4 Reasons Singaporeans Might be Wasting Money on Tuition For Their Kids

tuition singapore

Joanne Poh



You know you’re in Singapore when the newspapers publish a special report on private tuition. The Straits Times’ recent report on tuition contained some very disturbing figures. 7 out of 10 parents had kids enrolled in extra classes. But only one third of these parents could say that tuition produced a noticeable improvement of their kids’ grades.

The rest just made their kids sit in tuition classes because they were kiasu and afraid to lose out. If you’re one of the majority of parents who really have no idea whether tuition is helping or not, here are four reasons you might actually be throwing your money down the drain.


The kid is not learning anything new

Kids already spend the bulk of their day at school. During that time they are, presumably, already being taught the material they will need to pass their exams. A lot of the time, they just need to go home and digest that information on their own or do some revision. Forcing them to spend the rest of their day listening a tutor drone on and on belabours the point.

If your child is motivated, he should be able to handle his own learning. If your child is not, no amount of tuition will help, because he can just as easily daydream through a tuition session as he can his classes at school. I’ve tutored kids before and can vouch for the fact that a lazy, unmotivated child is usually a waste of his parents’ money, unless you’re actually hiring a tutor to discipline him.


The kid is lazy and unmotivated

So, we’ve already established that lazy kids just sleepwalk through tuition sessions. Private tutors are not hired to discipline your kids (that’s your job), and if a child refuses to use his/her brain during tuition, the lesson still goes on.

In fact, too much tuition might be the cause of your child’s lack of motivation. Think about it—if you had to spend every monent of your free time in mind-numbingly boring tuition classes, would you be motivated to learn? Would you meet each day with zeal and enthusiasm? Pfft.


The tutor is incompetent

It’s not always the case, but there are always instances of tutors who aren’t quite up to standard. I once taught English to a primary school kid and was appalled when I saw an assessment book that had been marked by her previous tutor, who apparently even with the answer key was unable to mark basic multiple choice questions accurately.

Most tuition agents don’t really bother vetting their tutors. Many simply send out a mass SMS the moment a parent calls them with a tuition assignment, and whichever Tom, Dick and Harry replies first gets the job.


The kid is too tired

No matter how brilliant your kids are, if they can’t get out of bed each morning and yawn their way through the day, they’re definitely better off spending less time at their desk and more time resting. It’s unrealistic to expect children to be able to work all day without having any fun, so unless you want your kids to grow up to be soulless robots, cut them some slack and don’t overload them with tuition.

It’s quite sad to see primary school aged children looking so darned haggard and exhausted as they’re shuttled from school to tuition to piano to ballet to tuition. Have a heart and give the children a break, then maybe they’ll be able to actually take some interest in what they’re learning at school.

Do you spend money on tuition for your kids? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

  • Wendy Heng

    You are only look at thing in ignorance way!
    If my daughter without her tutor, she failed Chinese, English and Mathematics.
    With some helps from her tutors, she scored 44/50(Maths), 29/50(English) and 31/50(Chinese) in the mid-year exam. How can you just ignore the effort that we put in??

    You were very talented, as I can feel from your phrase but not a fair sentence.
    I save money to spend on tuition for her, at least she feels her learning in proper way and mind set to be higher level result. I understood that the benefit is for her, that is the fact..

    Our transport fee is high, why you take bus, take MRT, even more expensive, you take taxi……more…….if you drive…..then you are wasting all your wealth….

    Still a lot people drive…. compare the money for education and driving….which one is wasting? Please advise.

    • I’m glad to hear that your child improved with the your efforts! =)

      I would like to share with you what my friend told me recently, when I asked him why is he so willing to spend money on his kids’ education. What he told me struck me. He said that there may be no guarantee that tuition (or other extra lessons) that he gave his children may be useful. But he’s still willing to invest on these lessons, as he’s afraid that one day he may regret not giving his children of an opportunity to improve themselves, on something he could afford, just to save more.

      Most of all have a fixed amount of resources (or money). And as rationale people, we prioritize where we spend them, according to what we believe in. And as parents, a natural instinct is to prioritize our kids above many other material wants.

  • Samson Tango

    The problems described are real however the conclusions might be flawed. The real questions to ask of the need of tuition would be :
    1. Why do so many kids need tuition?
    The MOE has supposedly huge budgets and invested much in our teachers. What’s the outcome? Every kid spends at least 5 to 6 hours in school each day and not enough? Not to mention 3 hours of homework. Years of beefing up the syllabus have mean these are not enough?
    2. Why do their parents think they need tuition or tuition is the only way?
    Apparently, the pressures are passed on to the parents. Parents must now be very actively micro-managing the child’s studies. But frequent syllabus change has meant that parents themselves are unable to fully comprehend the current syllabus therefore will need a tutor.
    But even as parents, we must ask must we come to this extent of micro-management. Why is 6 hours in school not enough? Is that school educating process effective? Or the years of beefing up the syllabus prematurely are disengaging the learning kid? By forcing more tuition more homework and hence more school hours, are we killing the fun in learning and therefore that prime motivating factor for the child.