Tutors' role in society often overlooked

A boy looking at a notice outside a tuition centre in United Square.
A boy looking at a notice outside a tuition centre in United Square.PHOTO: ST FILE

As a tutor, I read the letters painting the industry in a negative light with much concern ("Time for conversation on broader role of tuition" by Mr Dhevarajan Devadas, and "What makes a 'super tutor' super?" by Mr Kevin Lim Fung Ming"; both published on Thursday).

This industry supports students who have fallen through the cracks of a stressful education system. It represents a second chance for students who may have slacked off, been poor planners or used the wrong study methods.

While not all students can afford one-on-one tutoring, they can join groups and pay lower fees to teachers who possess the passion for teaching but not for office politicking or administrative duties.

There are teachers who are happier spending time preparing teaching resources and thinking of more effective and interesting ways to teach.

Some local tuition centres actually lower their fees for students in financial difficulties so as to help level the playing field.

Since local students have to take high-stakes examinations which have a great impact on their futures, their parents naturally want to help them as much as they can.

This is better than indulging them in little-needed luxuries or sending them for all kinds of enrichment courses just to keep up with the Joneses.

"Super" tutors are anomalies in a heterogeneous industry with thousands of niche tuition centres servicing the varied needs of students.

As it is the norm for both parents to work nowadays, tutors often play additional roles of nannies and mentors to children who may otherwise be misled by unsavoury characters.

There are many tutors working very hard, with odd hours, and travelling long distances to help needy students, but taking home a fraction of what "super" tutors earn. We provide more value-added services to students without additional charge.

We are happy because we make an honest living helping other people, even though we have no Central Provident Fund contributions, bonuses or job security.

Many readers mistakenly think that we are out to make a quick buck, and judge us harshly and unfairly.

Perhaps there are a few black sheep around, but they exist in all industries.

Cornelius Chew Kok Mun

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Tutors' role in society often overlooked'. Print Edition | Subscribe