How to find a private tutor – the right tutor!

As a parent, your children’s education is one of the most important things in your life. There is no greater feeling than seeing your son or daughter succeed in life academically and professionally, and the quality of their education is the most significant factor in this success.

This concern for a quality education, as well as the knowledge that the workforce is becoming increasingly competitive and globalised, is the main driver behind the perpetual rise of private tutoring.

The pressure to succeed can take its toll on the psyche… When parents feel that the classroom is failing their child they look to private tuition for answers.

Private tutoring takes many forms, however, it most commonly involves regular face-to-face sessions for an extended period with a local university student or teacher. Private tuition is labour intensive and therefore can be very expensive with full-time teachers sometimes charging in excess of $100 an hour. Whilst one-on-one tuition is often cited as the most effective way of achieving mastery (see Benjamin Bloom), this depends heavily on whether your tutor is any good and whether they are the right tutor for your child.

So how do you find the right tutor? The right tutor is one who can relate to your child, who is passionate about teaching, is qualified and who obviously knows the relevant syllabus inside out. Being a great tutor requires many other qualities that I will address in another article shortly.

Finding any tutor, let alone a tutor that ticks all the boxes, can be very difficult and time consuming. This is because the way tutoring is delivered actually makes it very hard to match supply and demand. Let’s look at some of the reasons why.

1. A logistical nightmare…

As I mentioned, the vast majority of parents are looking for a long-term engagement where the tutor visits your home and works one-on-one with your child for between 1 and 2 hours in a specific subject.

In order to do this, a tutor must be:

  1. Located nearby to avoid lengthy travel time (time for which they are not being paid)
  2. Available at the time you request — families tend to be busy and generally have very few hours in an entire week in which they can accommodate a tuition session
  3. Qualified in the particular subjects and year groups requested. A tutor specialising in one subject and year group is unlikely to find much work within reasonable travelling distance. However, learning the content for many subjects and year groups takes a significant amount of up-front time and effort
Most tutors need to cover many syllabuses to guarantee a decent amount of work, for the reasons explained above. It can take many stressful book-hours to do this and is unlikely to deliver great results to customers.

The result is either that the tutor cannot fulfil the engagement, or that they will charge a significant premium to cover their costs. (Note: online tutoring solves these problems, but does not tend to deliver results as well. I will discuss this in another post soon).

2. Trust

Education is a slow process and most tutoring therefore requires a long-term engagement to correct entrenched thinking habits or knowledge gaps, for example. Parents need to be able to trust that their tutor is going to deliver results as they cannot know how effective the tutor is being until exam results come in. Having little or no information can be a major deterrent to parents looking to make the financial leap of faith (and time commitment).

This is made more difficult by the fact that parents tend not to know what to expect from a tutor and therefore how to gauge how good they are. As a result, there is an element of ‘blind trust’ that comes with hiring a tutor, although this can be relieved significantly if the tutor has been personally recommended by a peer (which is one of the most reliable and common ways of finding a tutor).

The vulnerability of parents and the lack of transparency tends to slow the hiring process, making it difficult to find a great tutor.

3. Affordability

Many parents expect tutors to be teachers who are doing it in their spare time and are surprised to find out that MOST tutors are not actually qualified in any way beyond having (recently) completed their schooling and attained a high ATAR. Most are university students because they are a natural fit for tutoring (collectively, they have the holy trinity of location, availability and expertise).

 

Most tutors are in fact university students as they are a natural fit for tutoring

The vast majority of teachers do NOT tutor. Teaching full-time during the day is a tiring endeavour and the prospect of having to continue it into the evening is not appealing for most, especially when they have classroom lessons to plan, families to be with and social lives to indulge. Teachers therefore tend to charge a huge premium to make it worth their while (and also to take advantage of the fact they are “qualified” to tutor).

In any case, teachers often do not make the best tutors as they tend to apply classroom approaches that are not necessarily effective in a one-on-one situation. It can also be argued that private tutoring requires a more personable relationship with the student that may be more difficult to establish for teachers, particularly where the age gap is significant.

Whilst teachers get away with charging over $100 an hour in some cases, most tutors are not teachers and therefore charge less. However, many are sourced via agencies (read this article on the economics of a tutoring agency) that have to charge a significant premium to make any money. And on top of that, tutors need to be compensated for the inevitable extra time outside of lessons travelling or preparing lessons or talking with clients, for which they are not paid.

The result of all this is that it can be very difficult to find an affordable tutor, let alone a good quality tutor and the right tutor for your child.

How do most people find a tutor?

1. Word of mouth

As I already mentioned, word of mouth is easily the most reliable and common way to successfully find a great tutor, especially if you live close to your referrer. However, discussing private tuition is taboo in some circles as it can dent a parent’s pride to admit their child needs tuition. It also still takes a certain ‘alignment of the stars’ for the engagement to play out long-term — location, time, subject area, etc. You may end up waiting a long time…

Success factor… 7/10

2. Tutor Agency

Sydney, for example, is awash with tutoring agencies. These are essentially brokers that claim to ‘find’ you the ‘perfect’ tutor so you don’t have to. In most cases, they are simply supplying whoever they can find that is available with no regard to their suitability. More often than not, they are unable to find anyone to fill the job and so you won’t hear back from them. You normally have to try several agencies, all with the same treatment, before one may be able to satisfy your request.

Tutoring agencies promise the world but often can’t provide you a tutor and won’t call you back…

Since tutoring agencies essentially offer nothing beyond brokerage, their business relies heavily on the volume of demand and, therefore, marketing — marketing that is primarily aimed at convincing you that you need a tutor. My next post dissects the marketing wool these agencies try to pull over your eyes, so stay tuned.

Success factor… 4/10

3. Job listing website

The third most common way of finding a tutor is by searching on classifieds like Gumtree or TutorFinder. This method is the most time-consuming for parents and the least reliable. Parents are essentially doing the work of the agency without any of the experience and usually with a fraction of the information. It’s usually a stab in the dark as there is no way of determining quality and no peer validation. It’s made more difficult simply by the insufficient number of tutors available to satisfy the particular coincidence of location, availability and expertise needed to deliver the service. This method is the least reliable but for resourceful and dogged parents, it can sometimes work.

Success factor… 2/10

So, what does it all mean?

The result of all this is a broken industry in which it is very difficult for parents to find a tutor, despite the seeming glut of tutors available.

Is there hope?

There is hope! Hope comes in the form of technology. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years, you’ll have noticed that digital technology has become increasingly embedded in everything we do. Most of this has been due to the rise of mobile devices, cloud computing and data collection. The next wave has begun in the form of artificial intelligence, the internet of things and virtual reality.

At Tutify, these technologies are enabling us to solve the problems of the tutoring industry. In a nutshell, we provide smart tools and resources for tutors that effectively guarantee them to deliver high-quality tuition and enable them to focus on personalised tuition. Our technology also makes it very easy for smart individuals to become tutors, meaning that we have more expert tutors available to satisfy any request.

Data, data, data

Data on our behaviour, our preferences and our social circles abound. We should have the same degree of data and insight into our knowledge and skills. Having this data at the level of individual skills and nuggets of knowledge would allow us to better tailor teaching to identify areas of weakness and to understand and correct thinking habits. The education world is finally starting to realise this potential and is slowly implementing it in schools, but it is absent in the unregulated, shadow world of private tutoring.

Data is collected for our every move online, yet very little is collected on our education. This is now changing though.

At Tutify, we leverage data to tailor tuition for better outcomes. This also provides peace of mind to parents through detailed reporting.

Technology is changing the world in many ways and education is one of them. Tutify is simply harnessing this technology to fix a broken industry and enable the provision of a far higher quality and more reliable tuition service.

So the easiest and most reliable way to find a tutor right now, is through Tutify.

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