For the longest time now, in the landscape of schools and students in Singapore, it is no longer news that many school students are steeped in the practice of engaging a private tutor outside of school or/& attending tuition programs beyond their school curriculum. This practice stretches from the lower levels of primary school to even the eve of the dates of the A-level exams.

There was a time when taking tuition beyond the fences of school as a norm was a mainly a domain of the moneyed class or those whose poor academic performance were so consistent as to compel concerned parents to incentivise a better performing sibling, relation or family friend to intervene. But no more are those halcyon days. The breathless kickabouts in the school fields after class regulation time of those days are now replaced by tired faces with shallow breathing that try to catch the second wind for that part of the day where for many of them, the real learning begins.

As the day turns to its dusky hours, the teenager you see riding the bus or train, dressed in his/her favourite well-worn tee-shirt and short pants ranging from his drabby berms to her daisy dukes and clutching an utility bag that suspiciously holds a case containing a chockfull of writing paraphernalia, is likely on his/her way to a tuition centre to receive his/her near-daily diet of tuition. For every teenager cultured in this activity, he/she will likely have once spent a few flurried hours or days searching for the persons who hold the key to the vaunted treasure chest of A-grades. For many, the search will reach the nirvana of fulfilment. But for not quite a few, the search will end in the tearful, proverbial “bag of worms” in the guise of a charlatan proclaiming to be champion tutor/teacher. How then can this latter destination be avoided?

For the fortunate some who knew someone who already has or had a sure-fire bomb of a tutor on retainer, short of a prayer that the tutor is still open to engagement, they are on the way! For many who sift through the media marketplace for this academic messiah, it can get really difficult to navigate through the avalanche of advertisement copies and weblogs of tuition centres and agents that promises much but guarantees very little so that the person that finally turns up can just very well be the dud who carries no more than a bottle of snake oil. How then does the open hunter of this elusive academic saviour avoid such a folly?

Take these actions and look for the signs:

  1. Ask for a trial or probationary lesson.
  2. See to it that the tutor or tuition program provides lucid, ready and easy to use notes for tests and exams revisions.
  3. See to it that the tutor or tuition program provides well researched and developmental practice tutorials that can serve as revisionary resource material in the long run.
  4. Observe that the tutor is well acquainted with the trends of math exams at the A-level exams, or better yet, also with your school’s common test and exam trends.
  5. Observe that the tutor is cognizant of your school teachers’ possible shortcomings in their professional discharge of duties. There is now a disturbing and fairly extensive trend of teachers teaching less than what is necessary and useful at math exams. (A bad case of badly misinterpreted PM’s exhortation to “teach less and learn more” or simply incompetence and indolence? It is scary to know that such teachers exist despite having been certified.)
  6. Observe that the tutor is well prepared to explain lessons to be learnt in a patient, lucid and easy to understand and apply fashion.
  7. See to it that the tutor can size up and adapt quickly to your personal foibles (most people are bound to have some) in learning math. A great mathematician is no guarantee of this. Therein lies the difference between a great mathematician and a good mathematics teacher though these are not necessarily exclusive characters.
  8. See to it that the tutor is generous enough to attend to your personal queries ie conduct Q&A (such as from your school tutorials or self-sought material) beyond what his/her tuition program provides.

Signposts to tuition hazards you should avoid:

  1. Purely Q&A tuition. Such programs are a big waste of money and a pretty sure way to mediocrity. Most school practice tutorials are insufficient to provide comprehensive coverage. If the tutor does not go the extra mile of showing what more the student needs to know, then the student will surely enter the exam hall not fully and possibly ill-prepared.
  2. Tuition programs where the tutor only teaches from your material such as your school tutorials and worksheets you have personally sought out. This is clear sign of a lazy tutor who does not bother to ensure that you will receive a comprehensive coverage of what is good and useful for you at exams. Once again, a service where due value for your money will not be attained.
  3. Tutors who do not center their teaching from self-prepared material. This will usually be an indication of inexperience wherein the student concerned is part of the tutor’s apprenticeship program. Not altogether a bad thing but the patron is likely paying for the tutor’s greater benefit than the other way around.
  4. Group tuition sessions where the only activity is pure practice and attention is only given individually when difficulty is encountered. This is like paying for a (non-)service that can be had at home for free after investing in a relatively cheap “TYS” type assessment book and queries be attended to in school by teachers during consultation hours.
  5. Tutors who seem to be on a cult personality quest, spending an inordinate amount of time during tuition sessions narcissistically waxing lyrical about their life achievements and experiences. Though not really detrimental to the student’s math welfare, it is clear that not all the fees paid will go to the benefit of the student and time spent listening to the tutor’s travails can be better spent on useful math practice.

JCMathsTuition.com.sg is managed by Sufique Math Tutorials, which seek to provide specialized JC Maths Tuition to help A Level students excel in the examination. We provide GCE A Level Mathematics Tuition for H1 Mathematics, H2 Mathematics students and IB Mathematics programme for Year 3 to Year 6 students. Contact Mr. Rafiq Tan at 97389843 for more information about the JC Maths tuition programme.