OR This is a question that parents do ask me when they are looking for a tutor for their child. I will share some opinions based on my experience as A level math tutor. This is never an easy question to answer as there are a few factors to consider.
1. Budget (No limit): 1 to 1 tuition by MOE Teacher
If you can afford around $600 to $800 per subject then there’s no need to consider. You can hire a current / former MOE teacher to coach your kid on 1 to 1 basis. Usually the market rate ranges from $80 / hr and beyond. This is probably the best arrangement a student can hope, provided that the teacher is competent.
The main issue that many parents face is: what if we cannot afford that money? Second issue is whether spending this amount of money is justified: I will follow up a post on the differences between a MOE Teacher and a NON – MOE Teacher as a private tutor.
2. Budget ($300 – $400): 1 to 1 (non MOE tutor) vs Group Tuition at tuition centres by MOE tutor
If your budget falls under this category, you can probably engage a private 1 to 1 tutor who is a full timer or graduate tutor. Alternatively you can join a group tuition at tuition centres for around $350 conducted by MOE (Ex or current) teachers. Now is the time to brainstorm: which one should I choose?
Q1: Is the student capable of achieving a decent pass (perhaps D or C grade and beyond)?
Q2: Does the student NOT NEED hand-holding and individual attention by the tutor all the time?
Q3: Is the student able to learn topics in advance (i.e. not covered by the school yet)?
Q4: Does the student take initiative to ask questions whenever in doubt?
If the answer to the above 4 questions are YES, then the group tuition will probably be effective for the student. The group tuition lessons will serve as learning a topic the second time to reinforce concepts or learn in advance so that the student will be more familiar with the topic when he or she learn in school. Lessons conducted by MOE tutor will still be effective as the teacher is more experienced in terms of examination tips or share additional resources. Otherwise the student might benefit more with an experienced full time tutor who can pay attention to the student throughout the entire lesson. However some tutors do not prepare additional materials, they merely answer questions that the student has. So be sure to verify the teaching method with the tutor before engaging him / her.
3. Budget ($200 to $300): Private small group tuition (possibly by MOE teachers) or 1 to 1 private tutor by undergraduate or students who just graduated.
Same as Section 2, if the student requires personal attention then given the low budget the best option is to engage student tutors. Student tutors usually have little experience in coaching, regardless how competent they are in answering questions. Parents should understand that teaching and solving problems are different sets of skills. A highly intelligent student may know how to solve questions but he / she may have issues explaining concepts in an easy and clear manner.
If the student does not require personal 1 to 1 attention all the time, then a recommended option is to enroll into small classes opened by competent tutors (possibly MOE Teachers). These lessons are usually conducted at the tutors’ home or at some rented classrooms. As the tutors need to pay only a minimal rental fee, the fees for the students are usually lower too. The venue may not be as “fancy” as a tuition centre, but I think it should not be a major issue as long as the basic furniture such as whiteboard, tables and chairs are present. For example, my personal group tuition is only $250 per 4 lessons, compared to the $360 fee if you choose to enroll into a tuition class conducted by me also. Downside? There may not be many timeslots available for personal small group compared to a tuition centre and probably there are more choices for tuition centres compared to these personal group tuition.
4. Difference between 1 to 1 tuition and Group tuition
a) Personal attention or not.
b) Customised lesson or follow the crowd. For JC, schools adopt different syllabus and teach different topics in different order. Usually group tuition will consist of students from different schools so it is impossible to have a syllabus that follows everyone’s school. Hence in Section 2, one should ask if the student is alright learning a topic in advance or not.
c) Price. Given the same level of tutor, a group tuition is significantly cheaper than 1 to 1. Some parents may opt for group tuition for multiple subjects vs a 1 to 1 tuition for 1 subject due to budget constraint.
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