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Why Tuition is a Billion Dollar Business in Singapore

According to a news report in Singapore, households here spent about S$1.4billion on tuition between October 2017 to September 2018 (Todayonline, 12 Sep 2019). Considering this is a country with a small population of around 5.7 million people, private tuition seems a relatively large expense for families with children. So why do parents spend so much on private tuition when Singapore government has invested so heavily in providing a first class education system? The main reason lies with national exams being pitched at really high standards at all levels. This, coupled with intense competition for a place in that few ‘elite’ schools and limited places in popular courses in local universities, students have to excel in national exams.

The question is – do all students need tuition? The answer is NO!

As an ‘A’ level economics tutor who has taught in Singapore public as well as private institutions in the past 20 years, I’ve come across many students who are exceptionally bright and motivated and yet go for economics tuition. Very often, the reason for tuition is simply because of peer pressure. These students are very good in their studies, but their classmates are even better! Hence, despite me assuring them they would ace the exam without tuition, they insisted tuition is a necessity in Singapore’s highly competitive education system.

In my opinion, tuition in economics is only necessary if students face one or more of the following challenges:

  1. Despite hanging on to every word your teacher says in class, you’re still confused. After 2 months of lectures/tutorials, you still can’t tell the difference between demand and quantity demanded, for example.
  2. Your content mastery is good but simply can’t do well in tests/exams. A high proportion of JC economics students seem to fall into this category. The main reason being – lack of practice and feedback on their work. Firstly, students’ analyses may lack economic rigour because they are not sure what economic framework to apply. Secondly, even if they practise schools’ tutorial questions diligently, there isn’t anyone to mark and review their answers with them. To be fair, we can’t put the blame on teachers in school for not helping, simply because they have a large number of students and marking economics essays/CSQs are extremely time-consuming. This is when tuition helps – the tutor is able to provide one-to-one review of written work. Furthermore, with regular practices, students pick up speed in writing and they can expect very marked improvements in their grades within a term.
  3. You miss lectures/tutorials very often due to CCAs. I have had tutees who are national athletes and they missed school really often because of intensive training and competitions. Private tuition gives more flexibility in terms of timing of lessons and it helps these students catch up with school work. All scored distinction in economics at the GCE ‘A’ level exams and I’m so proud of them!

If you find yourself facing at least one of the challenges above, you might want to consider economics tuition!

I will discuss the attributes of a good economics tutor in my next post.


Dilys Lim
Founder and Principal Tutor of Excel Economics (​www.exceleconomics.com​)
Email: admin@exceleconomics.com