Jun 19, 2023

Why is there a huge demand for private tutors in the UAE?

Featured and originally posted in Gulf News!

The demand for private classes, in person or online, is found to be more prevalent at the secondary and high school level as students approach board examinations.

Dubai: The high demand for private tutors is a major talking point in the UAE, with many asking whether students need support classes in addition to school-based learning.

Reflective of a trend elsewhere too, students in the UAE across different curricula routinely go in for extra coaching, especially at the secondary or high school level as they approach board examinations. Gulf News spoke to parents, students, schools and tutors to find out why.

What parents, students sayJohn Abraham, the father of a Grade 12 student in an Indian curriculum school, said his son was taking extra classes in accountancy, and earlier in Maths, from his own school teachers after school hours twice a week.“I was finding it difficult to cope in class, so I got enrolled into these extra classes,” his son said.

Image credit: Gulf News

Many students say they require private tutors because they are unable to cope with classroom learning.

“What happens is that in school, the teachers have a set syllabus which they must complete in a set period of time. Students are required to do a lot of work at home and if they don’t do a good job of it, and we as parents can’t always pitch in, private tutoring is the only answer,” said a candid Abraham, adding that he pays Dh500 for each subject every month.

Another Dubai-based mum, who did not want to be named, said she also spends “good money” on private classes for her son, a Grade 11 student at a British-curriculum school.

“He takes support classes in not just Science subjects but also Art because it is required. My son says he cannot manage otherwise. Not every child can keep up with the pace and manner in which lessons are taught in school,” she claimed.

Zahra Shah, a mum of three girls aged 10, 9 and four, said she had enrolled her older two girls into an online abacus class for two terms because it gave them something do in addition to academic school work.
“I have not felt the need for private tutors in the regular school subjects right now because I myself can give them that extra attention at home. But I am not sure how it will be at the secondary level. If they are not able to cope, I will definitely consider private tutoring,” she said.

A topper’s take

Sneha Sahay, who was the head girl of her school in Dubai and topped the boards with 45 IB points in 2022, said many fall back on private tutoring for a reason.

Sneha Sahay“The IB curriculum is such that it places a lot of emphasis on self-study. To make complete sense of the concepts, students have to necessarily go beyond what is taught in school. And not everyone can do that on their own and need outside support,” she said.

Sahay, who is currently in medical school in the UK, was lucky she could manage on their own. “But that’s not the case with a lot of others,” she said, adding that she is out to help anyone struggling to make the cut in Diploma Programme or Middle Year Programme (Chemistry or Biology) while she is on her summer vacation till September.

What the schools say

Sheela Menon, Principal of Ambassador School, which offers the ISC and ICSE curricula, feels the main reason why parents rush to private tutors is because “school curricula are yet to be redesigned in a more student-friendly way as per the needs of the present generation”.

Sheela MenonShe said, “With too many subjects to learn irrespective of the fact whether they draw student interest and motivation along with burdened curriculum and limited time period, often students find it difficult to absorb and assimilate so much within a time frame. It is also to be noted that reinforcement or home-learning at higher grades is part of growing academic responsibilities and expectations.”

Menon said a large group of students were content with school learning at the Ambassador School.

She said, “It is when schools fail to implement a proper homework policy, well distributed among subjects and well-spaced with submission deadlines, that there arises a need for extra help in understanding lessons, more practice time and guidance in taking up assignments and preparation for homework. With rising stiff competition and clamour for greater academic returns and higher expectations in terms of goals and targets, parents often feel the need for their children to attend extra classes in the form of tuitions.”

That said, she clarified that, “A student who is attentive in class, makes full use of his/her teachers’ expertise in the subject and mature enough to manage his/her work well, would not fall for tutorials. Further, taking up extra classes largely stems from fear and insecurity of falling short in competition or the fear of not making it to their desired destination for higher studies and last but not the least, peer and parental pressure.”

Classroom vs home learning

On the issue of the extent to which classroom learning needs to be complemented by home learning, Dr Lisa Johnson from the Taaleem Group of Schools, said, “The argument for or against homework is not universally decided, and there are differing opinions among educators, parents and researchers. However, recent studies suggest that the academic benefits of homework are limited and inconsistent, particularly for younger students.”

Dr Lisa JohnsonShe said, “A Stanford researcher found that too much homework can negatively affect children, especially their lives away from school, where family, friends and activities matter. That said, at AAG, we do have homework, but try and balance self-study assignments and suggest activities that build independence, time-management skills, and deeper study of what we call “passion projects” driven by individual interests. We also have some homework projects designed specifically to engage parents in their child’s education.”

She gave the example of a heritage assignment where students interviewed grandparents. “Homework of this nature is building experiences versus redundant rote practice that often dominates homework assignments in more traditionally focused schools,” she added.

Fatima Martin, Principal and CEO of GEMS New Millennium School, said, “Our teachers at GEMS New Millennium School engage in no cost intervention programmes, which have proven to be of significant benefit in raising student attainment. Project-based learning, regular follow-through with assessments designed ‘for’ learning rather than ‘of’ learning, opportunities for students to extend their critical thinking and assertion-reasoning skills, all aim towards strengthening their knowledge and understanding of concepts.

Fatima Martin“This approach continuously builds on students’ study techniques, equipping them with resilience, retrieval strategies and time management. Our open-door policy for students and parents also enables them to discuss their academic concerns with the faculty.”

What the tutors say

Sana Basher of Ghaffkids, another Dubai-based online tutorial, said many students take online classes from tutors in their home countries.

She said Ghaffkids provides support classes in Maths and Science for CBSE students, besides a number of subjects in the extracurricular activity realm as students need it.

“Academics is one part of the learning. At the end of a student’s school life, it is his or her passion that makes a difference. Besides being academically good, it is the extracurricular interests that will help in writing essays and facing interviews during college admissions. So it is very important to groom students in this respect,” she said.

Sana Basher According to her, there are two basic reasons why parents turn to tutorials. 

According to her, there are two basic reasons why parents turn to tutorials. “Every child has his or her own pace of learning which cannot always be met at school where there are 30-35 students in a class. Secondly, parents have their own expectations from the child and want them to constantly raise the bar and excel. They either take responsibility for that by putting in the extra effort themselves or they hire private tutors,” she said.

By Sharmila Dhai: UAE Editor