Should You Hire A Tutor to Improve Your Child's Academic Performance?
Thu, April 22, 2021

Should You Hire A Tutor to Improve Your Child's Academic Performance?


Laura Goldblatt, a licensed teacher in the continuing education program at Marlboro College in Marlboro, Vermont, said, “One-on-one attention from a tutor can do wonders for even a typical learner," as quoted by Mali Anderson of parenting and family online source Parents.

Individual teaching can be a productive supplement to your child’s studies when they have increased academic workload and busy family schedules. Some kids benefit from having a helpful teacher at school and an active parent at home, though some need extra help for their academics. Hiring a tutor can help improve grades to build academic success, but you must assess the pros and cons of private tutoring.

Private Tutoring Versus Mainstream Schooling In Hong Kong

In their 2013 study, Shengli Zhan and colleagues of journal portal Research Gate found that 61.1% of students received tutoring in the last 12 months. Tutoring was common among Grade 12 students (71.8%) compared with 53.8% of Grade 9 students. 65.2% of students were tutored in English while nearly 58.% were tutored in Mathematics. 38.8% received tutoring in Chinese, 29.9% were tutored in Science, and 13.4% do so in Liberal Studies.

Small group was the most common type of private tutoring among 41.8% of students, followed by private one-on-one (38%), and live lecture style by tutor (37.4%). 33.5% received video recording lecture style and only 1.2% received online tutoring.

When the authors asked the students their reasons for taking or not taking tutoring, 76.3% of Grade 9 students received tutoring “to improve examination scores.” This figure rose to 92.1% among Grade 12 students, totaling to 83.9%. The percentages suggested that preparation for public examinations begin in secondary school for most students. Such preparations intensified as they progress through the system.   

65.2% of Grade 9 students and 78.6% of Grade 12 students (Total: 71.5%) received tutoring “to learn school subjects better.” 51.5% of Grade 9 students and 11.9% of Grade 12 students (Total: 32.7%) took private tutoring because “My parents chose it for me.” As for the latter, their parents suggested tutoring if they found that their children could not understand the lecture or had poor academic performance or examination results.

As for those who did not take private tutoring, 35.8% (36.7% of Grade 9 students and 33.5% of Grade 12 students) said “I don’t have time.”  27.7% (24.9% versus 34.3%) said “It is not worth the money and 27.7% (24.9% versus 34.3%) noted that “None of the available private tutoring seems to suit my needs.” When asked to compare their teachers and tutors, 34.9% described their tutors as “Teachers not only for exam.” 16% saw their tutors as more inspiring and supportive and 11% said their tutors were more knowledgeable and interactive.

Zhan and colleagues found that students complained in interviews about the lack of support from teachers in providing examination skills. Hence, they appreciated their tutors’ roles in helping them address learning difficulties and prepare for exams.

Although tutoring may have reduced the burdens on teachers, it may also have diminished the students’ respect for their own teachers, thereby widening disparities in the classroom. The authors distributed survey questionnaires and interviewed the students after they complete the survey.

The Ups and Downs of Hiring A Tutor

Tutors have the potential to identify and correct areas of learning your child might be struggling with, explained Pearl Subban of The Conversation, a not-for-profit media outlet. Tutors can also tailor learning to your child’s needs rather than the collective needs of their classmates.

Sessions can be targeted and intensive, which gives your child ample time to master content. If you want your child to perform better in school, tutoring can aid in achieving their goal. Educational psychologist Dr. Benjamin Bloom said personal tutoring can affect a student’s learning and motivation. However, tutors may also be poorly qualified. This compromises content knowledge and places your child at risk.

Your child may also start depending on their tutor, making them do less of the assigned tasks and assignments by themselves. For example, simple tasks such as brainstorming, critical thinking, and problem-solving may be done solely by the tutor rather than your child. Dependence on a tutor may impair your child’s success in their post-school years.

What Should I Know Before Hiring a Tutor?

1.     Know Your Goals

Is your child trying to pass a test or a class? Or do you want them to learn something? Passing a test or class is a performance goal while applying what your child learns is a learning goal, stated Surani Joshua of The Conversation. You can have both goals but learning should be placed higher than performance.

If your child has a learning disorder such as ADHD, dyslexia, or a visual processing problem, it’s also a wonderful idea to hire a tutor who has experience in working with children with learning disabilities. An experienced tutor is capable of presenting information that is easier for a child with a learning disability to comprehend, making school work easier and more fun.   

2.     Study the Tutor’s Actions

Does your child’s tutor say, “No, do it this way?” or do they say, “Tell me why you made that choice?” Your child should be able to explain their rationale to help the tutor gain more insight into how your little one solves problems and to catch any errors in their thinking.

A good tutor does not intervene to prevent their student from making a mistake. Rather, they allow the mistake to happen, helping the student identify and rectify it. A tutor who says, “This question is about similes, so look for the words ‘like’ or ‘as,’” is the one who does most of the thinking and is detrimental in the long run.

That’s not a good idea. Instead, your child should be asked to read a question and decide on an approach before their tutor provides feedback.

3.     Have Reasonable Expectations

Will tutoring pay off? There’s no guarantee it will. The success of private tutoring depends on a multitude of factors. For instance, your child’s performance can improve if the tutor you hired shows a masterful grasp of the subject. However, you might not readily see changes in your child’s performance.

Never expect the tutor to be your child’s “homework doer.” Tutors help “bridge the gap” by offering tailored one-on-one assistance to struggling students. But your child should also proactively master the content and skills needed to be successful. If the tutoring session resulted in a reliant and lazy student, you might need to assess whether the sessions are “equipping or enervating.”

Tutoring does help to a degree, but it does not guarantee academic success. Tutors should never be used to enable dependent or lazy behavior, which can hinder your child from developing sustainable academic habits. Sessions depend on the tutor’s skills and expertise, as well as your child’s internal drive and motivation to perform better in school.