Shaking off the stigma of private tuition

By Rahim Hirji Wednesday, September 17, 2014

“Not only do we owe our brightest children a future, we owe the future our brightest children.”

I heard a quote the other day that resonated strongly with me: “not only do we owe our brightest children a future, we owe the future our brightest children”.

This sentiment is central to the demand and need for tuition. As parents, we want the best for our children, no matter how young or old they are and we should no longer think of tuition as something to hide if we want to invest in our children.

For some time now in the UK, tuition has been considered a taboo word referring to after school supplementary education. Although we are, of course, biased, we see private tuition as an opportunity for children to really shine. The tuition industry in the UK has grown substantially over the last few years and the reasons why are clear: we are living in a very different society.

Times have changed

We now live in a society whose core educational values differ greatly from those present at the tail end of the 20th century. With the advent of technology, lives are faster, communicative media is instantaneous and curricula across the world are different. What was important to learn a few years ago may be less so in this day and age. And today’s curriculum may be obsolete in ten years time. The world is moving at such pace that it may not be possible for policy to keep up, for parents to keep up with policy, let alone what exactly their children need to learn.

In the case of maths, there are actually two distinct reasons to learn the subject: to succeed in exams and to succeed in society.

Meritocracy

Society has never been non-meritocratic, however meritocracy is becoming increasingly important across the globe. Service driven jobs and globalisation has meant that it is even more important for our children in the UK to excel in whatever stream they choose to be in. While there may not be the manufacturing jobs there once were, there are new jobs across differing segments of the workplace. These new job roles, such as data scientists or biomathematicians will become increasingly more competitive as they start to drive business decisions – and it will be only those who have excelled in their studies, especially in maths, that will have the opportunity.

International Competition

Believe it or not, in an ever-shrinking world, jobs, university places and business tenders are now in competition on an international level. While the latter is less relevant to why tuition is important, university places and jobs are already being competed against with students and individuals from all over the EU as well as those from farther afield. Many universities, especially red brick or Russell Group universities have the pick of the best students. With international students offering better revenue, there are less and less places at UK universities for UK students. This means that UK students really need to excel – the competition is much higher than ever before.

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If the world is more competitive than ever before, then, as parents, we need to try and give our children the best chances. That doesn’t mean that parents need to be pushy and grind their children into the ground, but it does mean that where children are not excelling, they may need a little push. We should give our children the best opportunities to enable them to be the best that they can be, and that’s where tuition comes in.

There are those that perceive private tuition as elitist, but that view is an outdated one. As we found out recently from our “After School Activity Survey”, parents are quite willing to spend significant amounts of money on their children, especially in London. The survey was intended to find out how much parents spend – and our results showed that they do spend in significant amounts. The report is quite revealing and I would urge you to read it. But the point is that while tuition was only affordable to a few, those times have now changed. Private tuition today is an opportunity that many parents have to give their children to prepare them for international competition – and the opportunity to provide quality interventions make the opportunity for education more of a level playing field. Our prices make private tuition for maths affordable and certainly not elitist.

So why else might tuition have a stigma associated with it? Having spoken to many parents over the last year their reasons differ. Some consider that by having tuition, their children might not be good enough – i.e. by having maths tuition it means that their children as not perceived as intelligent enough. Digging further, some parents think that if their child is not excelling at school that might be some fault of their own – that they can’t help their children or don’t have the time to help them. But, school teaching is conducted in a group and not bespoke basis, and, as previously mentioned the teaching of subjects such as mathematics has changed greatly over the years, confirming that the need for tuition is not down to a parenting fault. If education was provided on a completely bespoke basis, we would all be educated in an optimum way for our learning style, but this is not realistic and so education is provided at a group level. That might change in years to come, but, for now, tuition can help bridge the gap to get children to their goals.

As we know, having the right teacher and the right environment is some factors in improving learning outcomes, but having enough time and the right type of explanation for the child is equally important. Everyone’s brain is wired differently – and a parent’s want or need to give their child tuition is an earnest one. Not everyone needs tuition, but where the goal is a difficult one to attain, private tuition can help clear the path. We see tuition happening at different stages in a child’s lifetime, usually starting a year before critical exams, so that these students are able to get or guarantee grade improvement. There are also those who need tuition to get back on track after a transition to a new school – and at that point, tuition can help not only in skilling up the child but also in maintaining confidence at a difficult time. We also see tuition for exceptionally gifted children who really excel at maths and are pushing the limits.

With a growing middle class in the UK who aspire to spend on private education, but can’t afford to because of its significant expense, tuition becomes a viable option. That’s not a stigma – that’s aspirational – that’s wanting the best for our children. And as I said at the outset: “not only do we owe our brightest children a future, we owe the future our brightest children”.

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Categories: General | Maths | Tuition | Tutoring