Tutors, why do this?

The New Paper on Sunday spent two weeks searching for tutors who do homework for students and found five of them through parents.

All have education backgrounds. Here's what these people who call themselves "specialised tutors" do:

What is expected of you?

When I get a call, I'll go down to the student's home. I am usually shown to a desk where stacks of homework are left on the table.

The parent or the child will tell me the order of priority in which the homework should be done.

And these subjects are...?

It can be anything from English to mathematics, science, physics and even history or geography.

It's usually homework from the school or tuition centre which the child cannot complete.

But you don't teach the children?

No, I just take over and complete everything while the child plays, watches TV or sleeps.

How is the homework done?

If the assignments require the students to complete in their own handwriting, I write the answers on pieces of paper, which the students copy later.

But I prefer homework that has to be typed out because I can charge more.

How much do you charge?

Anything from $150 an hour, up to $250 an hour for higher secondary students.

If all the work is done by me (as in typewritten), there is a 20 to 50 per cent surcharge.

What are your working hours like?

Totally flexible; I'm on call 24/7.

But I avoid making any plans after 9pm as that's usually when the frantic calls of distress come in.

I get an average of two calls a week. When it's the period of continual or semestral assignments, the calls go up to as many as 20 a week.

How do you think this will benefit the children?

It's just a job. Don't take the moral high ground with me. You pay me, I do my work.

Mum, how could you even think of that?

It's really interesting how fast this mother can change her mind.

Two weeks ago, it disturbed me when nearly half of the 80 parents outside some elite tuition centres told me they had hired or will hire tutors to do their kids' homework.

Whatever the reasons - however justified the parents thought they were - it just was not right, I felt.

If your child is a straight A or even a "high B" student, does he or she really need tuition? And this comes from a mother who (like her husband) never believed that tuition was necessary. I am also not the type who sits down and coaches my son in his schoolwork.

When I first wrote about this in The New Paper on Sunday in November last year, some parents reacted strongly. And negatively.

Among the barrage of e-mails I received was one from a mother who first accused me of "boasting that your son is intelligent", then promised that I'd "live to regret (it) because when he gets to secondary school, he'll be nothing".

In chasing this story, I was yet again taken to task.

Madam Irene Tan, who wagged her finger at me, said: "How can a mother treat her child's education so lightly?

"Just because your son is in a reasonably good school does not mean he will turn out to be a success in the future."

I was indignant, though I did not bother to clarify then.

But the thing is, my son has never had the need for tuition. He coped well in school and while he didn't top his cohort, he managed to score two distinctions and two As for his Primary School Leaving Examination.

He spends most of his free time feeding his voracious appetite for books.

He reads everything including thrillers, autobiographies, manga comics and football magazines.

When he's not reading, he's down at the neighbourhood football field trying to polish his skills in the hope of morphing into Manchester United's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

Games on his laptop are restricted to a total of two hours over the weekend, and there's no TV on weekdays.

And he is a happy child. But lately, things have changed a little - since he started Secondary 1.

Most school days, he returns home only after 5pm and deals with lots of homework. He usually manages to finish the work and hop into bed before midnight.

Until this week. And this mum's heart broke.

He had so much homework that he went to bed at nearly 1am. Five hours later, he was expected to be up and ready for the school bus to pick him up for another 10 hours in school.

I promptly updated my Facebook status, attracting several likes and comments.

Someone suggested: Help him do his homework.

Another recommended setting aside the homework for another day.

In that instant, I understood why some of these parents resorted to hiring those tutors.

The tutor would allow him to get some much-needed rest. Then, he could be fresh and ready for lessons the next day.

But when I told my son, it was his turn to be indignant. He said: "Mummy! Don't you know that's so dishonest? How can you even think of it?"

Ouch!

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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