Private tuition is seldom out of the news, and this is hardly a surprise given the size of the supplementary education industry. In the UK alone, 1 in 4 children report having had a private tutor at some point in their educational journey.
For a parent to hire a private tutor is commonplace – quite ordinary, in fact. There are all sorts of reasons behind a decision to do so: to support a child who’s fallen behind at school, to ensure top grades to get on a university course, to assist with Special Educational Needs such as dyslexia or perhaps to supplement homeschooling.
There are also a number of delivery methods: in-person tuition (at the student’s or the tutor’s home), online tuition (using Skype and an online whiteboard, for example) or group tuition which takes place in an after-school centre (in the UK, Kumon or Explore Learning centres spring to mind).
Despite its ubiquitousness, private tuition still has a certain reputation of being elitist. Tom Maher, former president of The Tutors’ Association, recently addressed this point in a comment piece which looked at the language used to describe the industry. For example, both the words ‘private’ and ‘tutor’ suggest exclusivity in a way that ‘one-to-one’ and ‘lessons’ do not, and yet they both describe the same educational approach.
Certain sections of the private tuition industry now appear to distance themselves from elitist vocabulary because they want this powerful way of learning to be available to all. For example, ‘supplementary education’ as a term is now more in vogue. In line with this thinking, various charities are now focusing on initiatives to introduce one-to-one learning into new contexts – for example, to help children in under-performing schools.
The fact is, private tuition is at its heart a powerful learning method because an expert private tutor is in the unique position of being able meet their student at the edge of their current understanding, and so help enhance it. This is simply not possible in a classroom situation where learning has the tendency to be either too advanced, or too easy, for each individual student.
Furthermore, negative peer pressure or the fear of speaking out can be further disincentives to learn for some children in a classroom setting. The right kind of private tuition does away with these kinds of blocks to learning, and parents can see their children flourish in this context where they haven’t elsewhere.
Whatever the pros and cons of private tutoring, it is a successful method which is here to stay, and which can be effective for children from any background.