Singapore’s Tuition Craze

Singapore students of Nan Hua High School. Photo from Wikipedia.

Singapore students of Nan Hua High School. Photo from Wikipedia.

More than 90 percent of Singapore's primary students are enrolled in private tuition or tutoring classes. Each year, parents in Singapore spend an estimated amount of 680 million US dollars to send their children to after-school tuition centers. Despite the government declaration that tuition is unnecessary, parents continue to enroll their children in tuition classes which have proliferated in recent years.

Sky explains how the tuition craze started in Singapore:

Tuition used to be thought of as addition coaching meant for academically very poor students and whose parents can afford to spend money on hiring tutors for what schools are supposed to have already covered. Over time, as the income level of households rise, most are able to fork out the money for such private coachings. And today, it has evolved to become a million dollars industry that if your child is not having tuition, you belong to the rare minority.

As a parent, Amie thinks there is sometimes a need to ‘outsource for tutors’ to help in the education of children:

Now I have my fair share of struggle whether or not to send my children for tuition. I believe we are unable to avoid such a day to come if there's a need. Every child's learning ability and need is different. We just have to go along with the flow and help them along the way. The stress level of the education now is different from the past and school teachers expect parents to be involved in their own children's academic progress. If we as parents are unable to help them to excel further, we have to outsource for tutors to help them.

June believes tuition is not bad for children but it can lead to a ‘mindset of dependency’:

These days, schoolers face so much stress and anxiety. So much rushing around to the next thing on their schedule, so little time to dream…

I dream of a day when “tuition” and “enrichment” will no longer have a compulsory place in the everyday experience of a school-going kid.

I’m not calling tuition inherently evil either. It still has a rightful place in society, to cater to real learning needs of different children with different struggles. But a blind subscription to the entire “if-I-don’t-do-this-my-child-will-lose-out” mentality may cause your child to be bound in a mindset of dependency for much of his growing years or even adult life.

Students who are already doing well should not be forced to attend tuition, says @mummybean:

I can understand needing tuition to get some extra help where the student is struggling and would benefit from some extra coaching, but tuition for students who are already doing well? To me it shows that our students have developed a form of crutch mentality, where they feel like they need the tuition in order to do well when in actual fact, they should be perfectly capable of managing on their own. Aside from being a waste on resources, I think it's very unhealthy.

The tuition industry is thriving because parents continue to believe in the effectiveness of tuition classes, according to Hri Kumar

Parents who believe their children need more personal attention for whatever reason will look for solutions elsewhere. Every exam requires some level of preparation and practice. Parents and students will always try and get an edge, and if they believe tuition will help, that is what they will do.

There are reports which suggest that tuition does not help. That may well be so, but the truth is that most of us are insecure, and will feel guilty if we feel we have not done all we can for our children.

Petunia Lee interviewed some parents who have kids enrolled in tuition centers:

They try their best to work within the system, spending $500+ to $1200 a month on tuition for ONE child alone. NONE of them believe that Every School is a Good School. None of them believe that tuition is unnecessary because they have personally seen their children's grades go to the top AFTER administering expensive tuition to their children.


  • Sahar Ghazi

    Private tuition to supplement school education is a big trend in Pakistan too. Sometimes the same school teachers give after school-tuition – to a class just as big as the one he or she is teaching in school – the difference is they are getting paid better, directly from the students, so they do a better job teaching. The school does nothing about it and the parents just give in. During my O levels, half of my school class used to gather at a private tuition center because our teachers weren’t teaching us!

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