Tuition providers have traditionally built a name for themselves as a one-stop centre for intensive after-school learning, often conducting large classes for each of the 10-odd academic subjects taught in schools. However, is this still the best way for tuition centres to operate, and more importantly, is this model still keeping parents happy?
As a father myself, I realised very early on that parental expectations for how education is delivered are constantly evolving. Parents—myself included—have become some of the most vocal advocates for supplementary lessons that can upskill their children in ways that school classrooms cannot, rather than simply reinforcing the existing syllabus. The quality of education provided by tuition centres is also often expected to surpass that of schools, so that children glean and retain information more effectively.
Having developed education technology services for 5 years, I strongly believe that this is an opportunity waiting to be seized by tuition providers. Evolving alongside parents and students ensures that tuition centres remain a pivotal part of an ever-changing educational landscape.
Bridging the Disconnection Between Students and Educators
If anything, the pandemic-induced shift to digital learning in the last 2 years has taught us that students thrive when interacting with their peers and teachers in person. While virtual classes and online sessions have made learning more mobile and accessible, the distance and nature of the medium have exacerbated the disconnection between students and teachers. Issues such as distractions from other sources, lack of immediate feedback from educators, and social isolation from their peers are some of the common factors contributing to the disconnection.
Ironically, a key weakness of online learning models is one that is shared by both school and tuition classrooms: teaching far too many students at the same time. Whether it’s through little boxes on a screen or in a packed room full of children, it is not uncommon for classes to have 40 or 50 students, manned by a single teacher.
The debate here, then, is no longer on if virtual learning is superior to the traditional classroom, but rather, on how we can circumvent this disconnection afflicting both. The answer: personalised learning in smaller, face-to-face groups.
Through this model, teachers will only be handling a few students at any given time. Fewer students mean teachers could give greater attention to each child and tailor lesson plans to their individual needs earlier, leading to more focused and conducive learning. Besides fostering an environment of greater communication between teachers and students, these smaller groups also allow teachers to supervise the classroom more effectively, which can be key in maximising tuition classes where each session is only an hour or two long.
Embracing Soft Skills, Arts, and Extracurricular Learning
Through the replacement of UPSR with Pentaksiran Bilik Darjah (school-based assessments) and the abolishment of the PT3 exams, it is clear that the Malaysian education system has begun steering away from the conventionally ironclad emphasis on exams. Rather than focusing solely on their ability to memorise information, students can instead put to use a wider variety of skills, from critical thinking and communication to sports and the arts.
As demand for a more holistic, “quality-over-quantity” education continues to rise, this is a prime opportunity for tuition providers to expand their classes on offer beyond the standard academic subjects. For instance, lessons in music, public speaking, art, or philosophy—while not directly used in an academic sense—will give students an edge through naturally honing their critical thinking, presentation skills, and artistic mastery, among others.
Although reworking the existing business model and onboarding specialised teachers with the right expertise may be an extensive endeavour, when done right, tuition centres can fill a niche role in nurturing more well-rounded students. By helping to hone skills and talents on top of academic potential, tuition teachers in turn become mentors that prepare children for more varied opportunities and avenues in the future.
Supplementing Tuition Classes With Digital Solutions
While offline tuition classes are where a large part of the magic happens with vital student-teacher interactions, the online infrastructures that have been so carefully built to weather the pandemic still play a key part in a holistic learning strategy. Rather than choosing between them and having one replace the other, online learning and digital solutions can and should be used to complement offline classes to maximise efficiency and results.
A dual-learning management system, when implemented properly, will not only help students learn more efficiently but also help teachers streamline their syllabi. Students who have missed out on crucial classes can easily log into a portal or intranet to revisit a topic, or even refer to online notes to conduct their own revision before an upcoming exam. Not only that, teachers can easily track the assignment progress and performance of each student, and effectively tackle their individual weaknesses.
Building a social media presence can also be greatly beneficial for tuition providers. Having a Facebook or Instagram profile enables centres to be more easily accessible to the tech-native students of today, while also bringing together a community of like-minded parents. With the abundance of features made available for page owners and managers such as polls and status updates, educators can always use them to facilitate discussions and make the learning process more interactive.
All in all, like any other industry that has been around for a long time, tuition centres must be proactive in embracing and initiating change in order to remain competitive. As teachers are the catalysts of success for the trailblazers and trendsetters of tomorrow, it is only fitting that we as educators also stay ahead of trends in education. There is a need to constantly diversify and approach education: it ensures our children—who cycle between school, tuition, and home—grow up as well-rounded individuals while cementing the key part that tuition providers play in fostering that holistic environment, and in the education sector as a whole.