No Tuition No Problem

Many parents are forking out hundreds of dollars a month on tuition fees for their children. But for some, allowing their kids to manage their own learning proves a better option.

Parents who send their children for tuition do so for a range of reasons. Some simply want their children to keep up with their peers while others expect top marks from their kids in every exam.

Seven in 10 parents in Singapore send their children for tuition, according to a report published inThe Straits Times, which also commissioned the 2015 survey on which the report was based. Yet, only a third of the 500 respondents agreed that their kids’ grades improved noticeably thanks to the extra classes.

Three parents who are bucking this trend tell us how their children manage without going for all those extra classes.

Sibling support

Stay-at-home-mum Madam Rosana Muhammad doesn’t believe that tuition is the only solution to help her six children in their studies. The 52-year-old insists that her children ask their teachers questions when they don’t understand something taught in class.

Mdm Rosana constantly reminds her children that learning is not about memorising. “You need to understand what you’re doing to excel in it,” she says.

Mdm Rosana used to buy her children assessment books and help them revise their work when they were in primary school. But she found it challenging when they advanced to secondary school and the lessons got tougher. She realised that getting the older siblings to help the younger ones was another way for her children to take charge of their own learning. Her children were also motivated enough to start mugging on their own before exams and they ended up “doing quite well”.

Only two of Mdm Rosana’s children are still in school now; the rest have graduated and are working. Her youngest is in Secondary Three and lucky enough to have all the help she can get from her older siblings.

Achievable targets

When her son Isaac started failing his Maths exams in Secondary Three, Ms Irene Seet, 40, met up with his teacher to find out the root of the problem. It turned out that Isaac refused to pay attention in class.

Ms Seet decided to enrol Isaac in Maths tuition so that he could catch up on his work and improve his grades. “I’m not a very results-based parent,” she says. “If he passes or gets 60 or 70 marks, it’s acceptable.”

Her son, who had never had tuition before, hated going for extra classes and insisted that he could learn on his own. Ms Seet made a pact with him: no more tuition classes if he passed his final-year Maths exam and kept up his grades.

Isaac started scoring Bs in half a year and Ms Seet kept her promise. The incident showed Ms Seet that having the right attitude towards learning is important. “Even if I give him the most expensive tuition but he doesn’t have a good attitude, there’s no way he can accomplish much.”

Room for independence

Mother-of-three Mrs Regina Tan, 54, engaged a private tutor for her eldest son, who’s 26 now, so that he could get help with his homework. “I didn’t have the time to teach him,” says the busy working mum.

She realised that the tutor ended up being a babysitter instead, when she came home one day and found her son “doing things on his own” and walking around the house instead of studying. Mrs Tan ended the services of the tutor as she felt her son could cope with his homework on his own. She also believed that her children could get any help they needed from their teachers.

“I don’t force my kids,” she says. “If they tell me they don’t need tuition, that’s fine.”

Mrs Tan encourages her kids to set their own goals based on their interests and strengths. Her youngest son, who’s 16, aims to enter a polytechnic as he likes the hands-on approach. At the end of the day, Mrs Tan says, her kids have to learn to be independent. “They need to help themselves and make a living based on their own strengths.”


Original article appeared on on 09 Mar 2016: