Back in secondary school, I had friends who used to get their parents to sign them up at certain tuition centres because there were lots of pretty girls enrolled in the upper secondary classes. So I wasn’t all that surprised to discover that certain tuition centres are now setting up lounges where students can hang out and, presumably, study together.
It makes a lot of sense, really. Instead of socialising by occupying seats at McDonald’s or Starbucks all day long on the pretext of studying, students are kept off the streets.
But that really makes you wonder about the role of tuition centres in the lives of today’s kids. While most still function primarily as sweatshops where kids labour over assessment books and past year papers all day long, a few are starting to offer added value by doubling up as student lounges or offering extra services. Here are a couple of tuition centres offering more than just teaching.
SmartLab Education Centre
- This tuition centre, which has five branches, does not only conduct regular tuition classes, but also offers free learning support sessions twice a month for students who need extra help, much like consultations with professors at university.
- Students can snap a photo of their math and science questions, send them to the centre via WhatsApp and receive an instant answer. Existing students can use this service for $19.99 a month, while non-students are charged $59.99 a month. Students can also buy ad-hoc credits.
- They have something called the Results Guranteed Programme—parents pay the centrebgvv fees in a lump sum in exchange for helping the student achieve a certain grade or level of improvement, which is agreed upon beforehand. If the grades are not achieved, the parents get their money back. The lump sum ranges from $2,540 to $5,800, depending on the student’s level and whether the parents are banking on a top result or just improvement.
- Apart from regular tuition classes, this centre also runs education programmes during the holidays like JustPowerMemory, a course that presumably helps kids to become more efficient at memorising and regurgitating all that content in the exams, and JustMagicJourney, which purports to teach kids math and science through magic tricks.
- Excursions to places like Gardens by the Bay and the Science Centre are organised during the school holidays.
Real Education Centre
- Adults have their co-working spaces, while the students at Real Education Centre, which specialises in JC subjects, has Recharge Cafe, a hangout space where kids can spend time after their tuition session at no extra charge. They maintain a generous stock of junk food and sweets.
The Physics Cafe
- This tuition centre, which specialises in physics and math tuition, maintains an online portal, which they call the Digital Cafe, for students who wish to attend lessons online rather than physically. An online lesson costs less than half the price of a live lesson, and involves the students watching a video of an actual classroom lesson. Students also receive hard copies of the notes.
- The centre provides shuttle bus services to nearby MRT interchanges.
- The centre has their own cafe-library, dubbed “the cool place to mug”, where students can spend their after-tuition hours.
The Learning Lab
- Otherwise known as Singapore’s most atas tuition centre, the Learning Lab also runs holiday programmes which include literature and creative writing workshops for primary school kids, and a radio and TV presenters’ workshop conducted by a Kiss92FM DJ.
- Guess what, they run those infamous GEP preparation classes designed to get Primary 3 students into the programme. Surprised, anyone?
- The centre runs a series of events throughout the year, which include a Sec 1 leadership camp, coding camp during the June holidays and the Ivy Summit Series, a workshop conducted by Harvard undergrads which is designed to prepare students for university.
Advo Education Centre
- This tuition centre became somewhat (in)famous for their questionable “killer looks killer strategies” ads appearing at bus stops on the Bukit Timah belt. The centre also organises “Advox” events for parents to attend with children. Their recent Advox workshops were called “Young Millionaire Investors” and “Young Internet Millionaire”.
- Their Advolution workshops purport to teach kids learning strategies that enable them not only to excel academically but also learn useful life skills and, uh, “unleash their potential”.
Do the extras really matter?
Ultimately, no matter how fancy the tuition centre you send your kid to, everyone takes the same exam papers in the end.
So, do parents really care about all these fancy extras, and are they willing to pay for them? Well, something tells me the parents’ socio-economic status matters. Tuition is a huge financial burden for lower income families, and these parents see tuition mainly as a way to ensure their kids escape the poverty cycle. They would prefer not to pay a premium just so their kid gets to use some fancy lounge.
Upper middle income parents who have money to burn are better placed to pay attention to the little value-added services tuition centres offer. For instance, a dual income couple might be happy to know their kid is hanging out at the tuition centre’s cafe rather than doing drugs. It is also hard to imagine lower income parents attending a seminar on investing together with their kids.
What’s your take on tuition centres offering fancy extras? Would you send your kid to one? Tell us in the comments!
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