I discussed about the importance of parents, teachers, school in creating an eco-system that the student thrives in. However, I missed one other important character in this eco-system who may not be linked to any school or anything else, but still makes a large impact on the student – the tutor.
So a couple of question arises here. Who is a tutor, do we need her? And if needed, how effectively and efficiently can she perform her role.
To answer the first question, let us go back to our school and education structure. In a typical class we have anywhere from 15-25 students. One teacher teaches them, makes them practice, gives them assignment, checks them, grades them, takes them to field trips etc. The statistics show that student-teacher ratio is about 15.7 in public schools and 11.1 in private schools. In the past 24 years it has come down by only 2.2. The ratio was 17.9 in 1988 (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_067.asp?referrer=list)
This means that the number of students each teacher needs to focus on every day is about 16. Although we have made huge advances in bringing technologies to the classrooms, we have not been significantly able to reduce this number. On the other hand statistics also show that in the last 20 years number of both parents working full time has gone up by almost 40%, and increasing number of parents are bringing work home due to technological advances, 86% of couples had at least one spouse regularly working a night, weekend, rotating or evening shift, so the parents are becoming increasingly busier. (http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/2010-04-15-1Afamilytime15_CV_N.htm) In such a scenario it often happens that a student does not understand or is unable to grasp certain concepts. And has nowhere to go. The parents may be busy and the teachers have to keep in pace with the class as they have a syllabus to teach. Although a few teachers do spend time after or before class with the weaker students, most of the students need some kind of help. That’s when a tutor comes in. The tutor understands the student, their weakness, their strengths, and the best way to teach them. Tutoring is not meant to replace the teacher or classrooms, the student still needs the field trips, the interaction with other students and learn team-work, but tutoring instils self-confidence and knowledge to participate even more in the classroom discussions.
So now after establishing that tutors are needed in our ecosystem, let’s find out who an idea tutor should be. A tutor ideally should be someone who
- Enjoys working with children and build good rapport with the child
- Should be able to teach alternative methods for better learning of the children
- Should be able to initiate customized plan for each child so that there is personal growth in each child
- Should work closely with parents and teachers to bring a significant improvement in the child
- Should be kind, understanding, patient and fair
- Should be punctual, dependable and steady
Now the tutor can perform her role in 3 ways
- Visit the students at their homes and teach them one-one or in a group of 2-3 (Home tutoring)
- The students visit the tutor at a nearby centre – again can be one-one or in a group of 2-3 students (classroom tutoring)
- The tutor and student connect online and use technology (whiteboard, video chat etc.) for the teaching session.
Although all 3 of them have their pros and cons, their first two have one serious limitation. You are limited by your location – the quality and the number of teachers in your neighbourhood. If you have excellent teachers living nearby that’s fantastic but what if you are living in Idaho or Maine where you may not find the best teachers in the world.
Online tutoring eliminates that. You can have the best teachers from Stanford or NY University teach the student and make him understand the concepts. You can have the experts in the particular area take up the tutoring and teach her. Everything can be recorded so the student can always come later on and check what was taught in that online session unlike the one-one session where the student needs to be 100% attentive. The only pre-requisite here needs to be that someone has to screen the tutors and ensure only the best tutors with the right qualification and attitude are sitting in front of a computer. The tools to do that can be developed or are available aplenty.
I am glad that I had the chance to be involved and work with all the 4 pillars (teachers, parents, school and tutor) of the eco-system of any student’s education and develop tools to help all of them achieve and perform their roles to their fullest potential.