*This in an article by Tom Maher, the Chairman of UK's Tutor's Association published on October 21st. The article can be read here
The growing global phenomenon of the private tuition industry
Following the launch of the Tutors' Association this month, Chairman Tom Maher explains why he believes private tutoring in the UK is growing at such a fast pace.
The UK’s private tutoring industry has been booming for over a decade. It is estimated that the number of private tutors now exceeds the number of school teachers.
This month, the UK’s tutoring industry launched its own industry body The Tutors’ Association whose stated aim is to promote the value of tutoring to parents, schools and the public.
Some commentators have interpreted the launch of the Tutors’ Association as an indictment of the UK’s state education system. Yet this interpretation tends to overlook the fact that the rise in private tutoring is a global phenomenon.
According to the World Bank, Japan has been a pioneer in the provision of this type of supplementary education.
The proportion of college students who have spent additional years after high school graduation to cram for college entrance examinations, often at specialized private tutoring classes, averages about 30 per cent.
For those who end up enrolling at the most highly ranked schools, the share may exceed 60 per cent.
The private tutoring industry appears to be growing in many countries, both in absolute terms and relative to the formal education sector.
Private tutoring is now an important phenomenon in many countries of different size, different levels of economic development, different political institutions, and different geographical locations.
In some cases, spending on private tutoring approaches the level of spending on the formal public system.
In South Korea, household spending as a percentage of GDP on private tutoring equals that spent on education by the public sector. A similar situation exists in Turkey.
The literature on tutoring has cited several factors as likely drivers of the demand for private tutoring.
The transition to a market economy has substantially increased the amounts of private tutoring in countries where it did not exist earlier – China, Vietnam, some African countries, and the former Soviet bloc, including Russia itself.
It is worth noting that the UK tuition’s sector is very well placed strategically to capitalise on this as the education market itself is global, and the distinction between the domestic and overseas market is becoming eroded both by people movement and technological innovation.
The world of work has also changed as the world’s middle class seek employment in the service sector resulting in intense competition for more education and thus, private tutoring.
An extreme form of these linkages is what is called the “diploma disease”. This is where modern bureaucratic organizations use a person’s degree as an initial screening tool for employment and education skills become symbolized by “the degree”.
This phenomenon has arguably fuelled the demand for private tutoring in a number of countries.
What would appear to be an unexamined factor which might add to this further is the extent to which increased female participation in the formal job market globally has led to greater influence on how household budgets are allocated and to what extent private education benefits from this.
This latter point would be difficult to comprehensively prove but it certainly makes intuitive sense.
It is also said that cultural values also play a large role in determining the demand for tuition. When I first got involved with the tutoring market in London, it was always East African Asians who were the most likely to respond to our marketing promotion.
Nowadays as British cities become increasingly cosmopolitan, (the growth of the French community in West London would be a good example), the need for out of school help simply to adjust to the British education system is an important source of demand for private tuition.
What many British people also fail to realise is that many cultures have no political qualms about hiring a private tutor and are puzzled as to why anybody would regard it rightly or wrongly as controversial.
That said, the Tutors’ Association is highly aware of the concerns being raised about exacerbating inequality.
We have spoken directly to the Chair of the House of Commons' Education Committee, Graham Stuart MP, to explain that as an industry we are very willing to participate with the government’s pupil premium scheme, which is devoted to raising the standards of pupils who are falling behind.
And finally, while the above points focus on demand side factors, there are issues on the supply side which are probably also contributing to the boom in private tutoring.
In many countries, teachers in the state education system are under enormous strain and find it difficult to cope with some of the specific demands being placed upon them.
In many instances, school teachers simply do not have the time and resources to focus on individual pupil’s needs in the way private tutors can.
This is not necessarily a comment on the quality of teaching that goes on in state schools.
Personally, I have always been a bit baffled when school representatives, such as Mr Roskilly of the Independent Schools’ Association is so trenchant in his criticism of private tutoring since so many classroom teachers are private tutors as well.
Surely it’s preposterous to regard the same people as benign when they teach in a classroom and “damaging” when teaching outside of school.
Private tutoring is a very dynamic sector to be in right now. New technology has encouraged new entrants and opened up the global market.
Even media companies such as News International and the Pearson Group have become involved in our sector.
From a UK perspective, with our many top class schools and universities, the UK home tuition industry is very well placed strategically to benefit from the worldwide phenomenon just described.
The launch of the Tutors’ Association reflects the increasing importance of tutoring in the UK. The factors that have driven up demand for our services are not solely domestic; they are echoed throughout the world.
Author's note: The comments expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily represent The Tutors’ Association.
Tom was born in Ireland and educated at Castleknock College and Trinity College Dublin. After graduating in economics and philosophy, he worked as an economist in London for a farming lobby group. He has since worked as an economics teacher at an interdependent college in central London and founded a private tutoring company in 1997 where he is still the Director.
By Ahmad Hambal Noorsham
All over the world, the trend in hiring home tutor or private tutor is on the rising. In the UK, the percentage of parents who hire tutors increased from 18% to 24% (refer article here). In Singapore, parents spend on an average $820 million a year for tuition, in which almost half of it are for home tuition (refer article here). In South Korea, the amount spent for hometuition or private tutoring was expected to reach $13.9 billion by the end of 2012 (read article here)
What are the reasons for home tuition becoming so popular? The reasons can be summarized to three main ones:
1. The increase in number of students causes intense competition
When the number of graduates increases, the competition in getting well paid jobs will increase as well. Graduates have to get good results in their studies in order to get jobs at big companies, as employers will look out for their academic achievements along with other required skills. For secondary school students, getting good grades will help them in getting their preferred course in public or private colleges and universities. At the same time, they will stand a chance to get sponsorships or study loans when furthering their studies whether locally or overseas. However, these opportunities are limited as it will depend on the offers allocated by the providers. Naturally, only the crème of the crop are selected. For these reasons, parents will take the extra effort by hiring home tutor to provide additional help to their children, to prepare the latter for the important examinations like SPM, IGCSE, A- Levels, International Baccalaureate ( IB ) and others. This personalized help can seldom be provided by the teachers at school because of the high number of students in any class.
2. Some students really need individual help
Students are not born equal. They do not have the same capabilities, learning aptitude or speed of understanding. Some students might need some time or extra help in order to understand what is being taught at school. Teachers at school usually have syllabus that they have to finish in a stipulated period of time, thus they might need to go fast when teaching some topics or subjects. As a result, some students might be left behind when they don’t understand something, and will end up losing interest in that subject altogether. The easiest solution for parents is to hire a private tutor to help their children to catch up and get back on track. Other reasons of hiring tutors are to help students who are left behind when moving to a new school, to help students who missed classes because of being sick or other emergencies, to assist students who change stream (e.g. from art stream to science stream), to teach students any particular subject which is not being taught at school, or to help out school dropouts who would like to re-take a public examination like SPM or IGCSE. Private tutors are also requested by adult students or professionals who wants to learn a new subject ( e.g. Fardhu Ain), a second language (e.g English communication, Malay language), a work-related required knowledge/skill (e.g. ACCA, Microsoft Office or AutoCAD) or other non-academic skills or knowledge (e.g. reading the Quran, playing piano, swimming and others ). These working people mostly do not have time to attend classes because of their job requirements. They will prefer to hire private tutors as the latter are flexible and have adjustable schedule to accommodate the former required time for lessons.
3. Home Tutors complement teachers’ role and function at school.
The main function of a teacher at school is to impart knowledge and to assist learning. Teachers will also conduct learning-related activities such as lab experiments, workshops, readings and others. However, some students might need extra help with other aspects of their studies. For example, they might need guidance on how to answer questions in exams, the techniques of answering or to help them discussing their errors and mistakes when answering exam questions. These are genuine needs and requirements. This is the gap where tutors can help to complement the school teachers’ role. A tutor’s role is to guide students on how to answer questions, explaining their mistakes in answering and how to avoid repeating it, or perhaps re-explaining the topics that a student has troubles understanding at school. Additionally, home tutors provide other kinds of helps such as giving motivation, character and morale guidance, or guiding students on studying techniques, learning strategies and time management. Some members of the public are quick to blaming school teachers when students performed poorly in their studies. School teachers are said to not being able to teach properly or not helping the students individually. The fact is school teachers have lots of other tasks to do besides teaching. Among the tasks are marking papers, attending meetings, preparing learning materials, entering students’ marks in the database system and others. At the same time, school teachers have other responsibilities and role to be carried out. They play the role as the school wardens, disciplinary teachers, sports coaches, clubs and societies’ teachers, mentors and others. School teachers seldom have time to teach or re-teach students individually. This is when home tuition and private tutoring can help.
Countries such as the United States, Singapore and South Africa have identified the function that private tutoring or private tuition provides in complementing the teachers’ role at school. Their governing bodies understand that home tutors and private tutors do fulfill a special need and have a unique contribution to the development of human capitals of a country. These can be seen by the supports given by their governments to the tutor communities; they grant subsidies, provide trainings to home tutors, and give tax reductions or exemptions to private tutors (please read article here). We hope that Malaysian government can also recognize and appreciate the role of home tutors and private tutors by providing them more assistance and help. Indirectly, this will contribute to the betterment and development of today’s students who will be the future leaders of our beloved country.