Tuition is needed to maintain a competitive edge in school, said parents and students, in response to Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah who had said tuition is "not necessary".
Addressing the issue in Parliament, Ms Indranee said on Monday that tuition for well-performing children is counter-productive. Also, she said that weaker students can go for remedial and supplementary classes in schools and community schemes to level up.
But parents and students that The Straits Times spoke to felt differently.
They said tuition has an integral role in a system that places emphasis on academic excellence.
The extra coaching and "focused" attention from tutors help students to pull up their marks in weaker subjects.
Anglo-Chinese Junior College student Ian Mak, 18, who has maths tuition, said: "Everyone has different abilities... so the school may not be able to attend to every student's needs."
But even students who are already performing well are keen to have more tuition.
"Tuition helps to maintain my grades," said St Margaret's Primary pupil Esther Lee, 12, who said she usually gets As for her examinations.
She has weekly lessons for English, mathematics and science at Growan Learning Centre, and Chinese tuition at home.
"Because of the individual attention, tuition teachers know my strengths and weaknesses, and can help me more."
Esther's mother, Mrs Priscilla Lee, 40, spends about $1,200 a month on her tuition.
"We can't do without it. She's more motivated at tuition classes because she learns more outside of school and has friends there," said the housewife.
Tuition centres also noted the strong demand from parents like Mrs Lee for extra coaching for their children.
Managing director of Lynn Tuition Centre Wong Ju Ping, 37, said: "These bright kids score 90 marks and hope to get 100 marks. The pressure is greater to make that difference.
"We try to cater to their abilities by teaching them higher-order skills, like modelling, listing strategies, and trial and error for maths."
To some working parents, the extra hours set aside for tuition are well spent.
Ms Jane Ting, 46, who runs a shop selling gaming accessories, and has two sons, in Primary 2 and 4, said: "Tuition is a way to occupy their time and let them do work. It's more like revision for them."
Readers expressed similar views on the advantages of tuition on The Straits Times' Facebook page.
Ms Annie Ng, who posted on the page yesterday, said: "Our system may be able to let our children get through without tuition but one has to do pretty well to secure a place in his choice of course in our local university."
Tuition centres said they play a complementary role to the school system.
Mrs Amy Bellars, who owns Growan Learning Centre, said: "Schools have a curriculum to follow, so teachers may not have ample time to be innovative, so tuition is good if it supplements what is done in school."
Mr Wong said: "Tuition is useful if a child has problems coping in school, so he needs that boost to stay on a par with his peers or he wants to learn something extra not done in school, like abacus."
But some students who do not go for tuition classes are not worried that they will fall behind in school.
Among them is Temasek Secondary School student Jaren Pang, 13, who has not had tuition at all.
Said Jaren, whose mother is a market vendor: "I don't think I need a tutor. I'm not that worried that I will lose out.
"I spend about two hours each day at home doing school work. If there is no school work then I will just revise."
Additional reporting by Pearl Lee