Tutoring is academic support provided by a master teacher; someone with deep knowledge or defined expertise in a particular subject or set of subjects.
A tutor, formally also called an academic tutor, is a person who provides assistance or tutelage to one or more people on certain subject areas or skills. The tutor spends a few hours on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to transfer their expertise on the topic or skill to the student. Tutoring can take place in different settings.
Tutoring began as an informal and unstructured method of educational assistance, dating back to periods in Ancient Greece. Tutors operated on an ad-hoc or impromptu basis in varied and unfixed settings wherein the main goal of the tutor was to impart knowledge to the learner in order to help the latter gain proficiency in the subject area. Methods of tutoring only began to become more structured after the 20th century through focus and specialisation in the training of tutors, application of tutoring, and evaluation of tutors. From the 20th century onwards, with the rapid spread of mainstream education, the demand for tutoring has also increased as a way to supplement formal education.
British and Irish secondary schools
In British and Irish secondary schools, form tutors are given the responsibilities of a form or class of students in a particular year group (up to 30 students). They usually work in year teams headed by a year leader, year head, or guidance teacher. Form tutors will provide parents with most of the information about their child's progress and any problems they might be experiencing. Ordinarily, the form tutor is the person who contacts a parent if there is a problem at school; however, the year leader or guidance teacher may contact the parents, since the form tutor has full-time responsibility as a specialist subject teacher.
In the British higher education system, a tutor is an officer of a college responsible for the pastoral (as opposed to academic) care of a number of students in cognate disciplines; as against a Director of Studies in Cambridge who is responsible for the academic progress of a group of students in their own discipline, with both Tutors and Directors of Studies answering to a Senior Tutor.
Private tutoring in Asia
A 2012 study by the Asian Development Bank and the Comparative Education Research Centre at the University of Hong Kong pointed out that private tutoring can dominate the lives of young people and their families, maintain and exacerbate social inequalities, divert needed household income into an unregulated industry, and create inefficiencies in education systems. It can also undermine official statements about fee-free education and create threats to social cohesion.
In South Korea, nearly 90% of elementary students receive some sort of shadow education. In Hong Kong, about 85% of senior secondary students do so. 60% of primary students in West Bengal, India, and 60% of secondary students in Kazakhstan receive private tutoring.
Demand for tutoring in Asia is exploding; by comparison globally, shadow education is most extensive in Asia. This is partly due to the stratification of education systems, cultural factors, perceptions of shortcomings in regular school systems, and the combination of growing wealth and smaller family sizes. Therefore, the education sector has become a profitable industry which businesses have created different kinds of products and advertisement such as "the king/queen of tutorial", a usual advertisement tactic of Hong Kong tutorial centers that has spread to South Korea, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India where tutors achieve "celebrity-like status". In some cases, successful Southeast Asian tutors will even embrace the title of "tutor". Online private tutor matching platform and online learning platform offering online learning materials are other creations.
In Cambodia, most tutoring is provided by teachers, whereas in Hong Kong, it is provided by individuals, small companies or large companies. In Mongolia, most tutoring is labor-intensive, while entrepreneurs in South Korea make use of computers and other forms of technology.
A 2012 study by the Asian Development Bank and the Comparative Education Research Centre at the University of Hong Kong recommended policymakers across the region take a closer look at how ‘shadow education’ affects family budgets, children's time, and national education systems. It suggested that in order to reduce the need for private lessons, improvements in mainstream schools should be made. Regulations are also needed to protect consumers.
Costs of tutoring
Some studies have estimated costs associated with "shadow education". In Pakistan, expenditures on tutoring per child averaged $3.40 a month in 2011. In India, average spending was lower, but still equated to about $2 per month.
In Georgia, household expenditures for private tutoring at the secondary school level was $48 million in 2011. In Hong Kong, the business of providing private tutoring to secondary schools reached $255 million in 2011.
In the Republic of Korea, where the government has attempted to cool down the private tutoring market, shadow education costs have continually grown, reaching a staggering $17.3 billion in 2010. Household expenditures on private tutoring are equivalent to about 80% of government expenditures on public education for primary and secondary students.
In the United States, the tutoring market is fragmented. Some online tutoring marketplaces, however, have managed to aggregate a large number of private tutors on their platform and also tutoring data. For example, one such site has over 34,000 registered tutors in California and made public their tutoring hourly rate data.
In many countries, individuals can become tutors without training. In some countries, including Cambodia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Lao PDR, and Tajikistan, the pattern of classroom teachers supplementing their incomes by tutoring students after school hours is more a necessity than a choice, as many teachers’ salaries hover close to the poverty line.
In the Republic of Korea, the number of private tutors expanded roughly 7.1% annually on average from 2001 to 2006, and by 2009 the sector was the largest employer of graduates from the humanities and social sciences.
Private tutoring is not always effective in raising academic achievement; and in some schools students commonly skip classes or sleep through lessons because they are tired after excessive external study. This means that the shadow system can make regular schooling less efficient.
Teachers who spend more time focusing on private lessons than regular classes can cause greater inefficiencies in the mainstream school system. Situations in which teachers provide extra private lessons for pupils for whom they are already responsible in the public system can lead to corruption, particularly when teachers deliberately teach less in their regular classes in order to promote the market for private lessons.
Types of tutoring
There can be an existing overlap between different types of tutoring with respect to the setting or location of tutoring, the size of tutor-learner pairings/groups, and the method of tutoring provided, for example, one-on-one peer tutoring can take place through online tutoring. Tutoring is typically private since it is exists independent of the system of public and private education, that is, one can be enrolled in public/private schooling and attend private tutoring services.
Academic coaching is a type of mentoring applied to academics. Coaching involves a collaborative approach. Coaches try to help students learn how they best learn and how to operate in an academic environment. Tutors help students learn the material in individual courses while coaches help students learn how to be successful in school. In college, that includes such topics as: study skills, time management, stress management, effective reading, note-taking, test-taking, and understanding how to use a syllabus. Academic coaches meet with the student regularly throughout the semester. Coaches work with students in all kinds of situations, not just those who are struggling academically. Academic coaching is also serves to help students prepare for entrance exams to gain entry to schools or universities, and it is a particularly popular in Asia. For example, in India, a majority of students, be it of any class or stream, visit a coaching center or a "study circle."
In-home tutoring is a form of tutoring that occurs in the home. Most often the tutoring relates to an academic subject or test preparation. This is in contrast to tutoring centers or tutoring provided through after-school programs. The service most often involves one-on-one attention provided to the pupil. Due to the informal and private nature of in-home tutoring, there is limited substantial or conclusive information on in-home tutoring.
Online tutoring is another way for a student to receive academic help, either scheduled or on-demand. Sessions are done through an application where a student and tutor can communicate. Common tools include chat, whiteboard, web conferencing, teleconferencing, online videos and other specialized applets which make it easier to convey information back and forth. Online tutoring has relatively recently emerged as a mechanism to provide tutoring services in contrast to more traditional in-person teaching. One of the potential drawbacks of online tutoring stems from the influx or sensory overload of information from different materials. "For example, material presented in multiple modalities run the risk of interrupting the learner from a coherent learning experience, of imposing a “split attention” effect (the mind cannot concentrate on two things simultaneously), or of overloading the learner's limited supply of cognitive resources."
Peer tutoring refers to the method of tutoring that involves members of the same peer group teaching or tutoring one another. The characteristics of a peer tutoring group/pairing vary across age, socioeconomic class, gender, ethnicity. It has been defined as "a class of practices and strategies that employs peers as one-on-one teachers to provide individualized instruction, practice, repetition, and clarification of concepts"
Tutoring response to Covid-19
In May 2020 the Bill and Crissy Haslam Foundation, in partnership with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs in the State of Tennessee, launched the Tennessee Tutoring Corps to recruit at least 1,000 qualified college tutors to help the most vulnerable K-6th grade students. Some prominent education researchers have called on the U.S. to dramatically expand tutoring programs through organizations such as AmeriCorps.
In June 2020, the Dutch Government was the first country to announce a plan to allocate the equivalent of $278 million US to provide extra school support such as summer schools, extended school days, and tutoring. The Ministry of Education proposed to recruit specially trained student-teachers to provide the tutoring.
Also in June 2020 the British Government announced plans to spend £1 billion on an education “catch-up plan”. State primary and secondary schools will split £650 million in additional funding for the 2020-21 academic year to help their pupils catch up on education missed as a result of the corona-virus pandemic. Schools will have discretion on how the funds are used, however the Department for Education said it expects them to spend some of it on small group tutoring "for whoever needs it”. The remaining £350 million will pay for the establishment of a ‘’National Tutoring Programme’’, giving schools access to subsidised tutoring sessions and free coaches for up to two million disadvantaged pupils.
Studies have found that peer tutoring provides academic benefits for learners across the subject areas of "reading, mathematics, science, and social studies" Peer tutoring has also been found to be an effective teaching method in enhancing the reading comprehension skills of students, especially that of students with a low academic performance at the secondary level in schools. Additionally, peer tutoring has been proven especially useful for those with learning disabilities at the elementary level, while there is mixed evidence showing the effectiveness of peer tutoring for those at the secondary level.
One study suggests that phonologically based reading instruction for first-graders at risk for learning disability can be delivered by non-teachers. In the study, non-certified tutors gave students intensive one-to-one tutoring for 30 minutes, 4 days a week for one school year. The students outperformed untutored control students on measures of reading, spelling, and decoding; with effect sizes ranging from .42 to 1.24. The tutoring included instruction in phonological skills, letter-sound correspondence, explicit decoding, rime analysis, writing, spelling, and reading phonetically controlled text. Although the effects diminished at the end of second grade, the tutored students continued to significantly outperform untutored students in decoding and spelling.
Although certain types of tutoring arrangements can require a salary for the tutor, typically tutoring is free of cost and thus financially affordable for learners. The cost-effectiveness of tutoring can prove to be especially beneficial for learners from low-income backgrounds or resource-strapped regions. In contrast, paid tutoring arrangements can create or further highlight socioeconomic disparities between low-income, middle-income and high-income populations. A study found that access to private tutoring was less financially affordable for low-income families, who thus benefited less from private tutoring as compared to high-income populations, who had the resources to profit from private tutoring.
Tutoring as "Shadow Education"
Tutoring has also emerged as a supplement to public and private schooling in many countries. The supplementary nature of tutoring is a feature in the domain of what some scholars have termed "shadow education". Shadow education has been defined as "a set of educational activities that occur out side formal schooling and are designed to enhance the student's formal school career." The term "shadow" has four components to it: firstly, the existence of and need for tutoring is produced by the existence of the formal education system; secondly, the formal education system is the mainstream system and thus tutoring is its shadow; thirdly, the focus remains on mainstream education in schools; fourthly, tutoring is largely informal and unstructured as compared to formal or mainstream education. As a consequence of the popularity of shadow education, private tutoring can sometimes overshadow mainstream education with more priority given to enrolling in private tutoring centers. Mark Bray claims that "Especially near the time of major external examinations, schools in some countries may be perceived by pupils to be less able to cater for their specific needs."
A tutoring agency is a business that acts as an intermediary between people who are looking for tutors and tutors wishing to offer their services. The term tuition agency is an alternative term, used specifically in Singapore and Malaysia.
Purpose and function
Tutoring agencies are commercial organisations, specializing in introducing tutors to students requiring help in academic studies. Tutoring agencies exist largely due to the problems parents and students face in finding a specialist who can help them with the study of one or more specific subjects.
Some agencies contract directly with the client (usually parents) to provide service. The point of contact is between the client and the agency. Tutoring agencies may charge tutors a commission fee for assigning jobs to them. In India, Malaysia and Singapore, this fee would typically be a half of the allocated job's monthly revenue to a tutor. Jobs that are assigned for a short duration, for example in the case of last minute revision for an exam, may carry a lesser fee of around a quarter of the job's monthly revenue to a tutor. Some tutoring agencies do not charge commission fees for jobs assigned to tutors or students.
Alternatively, clients may be sent a list of names of tutors who have pre-registered with the tutoring agency and then contact the names on the list to ascertain which tutors are available and, if acceptable, make contractual arrangements with the chosen tutor. At the same time, tutors are given the name and contact details of the client and are encouraged to get their call in first.
Tutoring around the world
Tutoring agencies are common in many countries including Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, the UAE, the U.K. and the U.S.A., although it is not regulated in most countries.
In the UK, after much discussion in the media, a limited company was set up in October 2013. The Tutors' Association was previously named The London Association Of Certified Financial Analysts.
In the US there are at least three professional tutoring associations: the Association for the Coaching and Tutoring Profession (ACTP), the American Tutoring Association  and the National Tutoring Association.
In Australia there is the Australian Tutoring Association.
In Singapore, tutoring agencies, also known as tuition agencies, are not regulated by the Ministry of Education.
There are both full-time and part-time tutors. Part-time tutors may be students who want to earn extra money while they are still going to school, such as undergraduates of universities.
Tutors may be self-employed. If the agency does not employ the tutors, then the agency is remunerated by the tutor, who adds a fee to the amount that the client is charged each lesson, and then passes the fees back to the agency weekly or monthly as required. In Singapore, although tutor registration is generally free of charge, tutors will have to pay a percentage of his or her first month's tuition fee, usually 60% to the tuition agency as commission for referring them to students. Tutors will subsequently be paid the full month's tuition fees by the customer (the parents), according to the pre-arranged agreement.
If tutors are employed by the agency, the agency handles all client contract and payment arrangements. The agency is then responsible for employing the tutor with all that employment entails. From the agency's point of view, there is no longer any requirement to declare the fees charged by the agency (something which can cause friction with clients who do not appreciate the high cost of recruitment, vetting etc.) but they are now responsible for employee benefits due to the tutor.
In Singapore, parents and students have positive as well as negative comments.
Tutoring centers (tuition centers) must be registered with the Singapore Ministry of Education. However, tutoring agencies are not. Instead, tutoring agencies are required to register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) under the Business Registration Act. There is a history of poor compliance and consumer complaints.
- Cram school
- Homework coach
- Learning by teaching
- Peer-mediated instruction
- Tuition agency
- Virtual education
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