Parents turn to apps for homework help

Many using apps, social media for 'online tuition' to help their kids

Ask (online) and you shall receive... the answer to your child's homework.

Many parents are now tapping social media and mobile apps for "online tuition" to help their children. They crowdsource for mathematics and science answers on forums and Facebook groups for matters related to the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) or academic subjects.

At least five such pages have emerged in the last three years. A Facebook page for parents with children taking the PSLE this year has more than 5,400 members, while another group, the Maths Model Method-Singapore page, has more than 2,000 members.

Parents snap pictures of practice papers or school assignments, and post up to 20 questions daily on each of these groups.

Questions are usually answered within a few hours by other parents or private tutors. They illustrate the answers using diagrams, bar models, graphs or equations.

Parents said the solutions provide quick relief, but they do not allow their children to copy them without understanding the steps.

Ms Eileen Liu, 38, who has a daughter in Primary 4, said: "It's very efficient because usually I can get answers within an hour of posting questions."

The housewife added: "I will try to analyse the answers and explain to my daughter."

One group called "Homework Gods" claims to provide test papers on top of solutions, and even mark homework.

According to its website, believed to have been set up this year, anyone can send questions to a contact number through WhatsApp and WeChat, and obtain answers mostly for free. "Ask and you shall receive," it declares, saying it has "angels to receive your questions and homework prayer requests, any time of the day".

The people behind its hotline declined to be interviewed, saying they are currently "inundated with questions".

Separately, EduSnap, a mobile app which allows students and parents to obtain answers for free, has attracted 10,000 users here since April last year.

The platform lets people upload pictures of worksheets and wait for replies for three subjects: mathematics, science and English. The solutions are from teachers at 13 tuition centres and four voluntary welfare organisations.

Mr Chia Luck Yong, one of the app's three co-founders, said it receives 150 questions per day, up from fewer than 50 at the start.

"Tuition is just once or twice a week, so during the rest of the week, where else would you go for help?" he said. In December, he had to set a three-question daily limit per user. "We hope that they don't post questions unless they really need help," he said.

Parents like Mr Michael Tan, 46, said that they learn from discussions about methods used.

The church worker, whose son is in Primary 5, said he could use algebra to solve most maths sums, but schools use other methods.

The forums are also potential avenues of business for tutors.

Mr Adrian Ng, owner of Ace Maths, who shares solutions online, has received about 10 requests from parents to tutor their children. Another tutor Teo Kai Meng, has taken in more than 10 pupils from groups he posted in. But he said: "Quite a number of tutors are just helping out... It feels good to be part of an active learning and sharing community."

Mr Choy Ban Heng, a former maths school teacher pursuing a PhD in maths education who visits these online groups, said his interaction with parents online has given him insight into the challenges faced by students.

"While the maths curriculum is not getting tougher, some of the questions posed may not be suitable for most primary school pupils," he said. "Many of these difficult or challenging questions are pitched way beyond what is expected in the national examinations."

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