It is 8pm and fourteen-year-old Li Wen from Pudong, Shanghai is sitting in his study room, looking attentively at his screen with his headset microphone in place and furiously typing away on his laptop. His parents are in the living room, watching television but with the volume turned down so that they won’t disturb him. Li Wen is having his English tuition with a Singaporean tutor online as he wants to familiarise himself with the local AEIS examinations syllabus in Singapore. He had originally wanted to come to Singapore this year but postponed the trip because of the Covid-19 pandemic. To get a head start, he signed up for online tuition so that he can ready himself before his AEIS Exams.
“Singapore Math is easy. It is English that I need help. Writing is not that easy. My vocabulary not very good.” Li Wen says in halting English with a heavy Shanghainese accent.
Online tuition is relatively common in China. Chinese students are engaging internationally based tutors to help them with their schoolwork, mostly languages or to prepare for exams like SAT.
In Singapore, online tuition is still at a nascent stage. On 27 March, the Government announced that centre-based tuition will be suspended as part of many measures to curb the Covid-19 outbreak. This has resulted in many tutors and tuition providers going online, conducting e-lessons for their students using Zoom, Google classrooms, Skypes.
Although most parents are new to the concept of online tuition, many are ready to embrace the idea due to the uncertainty of the future. Safety and protection is on the top of parent’s mind and given the fact that there is currently no vaccine ready for Covid-19 virus. The thought of sending their children to mingle with other kids in a mall environment or inviting a stranger to your house is the main reason why some parents are starting to embrace online tuition.
What are the key benefits of online tuition?
Ms Kristie Lim, founder and principal of Mind Stretcher Education, shares the merits of online tuition. “Some of the feedback we have received is that quieter students are now more vocal and ask more questions, and the students are actually less distracted because they’re not next to their friends physically,” said Ms Lim.
Indeed, recent surveys have found that online tuition can indeed be very effective for older students (Secondary to Junior Colleges). Other than being less distracted by their peers, students who have one-on-one online tuition share the fact that the tutors can actually see the screen of their students while coaching, reduces the likelihood of students being distracted by other elements.
Although they can work from their own home, many tutors and teachers expressed that online classes actually means more work and planning much ahead as many of the teaching materials have to be prepared ahead of time and digitalised, tutors may even have to use online quizzes and other interactive apps to make learning more interactive.
Online tuition is gaining popularity with students, particularly those who are taking their national examinations this year. Marcus Koh from NCHS, who is taking his O’levels this year, shares that “I choose to start online tuition because I really cannot afford to wait anymore. I don’t know when this pandemic will end. I cannot take the risk of having being infected so I don’t really want to go for group classes or have a tutor visit. It is my O’levels this year and I am not confident about certain subjects, especially English. I cannot afford to get any grade below B3. I really need the help now.”
Wong Meiling, a second year Junior College student who is taking her A Levels this year concurs, “ Online tuition is a breeze. I am able to really focus and the fact that I am able to have one-to-one consultation with my tutors online is extremely useful to me. I like the fact that I get to share screens with my tutor and because everything is digital, I can review my mistakes, go through the recorded lessons for revisions. Another thing that I find much better than physical lessons is the fact that now all my notes are made online. Revision is now so much more convenient. All my chemistry notes are in my google docs. I can read it anywhere and anytime.”
On the flip side, not everyone can and should embrace online tuition. Younger children will not be able to sit in front of a screen for two hours at one shot, and it will not be recommended for them to have too much screen time, considering they are already having HBL learning from school.
Will online tuition become a norm in the future? Given the fact that there is no vaccine and PM Lee has highlighted concerns of ‘hidden reservoir’ of Covid-19 cases, parents are going to err on the side of caution. Globally, there are close to eight million Coronavirus cases and half a million people have died from this pandemic. Many have asked How long before a coronavirus vaccine is ready? Will we have a vaccine by January 2021? Vaccines typically take years — sometimes even decades — to develop, approve, manufacture and distribute globally. The novel coronavirus appears to be two to three times more contagious than the flu. Not many parents are willing to take the risk of having their children be exposed to so much social-mingling but at the same time, they remain worried about their children’s academics progress. Some parents have lamented about the inadequacies of HBL, the lack of “live lessons” and consultations with Teachers, the cancellation of mid-year examinations … all these factors are pushing them to sign up for online tuition.
What is online tuition and should my children try it?