The most expensive thing about raising a child is, for many parents in Singapore, not the milk powder or toys, but private tuition. The tuition industry is worth over $1 billion right now, and becoming a private tutor is a recession-proof career move that some super-tutors have been rewarded for with incomes of over $1 million per year.
Whether you’re a kiasu parent who’s terrified your kids will fall behind and not make it into NUS med school in 10 years time, or your child is having serious problems with some subjects and desperately needs tuition to stop him from being retained, the cost of tuition is real. A 2012 survey found that 50% of the parents whose children were enrolled in tuition spent at least $500 a year.
Here’s how to give your child an academic leg-up without going broke.
If your child is having trouble completing his assignments, have tuition on a bi-monthly rather than weekly basis
Singaporean children have a huge amount of homework—15-year-old students spend an average of 9.4 hours on homework a week, behind only Shanghai and Russia, and way above the global average of 5 hours. To make matters worse, their private tutors end up heaping even more homework on them.
If they’re unable to do their homework from private tuition, they don’t benefit from the classes. But if they sacrifice sleep and all the little free time they have to do all this extra work, they have little time to do their own revision or consolidate what they’ve learnt. It’s a lose-lose situation.
One option if you have engaged a home tutor is to have your child attend sessions twice a month, rather than every week. You save money, and your child has a more reasonable workload while still getting the extra help he needs.
Combine with other kids to cut costs
There are many reasons to opt for home tutors over large classes at tuition centres, such as the flexibility to change the timing and have the tutor adapt the speed of the class to your child.
But private sessions are probably the most expensive option out there, assuming you’re not hiring an undergrad or poly student. One way to cut costs is to have your kid combine with the class with another child—a schoolmate, cousin or neighbour who’s the same age. While the tutor is likely to charge you more per session, you can get away with paying less per kid.
Another option, if you can find it, is to look for a home tutor in your area who teaches in small groups of no more than four students. Such teachers usually make housecalls or have the kids go to their place, and can offer rates that are quite competitive.
Consider online tuition
Given that the internet enables us to do just about anything remotely, it was only a matter of time that online tuition appeared on the scene.
Meanwhile, many private tutors have also started offering classes on Skype or Google Hangouts, often at competitive rates since they won’t have to make the trip to the kid’s home.
Communicate with your child about whether the tuition is helping
Don’t blindly pay for tuition without even knowing if it’s benefiting your child. Communicate with your child regularly about whether tuition is helping him so you can decide whether he actually needs so many sessions per week, and then keep only the classes that are necessary.
When you let your child attend only tuition classes that benefit him rather than trying to cram too much down his throat, he’ll be better able to benefit from the sessions he does attend, rather than struggling to stay afloat. And you, in turn, get to hand over your money only to tutors that are actually helping your child.
Are you a parent with a child who attends tuition? Tell us how much you spend on tuition in the comments!
Personal finance tips delivered to your inbox!
Receive news, subscriber-exclusive promotions and guides on how to become smarter with money.
We promise never to spam you!