How does the tutoring industry in Singapore compare to the UK?
Akin to the private tutoring boom in South Korea, over the last 5 years, Singapore has experienced a huge surge in private tutoring. According to the country’s Department of Statistics’ 2012 Household Expenditure Survey, families are now spending $1.1 billion a year on tuition, which is almost double the $650 million spent a decade ago and a third more than the $820 million spent only five years ago.
Comparatively, the UK tutoring industry is reported to be worth £6 billion or approximately $9 billion but when we consider that Singapore is roughly 11.5 times smaller than the UK, we begin to see just how popular private tutoring has become.
A Growing Industry
According to reports in many Singaporean publications, private tuition in the country is no longer reserved for students who are struggling with their studies. Parents are as keen as ever to keep their children at the top of the class and many tutors teach topics ahead of the school curriculum, so that students have a competitive edge. Even students in Singapore’s Gifted Education Programme have tuition.
The number of tuition programmes that have emerged in Singapore provide a good indication of the popularity of tutoring throughout the country. These programmes cater to students of varying abilities and for all manner of purposes including entry to Singapore’s Gifted Education Programme and interviews for the Direct School Admission Scheme, which accepts students based on their talent in sports and the arts, not just their academic performance.
The Rise of Tuition Agencies in Singapore
In 2014, there were 850 tuition and enrichment centres registered with the Education Ministry, which was an increase from the 800 registered in 2013 and the 700 in 2012.
Some of the big players in the industry include Scholars Academy and Tuition Singapore, both of which are independent agencies at the forefront of tutoring in Singapore. And then there are ‘online’ directory agencies like Champion Tutor, who have almost three thousand tutors registered on their site.
In some cases, independent tuition centres have grown into larger franchises. Mind Stretcher Learning Centre, for example, which was established in 2002, now has 22 branches all over Singapore. Having achieved this within the space of just 12 years, they now have at least 10,000 students registered with them.
The Singapore Inland Revenue Authority
As was the case in the UK a few years ago, given the growth of the tuition industry in Singapore and the variety of businesses that have sprung up due to demand, the Inland Revenue has started carrying out audits on tuition centres and individual private tutors. In terms of tax declaration, the IR has found under-declaration to be a ‘common problem’.
As in the UK, technology has had a significant impact on private tutoring in Singapore with several online tutoring services now available. But it isn’t only start-up businesses that are leading the online revolution. In 2013, Singapore’s premier telecoms provider StarHub announced its interest in education by forming a partnership with a popular book store and introduced a new online learning service called AssessMe.
The mobile-friendly service is aimed at primary school children and their parents, giving access to thousands of digital worksheets for the core subjects. Although (like most online tutoring platforms) the online service is still in its infancy, early indications suggest that this education model could be the future of tutoring in Singapore.
According to Asian publication, The Diplomat, Policymakers in Singapore are still debating the social impact of private tuition. With more than 90% of primary students enrolled in after-school tuition centers, the phenomenon is said to have created somewhat of a ‘kiasu culture’, meaning ‘fear of losing.’ Some believe that private tutoring adds to the stress placed on young people in the country. With reports of tutors falsifying qualifications and making false promises, MPs are now demanding for tighter regulations to be enforced in the industry.
There’s also a fear among parents that Singapore’s best teachers may be leaving classroom teaching to pursue a career in private tutoring. As the private tuition industry in Singapore continues to grow, will the country see a more privatised approach to education in the future?
Thanks to Scholar’s Academy for their input in this post.
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