Choosing the right tutor or tuition center in Singapore for your child can be a major headache for many parents given the lack of regulation in the tuition industry. Should you go for the cheapest option? The most expensive one? The university graduate or undergraduate or an experienced MOE teacher (ex or current)? This article discusses a few common types of tutors, what you should look for in a tutor and how you can pick a good tutor to support your kid in his or her learning.

tutor in singaporeCredit: By Gnarlycraig (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Types of tutors

If you take a look at the advertisements by tutors or at tuition agencies, you'll see tutors with all sorts of experience, such as a current or ex Ministry of Education (MOE) tutor, a University graduate, or someone who has been tutoring kids for many years. 

MOE teachers
Tutors who are current or ex MOE teachers usually expect a higher hourly rate than University graduates or other tutors who are experienced but lack similar credentials. If cost is not a concern, it would be a good idea to go with the MOE teacher because he or she would be more familiar with the syllabus and would know exactly what your child needs to learn to score in the exam.

If it's an ex-MOE teacher, I would ask when they stopped teaching and find out if they are still in touch with the syllabus.

Another important note about MOE teachers is to make sure you know whether they are/were full-time teachers or relief teachers before you pay huge fees to someone who was just a relief teacher.

Always ask for proof of credentials when hiring someone who claims to be an MOE teacher. It's unfortunate but there are people out there who would pretend to have qualifications that they don't actually have.

University graduates and undergraduates
I'm not sure why some tutors make this their selling point but I don't think university graduates are better than non-university graduates especially for Primary school tuition. Unless he graduated with a teaching degree, whether or not a tutor is a graduate probably makes a smaller impact than what he got for his PSLE.

I say this because I know university students or graduates who are completely clueless about the Primary syllabus and are just making a living handing out worksheets. You need someone who knows how to teach your child to do well in Primary school and whether he has a degree or not is irrelevant. In fact, if the only "good point" about a tutor is his degree, you would probably do better hiring a random neighbour's kid who did well in primary school.

I'm not saying that university graduates don't make good tutors, just that having a degree doesn't automatically make them good.

Other student tutors
This may be students in JC or polytechnic or even secondary school (think neighbour's kid). Student tutors usually have the lowest rates but few parents would trust their child to a student tutor unless they were recommended by word of mouth or someone they already know.

Student tutors may sometimes be more familiar with the syllabus because they've just gone through the same thing not long ago. As always, check for credentials -- in this case, their PSLE results, 'O' level results, etc.

Experienced tutors (with no other credentials)
If someone markets themself as an experienced tutor who has been working with kids for many years, the first thing I would ask for is the PSLE results of his past students. Unless you know for sure that this is a tutor who has been successful producing good results for his students, I would not just take his word for it.

Also, find out if the tutor has been keeping up with the syllabus.

While the amount of experience of a tutor can be a considerable factor for whether he would be able to tutor your child well, it should not be the only one you should take into consideration.


How to choose a tutor

These are some things you should note before you choose a tutor for your child.

What to look for in a tutor

  • Experience in teaching children at the Primary level
  • Credentials or past results of students if available
  • Familiarity with the syllabus
  • Some flexibility in schedule

Clarify expectations

Are you hiring a tutor to help your kid revise his schoolwork or to supplement it or both? Should the tutor give any additional homework or is that not necessary? It's important to let the tutor know what your expectations are and find out what the tutor can or cannot do. Of course, it's also entirely possible to leave everything to the tutor, but it's better to check to avoid any miscommunication of how your child should be taught and problems in the future.

  • Would the tutor be using his or her own materials or do you need to purchase additional assessment books? It is a good idea to check for any additional costs that may be incurred from purchasing extra study materials before you engage the tutor.
  • Would you want extra tuition sessions for your child during examination periods? If so, ask if the tutor would be available for or open to additional lessons (paid separately, of course).
  • Does the tutor have a schedule that's flexible enough in case your child has to postpone or reschedule one or two sessions due to co-curricular activities or remedial lessons in school?

Ask for a trial lesson

Even if you take into account all the factors mentioned above and scrutinize your potential tutor carefully, the only way to really know if a tutor would be a good fit for your child is to have a lesson.

Although not all tutors would be willing to give a trial lesson, some of them are and you won't know until you ask. Most tutors associate a trial lesson with a free lesson so you'll increase your chances of getting a trial lesson greatly if you offer to pay for it on the outset.

By having a trial lesson, your child will be able to interact with the potential tutor and you'll have the opportunity to see (or ask your child later) if they tutor knows his stuff before committing to a full month's payment.