There has been a huge increase in spending on tuition – from $470 million in 1998 to around $820 million per yr now . The Straits Times was interested in an article on whether this has made an impact on tutor salaries. This was kind of a follow-up to the Super Tutors story published in The Sunday Times, 2007.
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The following is an un-edited email interview of Janice Chuah conducted by Ms Radna Basu, Senior Correspondent, The Straits Times.
Q : You were an award winning teacher. Why did you become a private tutor?
Teaching has always been my passion. It reveals my inner desire to help others and to impart knowledge. It is most rewarding when I see that this knowledge I have imparted flourish and blossom through my students. Thus it was a painful decision to leave a job that I love and a career that I have so much to look forward to. I left service in December 2008
Although MOE has various schemes to provide greater support to teachers with young families, I wanted to spend most part of the day with my three, young and energetic boys (age 3,6 and 9) where I can soak in the bliss of their company and watch them grow. You could sit a child down to teach him English, Mathematics or Science but values are best taught through unplanned opportunities that arise through daily interactions. And being at home most of the time allows me to seize these teaching moments.
How many students do you have right now? And how many students did you have at the end of your first year?
In January 2009, I conducted home-based tuitions when my children were in school and I had only 5 students to begin with. I did not start with the intention of running an education business. I merely wanted to continue doing something that I love during my spare time.By the end of the first year, the number of students has grown by more than 10 folds!
Q : What subjects do you teach? What levels do you teach?
I specialize in primary school Mathematics (P1 to P6).
In what ways (if at all) have you expanded your business?The ‘busniess’ has indeed grown substantially just over a short period of less than 2 years.
From home-based tuition, I have set up a learning centre, The A+cademia Learning Centre, and we are currently located at 179B Goldhill centre. The centre has 5 teachers, hundreds of students, and counting.
You may be surprised that instead of spending money on advertising and promotion, we are committing a lot of resources to improve our curriculum to reflect current trends in education.
For example, we are incorporating hands on activities and group work to hone our students’ higher order thinking skills and to create opportunities for teamwork since the trend in education is moving away from the paper-pencil tests towards alternative assessments.We are also offering integrated programmes for pre-primary children to prepare them for formal education.
Q : How much did you earn when you first started your business?Less than $1000 a month when I first started in January 2008. How much do you earn now?
Five – Figure Salary
Q : What is your biggest achievement as a tutor?
I guess whether, you are a tutor in your own private practice or a teacher in school, the biggest achievement will always be in helping the children improve their grades and be a better person. When a child comes and says “Thank you” it puts a smile in the heart of every teacher.
Being a tutor is no different from being a teacher in school, only better because you decide your own workload and working hours. You decide how hard you want to work and how much you want to earn.
Tutoring is not just a job, it is also a career – with good prospects. I started as a home tutor earning a meager salary. I give myself a “pay raise” when my students increased through referrals. I promoted myself to CEO when I started my own education centre and employed teachers to help me teach some classes. I can look forward to listing my company in future. The sky’s the limit!
Q : What is your unique selling proposition — what makes you a top tutor?
What is the secret to my success? Just two words – Passion and Dedication.
There is actually a preconceived notion that teaching is easy work. It is not easy at all. As a good teacher, I take the effort to understand what and why my students don’t understand, I have the patience to explain to them until they do, even if I have to do so a zillion times.
When my students get bored and disinterested, I do not label them ‘lazy’. Instead, I take it upon myself to research innovative teaching strategies to motivate my students to learn.
Our centre prided itself with a comprehensive curriculum that complements school’s initiatives.
The tuition business is one that relies heavily on the word of mouth – and that was how my education business took off. No banners or advertorials will be as effective as recommendations from parents and students who have benefitted from my lessons and programmes.
Thus the only way to move forward is to ensure that our students learn in a non-threatening, loving and fun environment – which can only happen if tutors are truly passionate about teaching and not just counting the money that ticks in my the minute!
Q : Can you please tell us more about your educational qualifications.
Masters of Arts (Instructional Design and Technology)
Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) Primary.
Bachelor of Arts
Q : Are the hours you spend as a tutor less than what you spent as a school teacher?
And as a tutor, my working hours are very flexible. I dare say, I have successfully achieve work-life balance.
I take a full teaching load on Saturday and half day on Sunday. While I am busy at work, my boys are engage with their music lessons, swimming lessons, etc.
On weekdays, I manage my business from home.
I count myself lucky to be able to marry work with passion, while earning a decent income.