For many parents with Primary school age children in Singapore, tuition is a must-have if they want their child to excel in school and outperform (or even just to catch up with) his peers. Most of a child's schoolmates would have tuition in one form or another and not being tutored would mean that a child is probably lagging behind his peers.
To ensure that their child can keep up with his or her peers, parents are willing to pay huge sums of money to hire tutors or enrol their children in tuition centers that promise results. A news report stated that some parents even fork out as much as $3000 a month on tuition for their child.
With tuition having such a huge demand, it is not surprising that the number of tuition centers has increased greatly over the past few years. However, the quality of these tuition centers vary greatly and it is not uncommon to hear parents complaining of results becoming worse or tuition centers not living up to their claims.
This article discusses tuition centers in Singapore and how to pick a tuition center so that your child receives the best support he or she can get for his or her studies.Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nh-students.JPG
Choosing a tuition center in Singapore - the tutors
One of the most important factors of whether you should choose a tuition center for your child is the quality of its tutors. Some centers hire MOE teachers, others hire anyone with a degree or any sort of experience dealing with children. You want to make sure that the center you go to has experienced teachers and not just people who meet the minimum requirements (such as having a degree, or knowing how to deal with children). The very least you should know is how long the tutor has been with the center.
Familiarity with syllabus
It may be surprising but some tutors are not updated with the latest MOE syllabus. A good way to check is to look at the teaching materials that are used in the center. If they are outdated, that's likely what the tutor is using.
The tutor's timetable
This is something that is overlooked by many parents. Before you sign up for a class, ask about the tutor and his or her teaching schedule. Some tuition centers try to squeeze every minute out of their tutors without giving them appropriate breaks in between. Little or no time is given for the tutor to properly mark and look through students' mistakes to identify and help students with their weaknesses. Skip the center if they are overloading their tutors with classes.Credit: By Magister Mathematicae (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Class size and classroom size in the tuition center
How many students are there in each class? A small class size is important if you want your child to get the attention he or she needs from the tutor. Having too many students in a class would lower the chances your child gets his questions answered if he has one. Also, in large classes, tutors tend to pay attention to the most vocal students, often leaving the quieter kids to their own devices. Decide what class size you're comfortable with. If it's an 2 hours long tuition session and there are 10 students in the class, each of them will only get about 12 minutes of the tutor's time.
It is important not just to ask the current class size but also the maximum number of students a tuition center will have in their classes. Some parents sign up for early for small classes without realizing that some tuition centers are willing to put a large amount of students in the same class for better profits.
Although not as important as class size, classroom size plays a part in how conducive the environment is for your kid to study in. This is generally not a problem in tuition centers that operate in a retail location but a lot of home-based tuition centers have rooms that are far too small for the number of students they have in each class.
Teaching material used in the tuition center
Some tuition centers produce their own material and others simply use assessment books. Whether a tuition center uses its own materials, it is important to ask to have a look at them so you know that they are up-to-date with the latest syllabus.
Also, don't pay a premium for tuition centers that use their own material as it is actually not that important. Some tuition centers even copy and paste from various assessment books and pass the material off as their own. Unless the tuition center is well-known for their extremely effective material, it would not be useful to pay extra or pick one tuition center over another because they have their "own material"
Other important factors to consider
How flexible is the tuition center in arranging additional classes or make-up classes if your child has to cancel or postpone a lesson? Some tuition centers will schedule make-up classes for your child if he cannot make the regular classes, others simply bring forward your payment to the next month. There are also centers that do not allow cancellation of classes and will charge the same even if you miss a class. Make sure you know what their policies are before you sign up if you don't want to get a rude shock when you try to postpone your child's lesson.
Withdrawing from the tuition center
Does the center require a deposit and what are its terms should you decide to withdraw your child from it? Would you get a refund for the remaining time or does your child have to continue with the tuition for a certain period before you can stop. Some centers require a few month's notice before you can let your child quit. This means that if you decide to withdraw your child from the center, you have either given a few month's notice before that or you'll have to continue paying for it (the center deducts it from the deposit) until the notice period is up. Even though the ideal situation is to find one that would make you not want to quit, it's still good to check these terms just in case.