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Tuition: The good, Bad and Worrying.

Tuition, like most things related to your child’s education, is something that should be considered carefully before you sign up. Considering the myriad of options available, this article will help you delve deeper into what you want and need for your child, the difference between the two, and how to ensure you get it.

Many parents question why tuition is necessary at all. It’s a common misconception that tuition is usually suggested just for children who are having difficulty in school. However, there are a number of other extremely beneficial reasons for getting your child a tutor.

Some parents feel that their child doesn’t need tuition and that they should ‘play’ as much as possible or that they are doing enough work already. Of course play and other extra-curricular activities are important; yet, the world is becoming more competitive. There also becomes a time when your child may be aware that they are struggling compared to their peers. This is significant because long-term, self-esteem can be adversely affected.

Not everyone wishes to choose tuition. If you are, however, ensure you know what your child needs and what you want them to get out of it. It may be that they need a term to ‘catch up’ or revisit things they have found ‘tricky’, or it may be that they need ongoing support and nurturing one-to-one or in a small group. Understanding their unique needs is the key here.

10,000 hours!
There’s an old saying — practise makes perfect. Consider the thesis of Malcolm Gladwell, writer of the book Outliers: The Story of Success (2008). He asserts that to ‘master’ something you need to follow the “10,000-Hour Rule”.
Based on a study by Anders Ericsson, Gladwell claims that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practising a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

But it’s not just practise that’s needed. It’s about doing the right thing as well and this is where experienced and talented tutors come in as they work on your child’s strengths whilst developing the areas your child finds difficult. Consider economies around the world and countries that have outstanding research and development records, tuition is the norm such as that in Japan, for example, children are often given 2 hours extra lessons after school each night! Think of sportspeople.

Olympians dedicate considerable time to ensure they are the best – the theory seems to work!
The job market is tough at the moment, especially for school/college leavers, and it is unclear if this will improve dramatically in the near future. It is, therefore, more important than ever for a child to reach their potential and to achieve the best grades possible.

Having a distinction when applying for further/higher study and job applications, is a must. Furthermore, competition for university places has been intense in recent years. The increases in university tuition fees around the world may reduce the competition in future, but there’s no guarantee of this. Applicants need to maximise their grades to increase their chances of an offer at their first or second choice. It may seem a long way off, but each school year seems to fly by.

So you’ve decided to consider tuition for your child, what next? Ask around among your circle of friends as recommendations are a really good place to start looking for a tutor. Next, consider what type of tutor you want.

Many established tutors advertise in local newspapers/magazines or on local notice boards. Many do not need to advertise! Also, think about what’s important to you, for example, does an English tutor need to have English as their first language?

Is a more streamlined approach that can often happen at international tutoring centres or franchises what you are looking for? Are provisions child-centred? How often do you want your child tutored? Once a week? Three times a week? One specific subject or a variety of subjects?

One-to-one for some children can be a little intimidating, where as small group classes can ensure that the sessions are not only fun and enjoyable, but that cross-curricular elements such as communication and team work can be part of the programme.

Tuition benefits
Consider the following benefits:

  • To meet your child’s individual needs
  •  To enable your child to ‘catch up’ with their peers (children the same age/year group/grade)
  •  To get your child into your school of choice (when entrance tests are required)
  •  To complement and enhance their existing curriculum
  •  To ensure they are competent with ‘new’ curricular content when moving countries/schools (US mathematics curriculum is different than the UK curriculum)
  •  To pass examinations (SATS, IELTS, University entrance examinations)
  •  To accelerate your child’s learning
  •  To increase your child’s breadth and/or depth of knowledge and understanding.

How does tuition complement school?
Most schools are structured in a way that means children are told what to learn, when they will learn it. In some cases, children may be beyond the planned learning for their year group in certain elements and they may become bored if not challenged. In other cases, it may be true that children do not yet have the pre-requisite skills in order to fully access the planned learning for their class.

In contrast, tuition can continue to work on your child’s needs be they generic, such as writing or specific such as long division. Schools tend to be curricular led and structured in a way that there is an end point to topics/projects and modules.

Tutors can be more selective in what they teach in an attempt to develop targeted areas of need. Schools also provide necessary belonging, understanding of responsibilities and structure under the umbrella of ‘life skills’ for social and emotional development as part of their ethos, which is one argument against full-time home tuition. In short, it is important to see tuition as complementing school.

What resources will the tutor provide?
A ‘good’ tutor will always welcome questions from parents, so by asking about the resources they use, you will know if they are up-to-date with the relevant curricular and other needs of your child. Check that the tutor will be able to cater for the specific learning needs of your child — a wide range of resources should be available including professionally designed worksheets (including differentiated and sometimes more effective individually developed ones), modern textbooks and other learning aids. If you are having your child tutored for a test, ask about the types of past papers or sample questions being used and other materials to reinforce this.

What about ‘me’ tutoring my own child?
Some parents are extremely knowledgeable, patient and gifted tutors of their own children whilst others find it a challenge. A child may conform in school, yet, sat at a desk or table at home seems to be a whole new ball game!

It can be hard being a parent trying to help your child, especially when the way you were taught to calculate, for example, is very different than how your child is taught. Sometimes, parents and unqualified tutors are unaware of curricular content and approaches, which can actually hinder progress or confuse a child by introducing new concepts at an inappropriate stage.

Try not to compare your child to their peers; they are all unique with regards to the age that they grasp reading, for example. Effective and ongoing communication with your child’s teacher/tutor is essential.

In short, tutoring can raise levels of school performance, help a child to increase their confidence, enjoyment and motivation in a subject and develop study skills and discipline that can be applied across a number of subjects. So, you want your child to have some tuition? Make sure you select a tutor that is a qualified and experienced facilitator who can guarantee they are being provided with the right content and delivery for their needs!

Tutor Checklist
Consider these points when selecting a tutor for your child:

  • What qualifications and experience does the tutor have (years teaching/tutoring as well as a teaching qualification and relevant degree)?
  • Have they been recommended by a friend/relative/teacher/school?
  • How will you know what impact the tuition is having on your child?
  • Is feedback provided?
  • Are sessions one-to-one, or within small groups of children?
  • Are groupings age or ability or both?
  • Can a child be changed between groups as they progress?
  • What approach to learning does the tuition take?
  • Has the tutor been screened (CBR or equivalent)?

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