Kids sleep, private tutors do their homework

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Some parents are paying up to $250 an hour for a tutor to come over to their homes.

It is not for tuition lessons.

Instead, it is for the tutors to do their children's homework.

For these parents, it is something that cannot be helped, they say.

Their children are inundated with so much tuition, co-curricular activities and school assignments that they are struggling to cope.

Some tutors are even hired to complete primary school-level homework set by elite tuition centres.

Think of these tutors as homework elves. While the children sleep, these teachers do the assignments that need to be handed up the next day.

The rates are usually $200 an hour, if the tutor travels to the child's home before midnight, and $250 if it is later.

A mother of a Secondary 3 student, who wants to be known only as Lilly, says she gets the tutors to come over whenever she realises her son is struggling with his homework.

"Most of the time, the tutor will come by and my son will briefly tell him what is required," says the mother of two. "While the tutor finishes the work, my son will do his other homework, or go to sleep if he is too tired."

Apart from just a problem of time, some parents feel that some of the assignments are superfluous.

They want to free up their child's schedule to focus on more important areas than have them bogged down by unnecessary projects and homework.

Madam Wendy Zeng, 40, a housewife, feels some assignments her 15-year-old daughter has to do "serve no purpose".

When quizzed, she names project-based work that have no direct relevance to the subjects her daughter is studying, for instance, a project on volunteerism where the students had to dissect the pros and cons of being a volunteer.

"But they still have to hand in their homework. I prefer to get her to focus on what is more important. It is not like her grades have dropped or anything."

Madam Zeng spends about $800 a month on such services by tutors.

It is a lot to fork out but it seems the high fees do not deter parents.

In 2012, The New Paper on Sunday polled 80 parents outside some elite tuition centres in Singapore, and found that close to half had hired or would hire tutors to complete their children's homework.

Their job is to finish up assignments handed out by tuition centres their children attend.

Mrs Pauline Soh, 43, a civil servant, hired a tutor to do the assignments given by the elite tuition centres that her 14-year-old daughter attends.

She sets aside a hefty sum of $500 to $700 a month for this tutor.

It had taken close to a year for her daughter to be admitted into the tuition centre and she wanted to ensure she kept her place there.

These elite centres have long waiting lists, and entrance exams. They also require that a kid scores well to continue at the centre.

She reasons: "After all that effort, it would be such a terrible waste if she had to give up her spot for others on the waiting list just because she cannot finish the work."

- Additional reporting by Maureen Koh

This article was first published on Apr 12, 2015.
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