Tuition centres are like any other commercial services, and you want to understand exactly what kind of teacher, class, and syllabus you are signing up for. Use these six important questions to guide you in picking the best tuition centre.
(1) Class Size
The class size is one of the most important factors you should consider when picking a Maths tuition Centre. Many tuition centres have enormous class sizes and simply pack as many students as into a class as possible to achieve higher revenues. In these large classes, it is often difficult for students to ask specific maths questions, Leading teachers to mistakenly believe that since no students has asked any questions, they fully understand the maths subject matter being taught. But also remember that very good teachers often have large classes because there are a large number of students that want to be taught by these teachers. Thus, you should weight the credentials of the teacher against the size of the class to make an informed decision.
(2) Teachers Qualifications & Experience
A surprising number of parents do not ask about the qualifications of the teacher that will be tutoring their child. Instead leaving the decision to the tuition centre, and assuming that the tuition centre will simply assign one of the better teachers to teach their child. Most tuition centres have a few good teachers, and many more mediocre teachers. So chances are that your child may not end up with one of the best teachers.
The next important factor you should consider would be the qualifications of the teachers, especially qualifications related to the field of mathematics. And most importantly, the qualifications of the teacher in charge of the class you’re interested in, as well as the supervising teacher, if there is one. Most tuition centres will readily provide you with a profile sheet of their teachers; as you scan the sheet, take note of (1) the number of years of experience the teacher has, (2) where the teacher has previously taught, and (3) what academic qualifications the teacher has attained.
If possible, you should also ask to speak with the teacher, even if it’s only for a short while. Prepare one or two specific maths questions your child has, see if the teacher is able to explain the problems in a way that is understandable by your child. But remember not to ask too many questions (not more than 15 mins) and thank the teacher for their time. If you do eventually decide to pick that class, you’d want the teacher to have a good impression of your encounter.
(3) Past Track Records
When you have a potential tuition teacher offered to you, always ask how their students performed in the past year’s exams. Tuition centres often keep specific records on student examination results for each teacher. Just as you are assessed on KPI goals in your corporate workplace, a teacher’s performance is directly linked to the results of his or her students. Diligent tuition centres keep track of this but may only furnish this information to you upon request.
However, do not simply ask how many of their students scored an ‘A’. It is important to keep in mind the calibre of students that the teacher taught. A teacher who taught high-calibre students from the top schools and obtained a bunch of ‘A’ grades may be worse than a teacher whose students grades went from ‘D’s to ‘B’s. Any teacher can take a bunch of good students and produce good results, but it takes a good teacher to noticeably improve the results of their entire class.
(4) Scope of Syllabus
Aside from the teacher, the maths syllabus is the next most important thing to consider. The maths syllabus is essentially a lesson plan that describes everything that the teacher will be teaching the class over the next few months. Many parents think that tuition centres have a systematic syllabus plan that follows the same syllabus in school, but this is not always the case.
A significant number of tuition centres engage teachers on an ad-hoc basis, that is, the teachers are employed as part-timers that come in only to teach a particular class. Often the tuition centre leaves it entirely up to the teacher to decide what to teach and how to teach it. Many tuition centres also ask the teachers to prepare their own maths notes. The result is that these centres have poorly-planned mathematics lessons plans that cover bits and pieces of the topics required for the exams.
You should ask the tuition centre for (1) copy of the syllabus, and you should also (2) check when the syllabus was last updated (frequent updates show a centre takes it’s syllabus planning seriously). Finally, you would want to know (3) whether every teacher must closely adhere to the syllabus, or whether each teacher is free to adjust the lesson plan as necessary. Note, however, that allowing a teacher to change the lesson plan from the syllabus is not necessarily a bad thing, as a good teacher will be able to customize the mathematics lesson plan to best fit the specific needs of the students in the class.
Tuition fees are perhaps the single most important thing that parents look at when deciding whether or not to enrol their child into a tuition centre. But besides simply comparing fees are different maths centres, remember that the tuition centres’ biggest cost is teacher remuneration. And very experienced and qualified mathematics teachers will command a higher salary, and this will be reflected in higher tuition fees. So although every parent has a budget, it is prudent not to simply pick the cheapest tuition centre on the basis of price.
Also, remember that tuition centres located in glitzy shopping malls have expensive rental overheads which will be passed on to students in the form of increased tuition fees. Many of the best tuition centres are located at HDB shop houses or in older shopping malls. So while it is natural for parents to want to give their children the best learning environment possible, remember that the fancy tables and nice storefront not an absolute indicator of the quality of the tuition teachers inside.
(6) Trial lessons & Deposit Fees
One thing you always want to do is to ask if the tuition centre offers (1) trial lessons, and conversely if they have any (2) deposit fees. Trial lessons are great to because they allow you to see how the lessons are actually conducted, how the teacher speaks, and judge whether or not this is a place that you can actually learn well. It is also important to ask what the terms for the trial lessons are, and in particular, how long the trial period lasts for.
It is also important to ask about deposit fees. Deposit fees are usually used to lock students down, so that they cannot easily change tuition centres. If there is a deposit fee, it could be an indication that the centre is not confident that you will want to stay on.
In conclusion, remember that it always pays to do due diligence before deciding on a maths tuition centre. Picking the right maths teacher with the right centre can save you a lot of time from scrambling to find a suitable teacher later on. In the long run, picking the right teacher usually leads to very good results in the PSLE, 0-level, & A-level examinations!