flexible with their time, especially at the start of the year when they are about to take on new students, engaging a home tutor around mid-year would mean that you would have to work with whatever time slots the tutor has left.
However, session timings are usually negotiable just like the rates. If you find the rates the tutor has quoted are beyond your budget, try to negotiate.
At times, a tutor might consider lowering the rate if say for example the travelling distance to your home is short or if you engage his services more than once a week.
Alternatively, you can gather a couple of your child’s friends (of the same age) and organize a small, private group tuition.
The rates charged per kid for home group tuition are often lower than one-on-one sessions. However, do note that like most group teaching, it means lesser attention time for your kid individually.
Once you have found the ‘right’ home tutor, it is not over till your child gives him or her the thumbs up. At the end of the first month of teaching, check with you kid if he/she is comfortable with the tutor. If all goes well, you’re set for smooth academic sailing ahead!
Let us know if you find this article useful or if there are any experiences with regard to tuition that you’d like to share. We’d love to hear from you so do leave us a comment.