Students in Singapore going for 'ad-hoc' tuition in specific topics

Tutor Shaun Lim, conducting a tuition class at Quintessential Education Centre
Tutor Shaun Lim, conducting a tuition class at Quintessential Education CentrePHOTO: QUINTESSENTIAL EDUCATION CENTRE

By attending lessons for only the topics that they need help in, they save time and money

SINGAPORE - Instead of committing to regular tuition sessions throughout the year, some students who need academic help are choosing to attend such classes on an "ad-hoc" basis.

Cedar Girls' Secondary School student Natalie Lim, 16, who is in Secondary 4, for instance, does not go for weekly tuition sessions.

Instead, she drops in on a chemistry class at Bright Culture Tuition Centre as and when she needs to clarify her doubts on certain topics.

Besides saving time and money on tuition, Natalie, who a year ago averaged Ds for chemistry, now scores As for the subject. She pays $80 per class, similar to what regular students fork out.

"I have many other commit-ments that clash with regular tuition time-slots, so it seems more practical to plan my tuition around them," said Natalie, who is moving on to Victoria Junior College next year under the Integrated Programme.

TARGETED HELP

Many students want help with specific, weak chapters but do not wish to sit through topics which they are proficient at.

TUTOR SHAUN LIM, conducting a tuition class at Quintessential Education Centre

Ad-hoc tuition arrangements are gaining popularity, especially among students who require help only in specific topics that are difficult to grasp, according to tutors.

Tutors cite the students' busy schedules during school terms, with co-curricular activities and increasing demands in schoolwork, as a reason for the growing interest.

Most of these students would turn up just before the year-end exams to check if their revision is on the right track.

More than 20 tuition centres and private tutors have started offering these ad-hoc arrangements in recent years.

Quintessential Education Centre introduced such arrangements two years ago and noticed that the number of students on it has doubled from the previous year. Some 40 out of 200 students at the centre, which offers tuition in O-level, A-level and International Baccalaureate (IB) subjects such as economics and chemistry, are on the ad-hoc arrangement. Last year, there were only 15 such students.

All students pay similar fees of $85 to $100 per lesson.

"Many students want help with specific, weak chapters but do not wish to sit through topics which they are proficient at," said tutor Shaun Lim, 32, adding that some chose such arrangements because of financial constraints.

General Paper tutor Irwin See, 36, has been offering ad-hoc tuition for the past six years, and has taken in 10 students on the arrangement this year, up from seven last year.

These students join in on regular classes once or twice a month. "Students are getting busier, and may not have the time to commit to a full year of tuition," said Mr See, who has about 130 regular students. They pay $75 per session, compared to $90 per session for students who attend classes on an ad-hoc basis.

Primary school maths tutor Raihan Sudirman, 33, who provides ad-hoc home tuition, said certain pupils may need help only in some topics, such as fractions and ratios. He added that the arrangements give parents flexibility in planning their children's time.

However, some tutors, such as economics tutor Anthony Fok, 32, have chosen not to provide such services, insisting it is disruptive to students who attend regular classes.

He said that for subjects such as economics, it is difficult to have ad-hoc arrangements as the topics are usually linked. "Students must be able to relate the different topics in order to score," he added.

Education experts noted that ad-hoc tuition would reduce the financial strain on parents who have more than one child requiring tuition, or whose children need extra coaching in many subjects.

Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said: "It will take up less time on the child's already-packed schedule, and allow him time to pursue interests such as the arts or sports."

However, Dr Chan also noted that not everyone will benefit from tuition, and that it may even lead to counterproductive outcomes, such as stress or loss of motivation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2015, with the headline 'Students going for 'ad-hoc' tuition'. Print Edition | Subscribe