In meritocratic Singapore, education is our ticket up. That’s why we’re willing to do just about anything to make sure our kids get into the best schools and score As all the way. Little wonder 4 out of 5 parents send their kids to tuition in Singapore, and Singaporeans reportedly spent over $1 billion on tuition in 2013 (you can bet that number’s higher now).
If you’re considering tuition for your kid, read this through before you carry on. We’re here to tell you what kind of help there is out there, how to know who’s reliable, and how much getting ahead academically will set you back financially.
- Why go for tuition in Singapore? And what are the options?
- Tuition centre vs private tutor – which should you choose?
- How to pick the right tuition centre for your kid
- Top 3 tuition centres in Singapore for schoolgoing kids
- Top 3 Chinese tuition centres in Singapore
- Top 3 maths & science tuition centres in Singapore
- Top 5 private tutors in Singapore for all subjects
- Top 3 learning centres for preschool kids
- Getting a study coach in Singapore
Why go for tuition in Singapore? And what are the options?
Why pay for tuition if our kids are already being taught by trained teachers in school? Aren’t teachers good enough?
There are 2 main reasons for you to send your kid to tuition. The first is when he’s not doing well in school. The point of tuition is to help him to catch up with his peers – maybe he needs a little more help in certain subjects or individualised attention.
The second reason is that you want him to be ahead of the pack. Yes, this is a Tiger Mom thing and it’s surprisingly common. Singaporean parents have been known to give their primary school children Physics and A Maths tuition.
Knowing what exactly you want to address will help you know where to go for help. Different types of services will address different needs. In Singapore, these are some of the common forms of external help that kids can get.
Tuition centres: These are private education institutions that work alongside schools to help your child academically from pre-school to junior college. They have classes, much like schools, but usually with a lower teacher-to-child ratio, and set times for lessons.
Private tutors: These are individuals who teach either one person or a small group. Unlike tuition centres, they will come to your home and work around your schedule. If you cannot don’t know of one, engage a tuition agency to match you to one that suits your child’s needs.
Enrichment classes: These focus on equipping your child with non-academic skills such as music, dance, speech and drama, art, robotics, cooking and any number of sports.
Study camps: These school holiday programmes are usually topical, immersing your child in anything from language to science, maths, entrepreneurship, robotics and coding. Often, they emphasise both the fun and hands-on factor.
Study coach: This is a person who teaches your child how to study rather than the content of the studies itself. Not so common here.
Tuition centre vs private tutor – which should you choose?
For most parents in Singapore, the first question is not whether your child needs tuition, but whether you should send her to a tuition centre or spring for a private tutor. Sad but true.
Private tutors run the gamut from students hoping to make a quick buck, to former teachers with an amazing track record, to even Chinese nationals who realised how badly Singaporean kids need help in Chinese.
You might think that the former teachers are the best tutors, but this writer has hired the range and will tell you it’s not always true.
In fact, one university undergrad turned out to be a very reliable and relatable maths tutor who turned an “E” student into an “A” one. (In case you’re curious, he’s no longer tutoring.) Another who has never taught in school actually managed to spark some interest in Mandarin – a feat that no NIE-trained teacher has been able to do!
Private tutors are generally more expensive than tuition centres because they can’t bank on economies of scale the way tuition centres can. Expect to pay about $30 to $60/hour (or $120 to $240/month) for a typical tutor. If it’s an ex-teacher, the pay scale goes up to $40 to $100/hour (or $160 to $400/month).
|Factor||Tuition centre||Private tutor|
|Cost||Cheaper due to economies of scale||Generally more expensive|
|Flexibility||Classes have set time slots. Need to arrange transport for your child||Able to work around your schedule. Saves time as tutor comes to your house|
|Attention & pace||Amount of attention depends on teacher-to-student ratio||Personalised attention. Tutor can customise pace and content to your child’s needs|
|Environment||Foreign environment, can be competitive||Comfortable since it’s at home, less pressure and competition|
|Educational needs||Mass market – mostly for primary and secondary students||Able to meet more specialised e.g. JC level humanities|
How to pick the right tuition centre for your kid
As long as a tuition centre has 10 or more students, it must be registered with the Ministry of Education (MOE) which will check the academic qualifications of the tutors. There are some 850 MOE-registered tuition centres. Add to that those who aren’t registered, and what this means is you’re spoilt for choice.
The market is so saturated that some tuition centres boast a unique pedagogy that have given them stellar results with their students. But there is no sure-fire formula for success.
So, how do you choose? Here are some guidelines:
Make sure it’s MOE-registered
In 2014, owner of a tuition centre, Kelvin Ong, made the news for all the wrong reasons – he had faked his credentials and gotten away with it for a while.
You won’t have the same problem with MOE-registered centres because they have tutors MOE has checked out and considers qualified. Plus, you know their business can’t be that bad since they must have at least 10 students.
Check their track record
Do your research, read up and ask others. Has the centre been around for long? Does it hire only NIE-trained teachers? Do their teachers have degrees in the subjects they’re teaching? Do they regularly produce good results?
Be mindful of those who tell you their tutors used to teach in elite, brand-name schools. Those might not be the ones you want to help your failing (or flailing) child, because they are more accustomed to highly motivated high achievers who only need a nudge here and there.
Similarly, it is less important that a tuition centre tells you it has produced A students, than that it has managed to help a student improve his grades. Having lots of A students may simply mean they have attracted already good students who only want help to stay ahead of the game.
Examine your child’s needs
A tuition centre has set schedules and are often quite strict about letting you make up for classes you’ve missed. You also have to travel to them. And, they teach the students in groups.
If your child has a predictable schedule, thrives on interacting and learning with others, and you have the time to chauffeur him around (or he can travel on his own), tuition centres will work for him.
Find one in a convenient location
This is sort of a secondary concern as you’d be more interested in finding one that can help your child more.
But do bear in mind you’re going to have to travel to the centre, sometimes more than once a week. It’s wise to pick one near your home or near your child’s school to make the commute easier.
Top 3 tuition centres in Singapore for schoolgoing kids
If you want to try sending your child to a tuition centre but don’t know where to start, we picked 3 of the best-known tuition centre chains which are reputable and not too expensive.
The Learning Lab
The Learning Lab is a chain of tuition and enrichment centres has been around for over 16 years and few parents would not have heard of it. They help pre-schoolers to junior college kids, including those in the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) and Integrated Programmes (IP).
Their teaching model is based on 3 elements: knowledge or content, skills to tackle both the topic and exams, and the disposition of the learner so that your child will develop an interest in what he’s learning.
Cost: $80 (registration fee)
$120 (deposit per subject)
$360/month (pre-school, depending on subject)
$400 to $420/month (primary, depending on subject)
$460/month (secondary, depending on subject but Chinese is not available)
$480/month (JC, for GP and H2 maths)
Contact: 6733 8711
Mavis Tutorial Centre
Whether your child is in primary school preparing for PSLE, working towards his O-levels or A-levels, Mavis Tutorial Centre is a chain that might be able to help. It has 12 branches and doesn’t charge fees that will make you fall off your chair.
Cost: $21.40 (registration)
$165.85 (nursery to phonics)
$128.40 (kindergarten to P1 prep)
$117.70 – 162.65/month (primary)
$165.85 – $219.35/month (secondary)
$301.75 – $326.35/month (JC)
Contact: 6282 4011
True Learning Centre
True Learning Centre employs only NIE-trained teachers and they have their own curriculum written by their teachers, many of whom were once senior teachers, heads of department and award-winners. Their speciality is math and science, including at IP and IB math and A-level maths. The only issue is they only begin from Primary 3.
$30 – registration
$150 – $180/4 lessons (primary)
$200 – $260/4 lessons (secondary)
$350/4 lessons (JC, H2 maths)
Location: Jurong, Kovan and Novena
Contact: call individual centres or email [email protected]
Top 3 Chinese tuition centres in Singapore
Chinese is probably the bugbear of most kids (and their parents). You’ll know from very early on if your kid is going to be stellar at the subject or struggle with it. If it’s the latter, there’s no shame in getting help and getting it sooner than later.
Han Language Centre
Han Language Centre is probably Singapore’s largest and most well-known chain of Chinese tuition centres. Around for 25 years, it has programmes to help pre-schoolers to adults with Chinese.
Your kid can get tutored in the language in general or you can pick areas of weakness – oral, listening comprehension, composition – and get him specific help.
The only problem is that their tuition stops at secondary school level. Presumably, if your child is still weak in Chinese by JC, they haven’t done their job well enough and you have to go elsewhere.
Cost: $50 (registration fee)
$105 – $150 (material fee)
$369 – $600/term (primary)
$624 – $670/term (secondary)
*prices may vary with different centres
Contact: call individual centres
Another language centre with 25 years of experience, Berries World has a proprietary syllabus that’s MOE-approved. They cater to pre-schoolers and primary schoolers. Hopefully by then, your kid will be proficient enough to go solo.
They offer a special feature called Home-Based Learning (HBL), which are online tutorials to make up for classes that fall on public holidays.
Cost: $35 (registration)
Up to $78.80 (material fee)
$35 – $55/session (each term of 4 months has 15 – 16 sessions)
$1,645 – $2,585/year
Contact: 6338 2916 /6338 9214
Tien Hsia Language School
Tien Hsia Language School is nearly 30 years old, and over 25,000 students have passed through their doors. They start with nursery-aged kids and go all the way to secondary school. Spoken, written and academic Chinese, this school takes care of them all.
Cost: $360 – $380/10 sessions (preschool)
$380 to $415 /10 sessions (primary)
$430 to $495 /10 sessions (secondary)
*weekday and weekend prices differ
Contact: 6238 8558
Top 3 maths & science tuition centres in Singapore
If your kid struggles in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects – which are so important for surviving today’s world – there are some tuition centres that specialise in these topics.
Unlike language-based subjects, these topics are arguably more difficult to teach and you’ll find they are often quite pricey.
Science Studio Learning Lab
For younger kids, Science Studio Learning Lab is a tuition centre that emphasises hands-on activities. Each lesson revolves around experiments to bring science to life. Students can access the online portal for videos and interactive quizzes. The only down side is that it caters solely to primary school kids.
Cost: $30 (registration fee)
$70 – $85/session (44 sessions per year)
Location: Bukit Timah Plaza, 1 Jalan Anak Bukit #02-24E Singapore 588996
Contact: 6737 2720
SmartLab Education Centre
Almost 20 years old, SmartLab Education Centre is a chain that keeps their class sizes small – between 8 and 10 – so their teachers can personalise their lessons and interact with their students.
Its specialty is in maths and sciences for PSLE, O-levels and A-levels, with programmes developed by two first class honours graduates from Cambridge University.
You might also be impressed by their full-scale MOE Science Lab and the fact that they’ll give you a full refund of the lump sum you pay if your child doesn’t achieve the agreed grade or improvement at the end of the year.
$3,500 – $5,800/year (P6 to JC2 per subject, for top results)
$2,540 – $4,400/year (P6 to JC 2 per subject, for improved results)
Contact: contact individual centres
The Physics Cafe
The Physics Café specialises in IP, secondary and JC physics and maths. It made the news for its out-of-the-box methods and stylish offerings – its own lecture theatre, in-house cafe with free munchies (living up to its name), study rooms, digital library, scholarship programmes and shuttle bus.
To make sure the teachers are up to scratch, they have to go through a year of conducting mock classes before they’re allowed to take real students.
Cost: $100 (registration, per level, per subject)
$344 – $882/month (sec 1 – JC 2)
Location: Beauty World, Novena, Paya Lebar
Top 5 private tutors in Singapore for all subjects
With private tutors, it can be very difficult to find a good one. Not all private tutors advertise. Some are so good they don’t have to, getting their clients purely by word-of-mouth recommendations.
Still, whoever you end up contacting, don’t be afraid to ask for his credentials and track record. If they’re good, he won’t be afraid to shout about them. If he’s evasive, run away.
Also, while the tuition centre lives by its philosophy and pedagogy, a private tutor survives by his personality. Find one who’ll suit your child. This writer made the mistake of hiring a too-fierce tutor for an already too-meek child – it was a disaster.
Here are some highly raved-about private tutors in Singapore:
Anthony Fok (economics)
Economics tutor Anthony Fok is what the media calls a super tutor – a tutor who rakes in over $1 million in annual income because he is that good and that sought-after. We don’t know how he does it but this former teacher has 3 centres and teaches every class personally.
Cost: $120 (material fees a year)
$420 / 4 lessons
Location: Bukit Timah, Tampines, Kovan
Contact: contact centres individually
Phang Yu Hon (physics)
Phang Yu Hon is another a super tutor, this time specialising in physics. The former research engineer with the Ministry of Defence has been a tutor for more than a decade.
The problem with super tutors is that, because of their reputation for being excellent at teaching and delivering results, their classes tend to be far larger than those of the average private tutor. In essence, they function like a one-man tuition centre.
Cost: $420 – $540/month
Location: Block 283, Bishan Street 22, #01-179, Singapore 570283
Contact: 6275 6800
Ann Tutor (English, maths, science)
Ann Tutor’s strong suit is her ability to customise her lessons to the child, adjusting her style and material to the individual. With 15 years of experience, she can take your child from primary to secondary school in English, maths and science.
Cost: $720/4 lessons
Contact: 9788 1221 or [email protected]
Tutor Chen (maths, physics)
NIE-trained teacher tutorchen offers small-group tuition classes in maths and physics, for upper primary to JC.
$400/ 4 lessons (Primary)
$480 / 4 lessons (Secondary)
$560 / 4 lessons (JC)
Location: 175A Bencoolen Street #06-05, Burlington Square Office Tower, Singapore 189650
Contact: 6884 6566 / 8457 7888 / 884 6366 / [email protected]
Ho Khoon Kiang (Chinese)
You won’t find this Chinese tutor on the Internet. He’s one of those gems whose contact is passed on in whispers from mum to mum. He’s patient, dedicated, and good-humoured – everything you need to teach Chinese to kids who don’t love the subject. He even gives out booklets of sample Chinese essays by his students for reference.
Cost: $300 – $450/month (primary to JC)
Contact: 9385 2949
Top 3 learning centres for preschool kids
Pre-schoolers may be a little young for tuition. But if you feel yours needs extra help with reading, maths or developing a general love for learning, there are tuition and enrichment centres that specialise in early childhood education.
Sending your tiny tots to these places where they can interact with their peers and learn in a fun environment might inspire them.
Kumon is a Japanese method of learning developed over 50 years ago and is now used worldwide.
It focuses on individualised instructions tailored to each student, self-learning and small-step worksheets to reinforce concepts and skills. This student-centred pedagogy allows children to learn at their own pace and become independent and disciplined students.
Cost: $40 (registration)
$140/month (per subject, 8 x 35 min sessions)
Location: several islandwide
Contact: 6232 5855
Another Japanese pedagogy, Kuno method is an early childhood programme (nursery and kindergarten only) that has successfully transitioned kids from preschool to primary school for over 30 years.
Their experiential learning-cum-enquiry-based approach, with gamification thrown in, is aimed at not only developing logical and analytical thinkers but also socially and emotionally well-rounded kids. Students learn through a concept-based curriculum that emphasises numeracy, literacy and fundamental concepts.
Cost: $450 – $465/2 months (nursery, 7 x 75 min sessions)
$475 – $490/2 months (kindergarten, 7 x 75 min sessions)
Location: Northpoint City, 1 North Point Drive, #02-183, 768019
Contact: 6560 8588
I Can Read
If your child can’t read or has trouble reading by the time he goes to Primary school, he’ll have a harder time catching up because language is integral to all subjects.
Enrichment centre I Can Read specialises in early reading and has taught over 200,000 children to read in the last 16 years using phonemic awareness, phonics and blending sounds. They take kids from under three to 12.
Cost: $385/11 lessons (I Can Read Discover)
$511.50 – $588.50/11 lessons (I Can Read & I Can Read Plus)
$30 off your next term fees if you recommend someone
Contact: 6591 8743 / 6484 1271
Getting a study coach in Singapore
If your kid isn’t struggling with any particular topic, but just needs motivation and structure, then there is another option – a study coach.
Study coach Daniel Wong works one-on-one with your kid (usually age 10 to 18) to motivate him, help him organise his work, and optimise his performance. He has some impressive credentials – straight A student, scholar, author, trained counsellor and coach.
Oh, and you’ll appreciate his money-back guarantee. He’ll give you a full refund if you decide coaching is not for your child after the first session (Daniel recommends just 8 sessions, though you can schedule more if you feel you need them).
Cost: $5,999/8 sessions
Contact: Click here to schedule an appointment with Daniel
How much would you pay for tuition? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.
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