tutors_kids.jpgThe end of the summer season is being heralded by scattered rain showers and the smell of freshly stocked notebooks. As the end of the month nears, more and more parents are trooping to bookstores to get the latest arsenal of school supplies for their kids. Indeed, the new school year is fast approaching.

But tuition fees and school supplies are not the only things on parents’ minds. Tutorial sessions have become an unofficial part of our education system, just like cram schools are part of a daily ritual for students in countries like Japan. But the question is, should it also become part of our kids’ lives as well? Let FN dish out the pros and cons on tutorial issues to help you decide.


ISSUE #1: HELP WITH HOMEWORK



PRO: Tutorials may help pull up your child’s grades.

Most of us share the common notion that tutorial sessions exist to boost the students’ grades. This leads tutors to be results-driven, taking great lengths to make your child really understand what the lesson is all about and making sure that the next progress report is going to be favorable. “Academically, most of the students excel,” shares Kristine, who has been working as a tutor for two years. “Of course, the success rate ultimately lies with the child’s attitude,” she quickly adds.


CON: Students may get overly dependent on their tutors.

Helping your child with her or his homework is a good thing, but actually doing the homework is an entirely different matter. Being results-driven can sometimes be counterproductive since tutors are pressured to show progress through a rise in your child’s grades. Here lies the danger of tutors spoon-feeding the answers to kids rather than actually teaching them and challenging them with lessons just to show the parents that the tutorial sessions are productive.


ISSUE #2: CLASS PARTICIPATION


PRO: Your child gets individual attention when learning with tutors.

Ideally, schoolteachers should know all the strengths and weaknesses of each student and have a several plans on how to work around them. However, we have to face the cold hard truth—teachers don’t really have that much time. They may know the student on a personal basis, maybe even know a secret or two about some, but with mounting deadlines, papers to check, lessons to make, and projects to accomplish, they don’t have much time to make a detailed assessment of each student, especially if they teach at schools where the classes are large.

“We must admit that with the increasing class size, not all teachers can really monitor everyone’s progress,” Joy, a high school teacher, says. With the usual one-to-one ratio, tutors can easily zero in on problem areas and can teach a particular topic based on your child’s skills and interests. “The individualized approach is really effective, as you get to tailor-fit the lesson according to the students’ needs,” Kristine says.


CON: Students might take the complacent route in school.

There is a tendency for kids to slack off in school when they know they’ll have a tutor to help them through the lessons later on. As mentioned earlier, teachers may have a hard time keeping track of each student in the entire class, and your child just might go for the individualized approach that tutorials offer, instead of getting lost in a sea of faces in school. This can lead to less participation in formal classes. “My tutees tend to get lazy in school, since they expect me to be a substitute for their teachers,” Kristine admits.


ISSUE #3: EXPENSE


PRO: The enriched learning tutorials can offer your kids is priceless.

Jessica, an incoming fourth year high school student, shares, “Tutorials are really helpful for those who aren’t capable or lack materials.” The combined approach of being results-driven and the individualized attention usually makes tutorial sessions worth the expense when boosting flagging grades. Students who have trouble learning in class get full attention in tutorials, and they can air out their concerns with fewer inhibitions when they are not doing so in front of their peers.  

On the other hand, tutors can easily detect problems as well, helping them iron out kinks faster. This may often result in a better explanation of lessons geared specifically toward the student, helping them do better in class. Tutorial classes may be worth it if your child needs some help coping with lessons in school. There have also been cases in which this individualized attention has helped lead to the identification of a learning disorder. “Before my son’s tutor pointed out that she thought he had more trouble reading than it was normal for children his age but was very intelligent when spoken to, we didn’t think at all that the reason why he was doing so badly in his classes was that he might have mild dyslexia,” says Marie, a mother of four.


CON:  The money put into tutorials could be better used elsewhere.

Getting regular tutorial classes does make the expense list longer, and it should always be taken into account when making your monthly budget. Payment schemes differ with your preference. Some tutorial centers charge per hour or per program, while individual tutors can either charge per hour or per session.  Still, tutorial payments compounded over time tend to be expensive, more so since they’re paid on top of school fees. Many parents feel they can do the jobs just as well as a tutor can, but the fact is that too many parents simply do not have the time since both may be working long hours to make sure all expenses can be met.


THE VERDICT

tutors_girl.jpgHave you decided whether or not to get your child a tutor or enroll him or her in tutorial classes? The truth is that there is no absolutely right decision for all kids. Every child is different, just as every school is different. Try to evaluate your child’s needs first. Tutorials should never substitute for your child’s schooling, and if your child excels academically already, then maybe you should forgo having tutorials.

You also need to consider the type of school your child attends. There are also a number of schools that strongly discourage the use of extracurricular tutoring except in instances of extremely poor performance. Often, schools with this policy will have smaller classes (frequently, no more than 25 or so per class) and a large faculty; this enables more teachers to teach select classes of fewer students so they can give that individualized attention to each student that is missing in bigger schools.

You may also want to consider taking over the role of tutor in your child’s life. It will be helpful if you could allot time everyday to help out your kid’s homework—studies show that mentoring your child has its own perks, which include regularly spending quality time with your child and getting to know him or her better. This cuts costs, and you can take charge of the extracurricular lessons, which can reduce some of the negative consequences, such as spoon-feeding. If your child is already performing well academically, extracurricular activities like sports and other hobbies that help him or her be more well rounded may be a more worthwhile investment of your money and his or her time.

Try to keep in mind that tutorials primarily exist to help your child keep up in class and are not a magical solution to landing your child in the top academic ranks of his or her batch.


(Tutor with kids photo by Moare via MorgueFile.com; girl doing homework photo by Sam LeVan via sxc.hu)
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