Ensuring that our kids get the best quality tutors is a major concern for all parents who seek tuition for their children.
From time to time, concerns are raised as to whether the tuition industry should come under tighter regulation. Even Members of Parliament have spoken up frequently on the issue, creating active discussion whether our local education system is putting too much pressure on kids at a young age, and whether private tutors need some form of accreditation to prove their mastery of the subject and their teaching skills.
Is it feasible or even desirable for a Physics tutor-accreditation scheme to be set up in Singapore, and if so, what form can it take?
A mere examination body that administers written tests to private tutors to assess their knowledge of the subject is unlikely to receive a warm reception. There are tutors with more years or even decades of tutoring experience than most MOE teachers, and there are also tutors with postgraduate qualifications who specialize in tutoring niche subjects like music and theatre, or academic subjects at the university or even honours year level! Questions will inevitably be raised whether there can be a fair attempt to test their knowledge, or even if the people running those tests are as competent and knowledgeable as they are.
Who will staff and manage a Physics tutor accreditation body in Singapore?
Current MOE teachers might perceive their involvement as constituting a potential conflict of interest with their primary duty, which is to deliver effective teaching within our schools, rather than to ensure that quality tuition takes place outside schools. Perhaps ex MOE teachers or highly experienced private tutors might fit the bill. But no matter who helms an accreditation body, there remains the question of how such a body will gain legitimacy within the private tuition industry and whether the people helming such an agency might be tempted to create an unlevel playing field in order to favour their own tutors or tuition centres. The involvement of non-government actors in such a setup who may double up as tutors or tuition centre operators themselves might create accusations of favouritism.
Who can be a good judge of such intrinsic qualities, other than the student receiving the Physics tuition or the parent hiring the tutor?
The best accreditor is perhaps the student. Only he or she will truly know if a tutor is competent in teaching and well-versed in the subject. Beyond knowledge, there is also the issue of finesse and character. A good tutor is expected not just to bring knowledge to the table, but also dedication, patience, and good teaching skills.
The existence of any multi-billion dollar industry will always spark talks of regulation, and the tuition industry in Singapore is no exception. There will always be concerned voices raising the issue of tuition fees or tutor competency. But any attempt to curtail private tutoring activities will invariably be met with resistance from parents who want the best learning outcomes for their children and from students who genuinely believe that a private tutor is need to plug gaps in his or her knowledge and deliver a more personalized learning experience than what the school environment can offer. Parents and students should be the ones deciding where our local tuition industry is headed and how it will evolve over time.