He goes for tuition ...and he's in poly

More tertiary students seeking help from private tutors to give themselves an edge


Like thousands of primary and secondary school students, Amirul goes for tuition classes once a week.

But unlike his younger peers, he is much older. The 19-year-old polytechnic student signed up for engineering mathematics tuition three weeks ago because he wants to score his first A in polytechnic.

The second-year computer engineering student, who declines to give his full name, says: "I've never managed to get an A for a poly subject and I think tuition will help me do it.

"My tutor is a master's graduate who goes through the concepts with me step by step and pushes me to apply them in various situations. After tuition, I'm more confident in my work."

Tuition agencies contacted say they have been receiving more inquiries from tertiary students who want a tutor to help them do better in polytechnic or university.

Most of the demand is for tuition in mathematics, statistics, engineering and accounting. The fees range from $40 to $120 an hour for polytechnic tuition and go up to $160 an hour for university tuition. An hour of secondary school tuition costs between $20 and $100.

Trusted Tuition Agency started tutoring polytechnic students in 2009, and undergraduates three years ago.

It now has about 10 polytechnic students and five university students a year. Its owner, Mr Vincent Lee, 47, says: "The education scene is becoming more competitive and students - even those in polys and universities - want to do well."

He says that some of the students are in their first year of polytechnic and struggling with the switch from secondary school to tertiary institution.

Mr Caleb Ho, 30, a full-time accounting tutor, who graduated from Nanyang Technological University with a bachelor's degree in accountancy, started tutoring polytechnic students in 2009.

When he first started, he received one or two inquiries a month. Now, he gets four to six.

About a tenth of his 100 students are from the polytechnics. He coaches them in subjects such as financial accounting and managerial accounting.

Most of his polytechnic students did not study accounting in secondary school and say they need help with their accounting subjects.

Awesome Home Tuition, which started tutoring polytechnic students three years ago, now coaches about 10 students a year.

Founder Winson Ng, 29, says most of his tutees are weak students who do not understand the concepts taught in lectures and feel embarrassed to ask their lecturers or classmates for help..

As Amirul says: "It's not like my lecturers can give me one-on-one attention. They have to attend to many other students and it can be quite troublesome having to approach them for help.

"I feel more comfortable asking a tutor whatever I don't understand."

His father, a 48-year-old computer engineer, who pays his son's tuition fee of $80 an hour, adds: "I know that poly students are encouraged to think independently, but there are still some subjects - like the more theoretical ones - where tuition can be beneficial."

Singapore Polytechnic graduate Wong Ping Fang, 20, says she had tuition for three subjects - principles of accounting, financial and management accounting, and financial analysis and management - in the first two years of her studies.

She says: "I wasn't taught accounting in secondary school, so I was clueless about it when I entered poly. I signed up for tuition because I thought I might fail my subjects, and my tutor helped me understand the complex accounting terms and concepts."

She believes the extra coaching helped her score As for all three subjects.

She is now a first-year business administration undergraduate at the National University of Singapore.

She says: "I'm not embarrassed that I had tuition because, at least, I admitted that I needed help."


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