online tuition becomes a norm

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?

At The Learning Space, what truly sets us apart is our strong team of tutors. We’re extremely selective — we have a strong team of current and former MOE Teachers who are highly experience in their disciplines. Some of them are former teachers from top secondary and junior colleges like RGS, Nanyang Girls, Victoria School and more. We also have professional full time tutors who come from top-tier colleges & universities.

We believe that majority of our tutors are the best in their field and provide mentorship that other tutors don’t offer. You can view the qualifications & experience of available Teachers and tutors before you engage our tutors. So contact us today and let us help you or your children achieve their goals.

home based learning

Since the coronavirus pandemic struck, my household has become overwhelmingly crowded with my befuddled family members tearing their hair out, having been displaced from our school, work and our normal routines.

As part of the safe-distancing measure, MOE has made home-based learning mandatory from April 8 to May 4. Even at the end of the Circuit Breaker, students of non-graduating cohort will still alternate between HBL and school.

The sudden announcement by MOE on the implementation of Remote Learning, also known as Home-based Learning, HBL has turned our homes into virtual learning environments almost overnight. On one hand, the limitless reach of home-based learning allows students to have a more flexible schedule for their learning, but the variability of the learning environment has laid bare many issues such as the lack of interaction between students and teachers as well as the distraction students face at home, hence it does seem that classroom learning is more beneficial than home-based learning.


What are the benefits of classroom learning?

A recent study by Harvard University reaffirms the benefits of classroom learning, mainly because it produces better educational outcomes as students learn more in classrooms that employ active-learning strategies. Home based learning, compared to classroom learning primarily lacks the physical interaction and spontaneity.

Source: MOE

Communication plays a vital role in education. It allows the sharing of information, ideas and thoughts which contribute to the students learning. It also allows teachers to clarify information immediately, build positive relationships with students and make lessons more fun and engaging as compared to the perfectly lined up facts on computer screens. Not all schools have ‘live’ lessons, some schools direct students to courses or assignments uploaded at the Student Learning Space, otherwise known as SSL. For this form of home-based learning, students who need any clarification on certain subjects would have to wait for teachers to reply via emails or text which not only takes time, students may not understand when there is a lack of verbal explanation. In such scenarios, students who have access to online tuition will clearly stand advantage over their peers. Many tutors have given feedback that they been roped in by parents to facilitate their children’s learning because of the absence of ‘live’ lessons.

Mrs Helena Wong, mother of two children age 13 and 16, shares that only her elder daughter has ‘live’ lessons during this period of HBL. Her younger daughter who just entered Sec One, does not have ‘live’ lessons for all her subjects, instead her teachers gives her online assignments and communicates with her via email. Mrs Wong recognises the resource challenges that the schools may face in this unexpected times, however, she is worried that this lack of “FaceTime” will be detrimental for her youngest child (whom she describes as incredibly social and easily distracted). She points out that she has decided to engage tutors online so as to help her daughter stay on track with learning.


“With online private tuition, you get 100% of the tutor’s time. My daughter’s tutor has stepped up and guides her through the chapters, helping her with the weighted assignments whenever she needs the assistance.”

Student having online tuition

Classroom teaching allows teachers to sense if any students do not understand the subjects through “body cues” such as body language or expression. This is unable to be achieved when you have a classroom of thirty to forty altogether behind screens, teachers would not be able to observe the student’s body language individually as lessons are carried out through video recording. Even when there is communication through online meetings such as Google Meet, some students may feel shy and afraid to speak up in front of their classmates, hence this may impede the students learning and result in students not being able to truly understand concepts, eventually affecting their grades.

Some students may be kinesthetic learners, who strive on hand-on activities, which is something that home-based learning does not offer. In this digital age, where information can easily be found online, schools are no longer the gatekeeper of information. Education has become a social experience as the vibrancy of classrooms, the active learning is truly the reason why classroom teaching is the best medium for students. Students are intellectual beings that need to be engaged in an authentic learning environment and not just stare at their screen passively, spending the whole day communicating with their screens. No online learning platform can replace the vibrancy of classrooms and simulate it on a computer screen.


Some may argue that home-based learning is more beneficial than classroom learning as it offers flexibility to our learning. With online classes, most students can learn at their own pace. Classroom learning is not able to accommodate everyone’s learning pace due to the need to complete the curriculum with a fixed period of time. This results in the slow learners to face difficulty catching up with other students and may end up losing out to other students. However, with home-based learning, students are able to plan out their own schedule and study at their own convenience. Online learning can sometimes be more flexible as the materials are found online where students have the freedom to access it anytime. Lecture videos online also allow students to replay or fast forward the video as many times as they want according to their own learning pace, which gives students plenty of time to digest the information, practice and do their own research, which may hence improve their grades. For example, in Student Learning Space, students are given the freedom to complete their work posted on that platform anytime they want before the due date. It also allows students as well as teachers to monitor the students progress bar and be able to track their work. 

In this time of Covid-19 crisis (or haze may return again) and as we move towards being a Smart Nation, Home-based learning may become the ‘new normal’. Students, Parents and Teachers must learn to work together and fine tune the process of remote learning. In this VUCA world, online learning and HBL is definitely going to be a part of the future in education and it will complement to classroom learning. Although, on some levels, it cannot replicate the same level of interaction that a classroom setting provides, it can definitely complement a student’s learning, especially in our highly connected and globalised world.