If you’re thinking of sending your kid to tuition, read this!

On returning to Singapore a few years ago, I realized that if any business is growing and thriving better than any other, it’s tuition centers! There is practically one or more in every shopping mall, at void decks and even within the schools. They are everywhere: it almost sounds weird if your child is not in some tuition programme. 

If you are indeed considering sending your child for tuition, enrichment or whatever name it’s called nowadays, please take a few steps back and think through a few things before committing yourself: 

Financial and non-financial costs: For tuition to have an impact, it usually takes at least 10-12 of one-hourly sessions.  Calculate how much time and money you have to spend. Please don’t think this is a short-term commitment.  I have a friend with three children who started tuition in Primary school and even though the oldest one is now in a tertiary education, she still has to receive tuition.  Some of my friends have to be “drivers” or “chaperones” to bring their children to the centres or forfeit family time together to make sure the children continue with the lessons.  One family I know spend at least $1,500 a month on tuition expenses, not to mention the number of hours of time commuting, waiting to pick up the children and hiring a maid so that the mom can do all these!

Sense of dependency: I remember reading how a top PSLE student says he enjoys going to tuition agencies because they motivate him to study.  I would think this is cultivating a sense of dependency instead.  My younger boy told me that one of his classmates has tuition every day!  And a friend who is a private tutor told me that she has some students whom she is still helping out right up to university level. She had to help edit their thesis.  Talk about overkill!

Some parents may be able to afford it all the way through to university but certainly, at some time, the child has to wean off from external help and practise self-resilience to work hard on his own accord.

As a mother whose both children are in Secondary school, I can vouch that post-primary school life can be so hectic that there is really not enough time to commit to a regular tuition programme and the inherent extra homework involved.  Perhaps that’s why tuition agencies tend to start them young, focusing a lot on primary school kids. This way, it’s almost like an “addiction”: once you’re hooked on having tuition to “motivate” you to study, it seems impossible to get out of it.  And please, do not be the ultra-kiasu parents who hire tutors to help their children complete the homework set by the tuition agency! This is truly killing the joy of learning.

Is it worth the money?  I signed the consent form for my younger son when he a was in Primary 5 to attend weekly Chinese composition writing “enrichment” lessons. These, to me, might be worthwhile since the consent form came from his his school.  I didn’t think much of it and paid the course fees as it can be deducted from Edusave.  After a few lessons, I realized that it was provided by an external course provider and he was merely learning how to “piece together” sentences which the teacher had written on the board.  There was in effect very little writing done by himself although I must say the “final” work is a lot better than what he would have written by himself.

I asked if he felt he learnt anything useful.  He replied no.  If I haven’t probed, I would have thought that he had indeed improved in his Chinese composition writing when in reality, he had improved only on his copying skills!  So, customers beware!  Not every course is what it’s made out to be. 

Beware tuition agencies with “entrance exams”:
Lately, there is also a growing class of “elite” tuition agencies which are known to set high entrance standards.  They do not accept just any student and sell themselves as “stretching” the potential of children under them.  High-calibre students who end up with high-calibre results – these agencies can then further augment their marketing by saying how well their students have done.  They are selling on “snob appeal” and this seems to have worked: waiting lists to enter the school are purportedly very long.  Not surprisingly so.  It is, after all, a business model that is self-sustaining as long as there is demand to feed it.

Ultimately, parents, let’s be rational and not join in the mad rush sending our children to tuition agencies just because it’s what every neighbour, relative or friend is doing now.

This is not just a financial decision but a decision on how we want to raise our children.


  1. Hi YP,

    I thoroughly agree with you, even though I'm a tutor, haha! I had to teach a few uni undergrads this yr and last, so I'm wondering what's happening? I had survived without tuition in my education years, so why can't they do it now?

    Then I realised, a lot of pple do not know how to learn themselves, even though they had gone through a good part of their lives being educated in formal institutions. I had students which are so repulsed by reading that even with the textbooks and notes in front of them, they will rather google the answers since it's 'faster'.

    1. Hi la papillion,
      I am so relieved you agree, even though you're a tutor yourself! It's perfectly fine to have a private tutor if for some reason, the child needs short-term guidance to be on par with the rest of his peers, but to continue on and rely on the tutor as a "crutch" is really not something we should want for our kids. They need to grow up, seriously! Failure at school is nothing compared to failure in life.

  2. Hi YP,

    Like you, I also think there are too few women taking finances seriously, hi 5 there! Anyway, I seriously think that tuition is over rated although I do not have kids yet. It's more like scared to lose out than having actual benefits in some cases. Oh well, can't stop the people from doing so, we can only not join them.

    1. Hi Jes,
      Nice of you to drop by! Hi-5!!! It's true that a lot of parents don't dare to let the child fall in grades and pick up the learning themselves. I went through the same fears because both my kids were in international schools for all or most of their primary school years and weren't really in tune with the local system. Phew, glad we pulled through without tuition.

  3. Hi YP,

    I run a tuition centre and an online learning platform selling PSLE courses.

    Sometimes, I myself am shocked by the extent parents go for tuition. My centre is in Hougang, but I have people travelling all the way from Jurong West or Yishun. Even I feel pai seh...

    Some parents also pay me a few hundred bucks just to make their kids improve their marks by 2 points. I feel pai seh again...but I don't think so much and just give the customer what they want.

    We don't have entrance exams. (Although it's a terrific marketing ploy.) We take in all students.

    I've tried promoting more practical forms of education but nobody is interested. If it is not in the exams, there is no interest at all. This saddens me because I am an entrepreneur at heart and I don't believe grades or exams determine who you are.

    I struggled trying to get parents to see that. But then in the end, I realised people like you, (or me, or us), are in the minority. Our society is still very degree/diploma-centric, exam-centric, study-centric, qualification-centric. Everyone firmly believes in the study > get cert > get job route. Nobody wants to lose out.

    Anyway, it's not all that bad. I have seen MANY students who have benefited from tuition. A lot of them fall through the cracks in the school system and tuition centres and tutors are there to catch them. Some of students can't get through their studies without tuition. Heck, I saved a student from taking drugs because I am one of the few people he listens to!

    Contrary to popular belief, kids don't suffer or get stressed out at ALL tuition centres. (At least mine don't.) And that was always the plan from the start. Make learning fun and enjoyable. A lot of them come to my centre 1 hour before class starts just because they got nothing to do at home.

    So readers, if you are thinking of sending your kids to tuition, read my comment! It's not that bad! LOL!

    Thanks for letting me rant, YP!

    1. Hello there! It's wonderful of you to write so much. Thanks for giving your perspective! It's definitely demand-driven, not from the children but the parents. I think it is so telling that I have comments from a private tutor, a tuition agency owner and a non-parent, but nothing from parents themselves! Looks like my way of thinking is probably not mainstream. My children, who do not get tuition, are getting extinct haha. It is my hope that you continue to counsel the kids who come under you and good job on saving kids from drugs and boredom at home :).

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.


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