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Our Thoughts on the Singapore Tuition Industry

Recently, South China Morning Post asked us a few questions about our thoughts and perspective regarding the tuition industry in Singapore for their article discussing sentiments regarding the recent ban on tuition centres in China, featuring the views of various experts' in the industry.

The insightful article can be found here.

We thought it would also be interesting to share with you our answers in fuller depth. Read on to find out.

1. How big is the tutoring industry in Singapore?

Colossal. Tuition centres like us that are registered with MOE count close to a thousand, and this does not include private tutors who conduct 1-1 sessions as freelancers. For context, there are 186 primary schools to-date, and 152 secondary schools.

2. Tuition started out as a way for weaker students to catch up in their studies. Is this still relevant today or has the objective of tuition changed?

This fundamental objective remains because it highlights a key difference between tuition and regular day schools — individualised attention. The attention a child gets from a tutor in a small group is individualised and allows us to pursue various engagement strategies.

With tuition, parents and students also have the option of taking into account each student’s preferred learning style, and opting for a programme and teacher that best suits their needs. Academia profiles our teachers and each client goes through a consultative survey when they join us, so that we can find a great fit for our children and parents. This includes optimising for learning style as well as parenting preferences, as we believe parents should have control over how they wish to see their children raised. So rather than saying that tuition is here to help weaker students only, we see our role as in part addressing various gaps which our clients wish for us to fill.

Beyond that, tuition today is also built to help provide a platform for students who wish to pursue more advanced topics, or to get a head start on higher-level skills where they have the capacity to do so. We often try to create mentorship moments for our students, where they can feel empowered to approach us for help in ways that extend beyond the academic classroom — from giving advice on writing poetry to preparing them for interviews.

3. How important are enrichment classes now? Why?

We consider enrichment classes as having a role to play in the overall education system locally. Think of it as an ecosystem where tuition and enrichment classes are a complement to the regular curriculum students might encounter in their day schools. We are here to create an affirming and positive experience for children outside of school. In a world where there are also plenty of unwholesome digital distractions, many of our clients also would prefer for their children to be intellectually stimulated and engaged in a manner that also aligns with their vision for their own children. Instead of hanging out at a mall or spending time watching videos all day, many of our clients want to see their children spend their time in a manner that is both enjoyable and educational.

4. What is the total % of school students (from Primary to JC) who attend at least 1 tuition class?

Spanning across the different subjects students today tackle at any one point, we would estimate that the vast majority of students attend at least 1 tuition class for academic subjects. In fact, most students would attend tuition or enrichment classes for multiple subjects and areas of interest, such as coding.

5. What are your thoughts on the recent clampdown in the private tutoring sector in China? Are there fears that something similar might happen here in Singapore?

We believe that the perception toward tuition and enrichment in Singapore is different, in that as a country, we have moved beyond just chasing after grades. Most parents view it as a way for children to pick up on or further their expertise and interests in certain subjects.

Here, students’ well-being, both mentally and physically, is always a priority and most clients would not want their students to be stressed out or demoralised. The industry here is driven by the needs of parents who are extremely aware of what they want, many of whom work as corporate leaders. The personal, mentorship-oriented touch is thus of paramount importance to us as an enrichment centre.

Tutors have the privilege of being able to gain a better understanding of each student’s needs, to create an affirming and positive experience for the child. As such, we do not see tuition as something that needs to be clamped down upon, and the industry itself has been evolving towards being a force for good in a time-starved, highly competitive world city.

6. Has there been any attempts to regulate the industry here to make it less stressful for children? How successful have these attempts been and why?

The intangible aspect of stress and how it is quantified perhaps makes it hard to pass any regulation on. However, it is clear and apparent that students’ well-being needs to be prioritised, as is evident with the news reports being shared about the direction our education system is heading in.

As an industry that is relatively nimble and that needs to be responsive to what parents and schools require, we would say that in fact enrichment in Singapore has to play the role of helping students reduce their stress levels and manage their broader aims and aspirations.

When it comes to the private sector, parents have a wide range of choices and most parents these days do not want their children to be stressed out. Our aim is to create a learning environment that supports positive and empowered learners.

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