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"Tuition Teachers" in Singapore

Posted by lovelyloey on February 10, 2008

I was surfing around a local tuition class agency website, and I was curious at the kinds of tutors (or rather, tuition teacher in the local context) they offer. I’m not being malicious, but why do so many undergrads and NSmen think that they are qualified to teach GCE A level General Paper just because (1) they received B4 and above for THEIR GP exam (2) they did some form of literature at O or A levels. Some of them are Engineering undergrads, Psychology undergrads, awaiting entry to SMU … seriously. Even if they charged a really low rate, I wouldn’t entrust a student who NEEDS GP tuition into their hands. And you know what, GP being such a … general subject there’s no way of quantifying knowledge. Unlike Chemistry and Math where knowledge is essential problem-solving, there’s hardly anything to “teach” in GP, apart from what, essay writing skills? Even for History and Literature you can probe the student’s memorizing skills! So perhaps GP is “easy” to teach in this sense, and if I were a tutor in GP, I have it easy because as long as I turn up each week and make intelligent small talk to the student, her grades at the end of the day still depend on herself. Get what I mean? (Then maybe I SHOULD become a cushy tutor after all like all the other undergraduates and earn extra spending money.)

And so I get this recurrent sense that this tuition trade in Singapore is so warped. You have cheap underqualified undergrads to teach students who in turn become cheap underqualified undergrad tutors themselves. It’s an evil cycle, I tell you. And with that many tuition agencies springing up across the country, and seeing how these agents are desperate for their commission, students are mismatched to tutors and I don’t see what’s supposed to come out of it all. I guess if I were a parent I can’t complain about the quality of tutors offered because I didn’t even pay a cent to agents to secure a qualified legit tutor to coach my child.

11 Responses to “"Tuition Teachers" in Singapore”

  1. kailin86 said

    In a sense I do agree that it’s quite debatable as to who is qualified to teach, in particular, GP. Because like what you said, one could probably get away with it if he’s a math undergraduate and teaches Primary school mathematics.

    Well, I guess maybe the only ones who’re qualified to really tutor would be teachers themselves. But then again is it against the law for them to do so? :S

    (Oh and randomly, quite luckily for me, my tutee scored an A2 for her combined science last time. But it’s highly unlikely for her to become an unqualified tutor like me for years to come :P)

    I have no problems with Math undergrads teaching A level Math or whatsoever as long as they’re able to help the tutee solve the problems and teach them the skills involved. It’s when it comes to subjects whereby there isn’t a straightforward and easy answer that’s problematic; how are we to even know if the teacher herself is good in that subject? Maybe an A1 for GP was a fluke?

    And you don’t say so fast arh; later your combined science tutee next time happy happy offer full O Level Bio and Chem tuition… haha

  2. creepcake said

    Well, qualified teachers don’t come cheap … most charge a minimum rate of $40 per hour, and we’re talking about one-to-one tuition. Most parents are not willing to pay such tuition fees, hence the ‘popularity’ of relatively cheaper tutors who’re mostly undergrads.

    It’s not against the law for teachers to give tuition. MOE guidelines dictate that a teacher may give no more than 6 hours of private tuition per week.

    However, most teachers I know of are already up to their necks with marking, CCA, administrative duties, etc. Those teachers who give tuition are usually in desperate need of money or are mediocre teachers at best (they don’t have much time to prepare for lessons and instead spend their time tutoring).

    Yeah, market demands are often what’s fueling such practices that I do not approve of. While such demands will not cease, but I think agencies should practice some form of quality control and not just allow tutors to simply “sign up” for whichever subjects they want to teach. (I saw a tutor who claimed he can teach JC GP, Econs, Literature, History and Secondary level triple sciences. Plausible?)

    And I agree, most of the MOE teachers I know are very busy with their day job already; I cannot see how anyone can find time to teach on weekdays!

  3. FM said

    I am an ex-GP tutor and is now a private tutor for GP and Lit.

    It’s not all cushy for tutors like myself who are ex-tutors as I frequently run up against parents who only want ‘good,committed and experienced’ tutors at the lowest rate bargainable.

    Money is a factor when I decide to take up an assignment or not. I love teaching, but I am a misfit in schools and the system’s demands on tutors and students enfetter me. Hence I have since embarked on tutoring to continue my love for teaching young adults.

    The rubbish that I get from agencies and parents include:

    -quoting ridiculous rates (I’m only referring to those who are rather well-off);
    -and yet at the same time demanding 1001 things of me (to be committed, to provide notes, to provide practice papers from top JCs):
    -rejecting me or quoting me lower rates when they learnt of the JC I taught;
    -and the worst: remaining REPLY-LESS when I contact them but when it’s my turn to delay response(note: it is DELAY and NOT no-reply), agents &/or parents get all jittery and impatient and I’ve even had a few agents rudely asking ;” Yes or no? Still want?”
    -getting me to fill up laborious forms to register as a tutor but agents end up asking me for all the very details again when they contact me for assignemnts;
    -forgetting my name/request/correspondence and repeatedly asking me to sms them my name, age, gender, sch I taught at, experience, rates per hour et cetera et cetera;
    -deeming me as an ‘unproductive’ tutor when I failed to help my tutee complete an assignment. The thought processes, stimulation of the child’s ideas, forming of coherent ideas into wriiten form are not appreciated at all by the parent. And she wasn’t with us throughout the entire 1.5h.

    My ranting can go on. But I will control msyself.

    What we need in forums/blogs such as these are for parents and especially tution agencies to speak their minds. Let’s have an honest-to-God and lively debate. It may turn out fiery, but fire hidden does not mean fire quenched.

    My many cents’ worth.

  4. FM said

    Need to clarify sthg from my earlier post:

    I need the money from tuition as it is my job now. Freelancing gives me the freedom from MOE’s demands and other attendant pressures but clearly is not a constant source of income. Hence, money is an impt consideration when I take up assignments.

    I emphasise this to parents: some private tutors do this because it provides them with the means to a BASIC livelihood. We do this not for extra cash or purely materialistic reasons. Our love for teaching (and for me, the growth of young adults) keeps us on the job despite the rubbish we get from some agents/parents, and the common misunderstanding that giving tuition is ‘easy money’.

    Some of us teach with professionalism and passion for the subjects AND the students. I personally love GP for its diverse knowledge and critical thinking skills and English Literature for the exploration of human nature, issues and the beauty of the English language. I want to pass on my love and skills to my tutees.

    I don’t seek for anyone’s kind understanding or sympathy.

    I only seek respect.

  5. FM said

    (PS: apologies for my typos/grammatical sins in the 1st posting. Anger when spilleth over may cause written slurs).

  6. KS (GP Distinction student aka tutor) said

    I do not agree with what you have said, about how GP is a subject that cannot be taught. That’s a fallacy in your thinking – and I believe that’s why you don’t do well in GP (if you have taken one).

    In fact, GP is pretty much a content subject as per other subjects such as Mathematics and Sciences. Memory skills is required. And I do conduct content lessons with my students so that they grasp adequate content for their papers. If you are familiar about the GP exam format, you would have realized it constitutes 65% of the entire paper (35 marks for paper II and 30 marks for Paper I). In addition, just a side note, you must understand many students from top JCs memorize pertinent facts required for the exam – it’s required! If you were to say GP should not be memorized …, you are definitely wrong.

    How do you think top JC students remember certain statistical facts with great accuracy and precision under the 1.5hrs exam condition? How do some of these top students (like myself, Sorry I know I’m not too humble) remember quotes to be injected into essays? And how do …

    So my point here is that GP can be taught. So as an undergrad teaching GP, I would like to assure and convince you, at least that I can teach GP well. Of course, I do not know much about the teaching pedagogy of other tutors.

    My apologies if I appear aloof and harsh! =)

    • lovelyloey said

      I don’t doubt your tuition skills, since it must work in propagating good EXAM tips, which is good considering that’s all that matters.
      Maybe I haven’t made myself clearer – what I mentioned very early in my post is that I don’t see how undergrads who did badly for their own GP exam can teach GP to students. Primary school English, that I can accept, but not GP. GP is far more than facts. Facts, zealous students can acquire for themselves. What they need are skills. If skill-free papers are scoring, then perhaps it’s time to rethink education.

      You shouldn’t have apologized for being seemingly aloof and harsh – I’ve seen worst pseudo-arguments than yours (not that I’m claiming yours as bad or pseudo-) but you could have omitted the content in the brackets of your nickname – those seem hardly necessary nor aiding in building a convincing image of yourself. Let’s put it this way, if you’re as good a GP tutor as you claim, it’d show in your argument. If you aren’t, it’d show up as well. I don’t mind if people are somehow using this post as a sort publicity for GP tuition (seeing how easily it turns up with a simple google search), I prefer subtlety.

  7. Jen said

    Hey I read your blog with much amusement – your comments are spot-on! I like your spunk! ;-)

    I was surfing around to get a sense of how the tutoring market has changed in the years that I’ve been out of action. I was amazed indeed that many people can teach many subjects across many levels. I do have empathy for undergrads needing to make ends meet. After all, I had to see myself thru Uni by coaching younger learners too. But I didn’t offer GP then, not even though I had an ‘A’. (& I don’t have to explain why – you’ve already done so beautifully).

    Ok, I do “hear” protests from some corners of S’pore to the tunes of “Hey but I’m passionate about GP!” or “just cos you didn’t offer GP doesn’t mean we shouldn’t…”

    I must get this off my chest – can people learn not to make personal attacks on others’s grades, especially if they are GP tutors? Gp essays attack issues, not the man! Pls don’t poison the well – that’s a fallacy! And judging by the acute observations that this blog writer has made, I’d bet she did very well in GP!

    I could go on also about the many other intriguing phenomena about the local education scene (both pte and public) but I shall hold my tongue. I will post more on my own blog as I believe many would love to – let’s choose a neutral word – respond to my thoughts.

    • lovelyloey said

      Thanks for your kind comments!

      I’ll let what I write speak for myself; I’m only answerable to myself, so others can say whatever they want. If they don’t agree, I always welcome rational rebuttal.

  8. JN said

    It astonishes me that there is a poster here who dares to be a GP tutor and is barely coherent in the English Language.

    “That’s a fallacy in your thinking – and I believe that’s why you don’t do well in GP” (if you have taken one). [taken ONE?? taken one GP? Huh??]
    “In fact, GP is pretty much a content subject as per other subjects such as Mathematics and Sciences. Memory skills is [are] required.”
    “If you are familiar about [with] the GP exam format,”

    If this is the standard of the tutor, what can we expect from the student?
    I’m a current GP school teacher, and I must say I don’t give two hoots if I appear aloof and harsh to this unqualified tutor.

  9. It’s enormous that you are getting ideas from this article as well as from our argument made here.

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