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【The Standard】A positive twenty-first century phenomenon?

School Guide


When I was teaching I had two massive objections to the idea of students being tutored. First of all, there was nothing worse than trying to teach a child something, only for them to say, ‘But Sir – my tutor told me to do it this way.’  The possibility of confused learning for the child was huge.  Secondly, I also recoiled against the idea of children being so heavily tutored that their work or examination performance would be significantly skewed.  I must confess that these concerns still abide but, through my work in Hong Kong, I have become a convert to the idea of children being tutored.


It cannot be ignored that the twenty-first century world and the workplace are significantly more competitive than in days gone by; more people are chasing each white-collared job and the expected level of educational qualifications grows by the decade.  Although schools often remain seemingly untouched by the world beyond the blackboard – and they are often stubbornly old-fashioned – even they have been dragged into the competition game.  Entry to top schools is now so much more competitive than it used to be, with pre-tests and tougher entrance exams – so much so that I often muse that I don’t think I would actually get into school to-day!  Therefore, it stands to reason that all of us – but particularly children – need as much help as possible to ensure that they are able to achieve success.


I still maintain that a careful balance needs to be struck: yes – your child may need extra help if they are struggling with a particular subject or area of learning, or they are preparing for school entrance or public exams.  However, there is a huge danger in over-tutoring your child for nothing could be worse than them getting into a top school but then struggling to keep their head above the academic water for another five years.  Also, and just as importantly, if your child is spending too much time with a tutor, he or she is then neglecting the other facets of life (being active, nurturing hobbies and interests, and having fun) that are also central parts of the development of a young man or woman.  Academic success is one thing, but boring individuals don’t always go very far in life.


Choosing the right tutor is vital: make sure that he/she has the right qualifications and experience to be able to add significant value to your child’s learning.  If, for example, your son or daughter is aiming to go to school or university in the UK, it makes sense for them to be tutored by someone British, or someone with real and recent experience of the UK education system.  Your child can be tutored individually or in a small group – but make sure the class is small, or your money might be wasted.  Finally, just as with school-based learning, it is vital that you receive regular feedback on your child’s progress.  There are some excellent tutors in Hong Kong.


Rightly or wrongly, tutoring is very much part of the world of modern education, so even this teaching dinosaur has embraced it!


Niall Browne is the Director of Schools Consultancy at Ascent Prep, Causeway Bay