Most parents in the UAE will agree that private tutoring has become the norm rather than an exception. According to a report in Dubai’s Khaleej Times, some schools have recorded more than 60% of their students from Grade 10 upwards seeking after-school support for subjects including maths, physics and English.
Cost of tutoring in the UAE: AED150 – AED500 per hour
So why are more parents seeking outside help for their children? The KT article reported that experts have attributed the increase in tutoring to peer pressure, competition and a trend brought on by expatriate teachers from countries where it is common.
Jenny Doyle-Gray, a British teacher working as a private tutor in Dubai agrees, “I think this is mainly due to the fact that parents in the UAE are paying very expensive school fees, are usually professionals themselves and see a value in good education. Tutoring is important to a lot of parents who can afford it, to give their children every opportunity, a boost, an advantage and if I am honest, I also think there is a lot of competition.”
Another reason for tutoring is simply to pick up the pieces that can be missed when expatriate children move from school to school. “Given the transient nature of Dubai and the fact that many students have often moved several times during their school life, private tuition is invaluable for filling in the foundations of education that may be overlooked when a student changes schools,” explains Clive Power, Managing Director of Power Tutoring, a professional organisation in Dubai providing private and group tuition to help students of all ages achieve their academic goals.
Competitive parents and transient families aside, there are many children in the UAE for which keeping up at school has become an issue. This is where tutors can add great value. “Having one to one for an hour can make a huge difference, when you think most class sizes are 25 or more,” says Jenny, who cites the most common problems she sees with her students are writing, grammar, punctuation, reading and spelling. “I have a few students who do not have a lot of confidence in big groups, so one on one can help their confidence grow. Also a lot of parents work full time and are not always at home to do the homework with their children. One of the biggest problems I see here in the UAE is that the nannies help the children with the homework and usually English is their second language.”
Knowing the benefits of tutoring is one thing but actually finding a good tutor can prove tricky in a country where a private tutoring register or database doesn’t exist. Schools can often recommend an experienced tutor in your area, and UAE social websites and noticeboards in malls, schools, supermarkets are packed with ads for private tutors. The majority of tutors though still operate through word of mouth as it is more reassuring for a parent to have a recommendation from another parent who has used or is using a tutor.
Once you have found your tutor (and obviously checked their qualifications), it’s really important to make sure that your tutor and child hit it off, as this makes the learning process easier for both parties. “Your tutor needs to connect with the child, show patience, listen to the parent’s and child’s needs and ultimately make the lessons fun,” adds Jenny, who realises that not all children will be enthusiastic about an extra session of English or Maths after a hard day at school. “After raising two children myself, I am aware that after a long day, their concentration span can be pretty small so I break the lesson up into segments to try and keep them focused. I like to always end the lesson on a nice note, either reading a little story or a game of alphabet snap.”
Although intensive tutoring for exams is commonplace, tutors will mostly prefer to have regular contact with the child over a long period of time, to help with continuity, confidence and the tutor/student relationship. Jenny adds, “I have some students who I see for an hour a week and others that I see for 4 hours a week. Each child is different and of course each household budget is different. Only the parent can make that decision. Some of my students are in a routine now that nearly everyday after school they study with me for an hour. It is just part of their normal school day. Of course there are always parents who panic too close to assessment time and try and cram in a fortnight of one to one tutoring!”
Finding a tutor in the UAE:
1. Speak to other parents and friends who have tutors
2. Search online – www.expatwoman.com & www.dubizzle.com carry ads for tutors
3. Ask your school for official recommendations – they may have a list of preferred tutors
4. Ask any teacher friends for personal recommendations
5. Check out the community noticeboards in your local supermarket
6. Speak to an agency like powertutoring.com – for on-site tutoring in Knowledge Village
Further information: www.powertutoring.com
Jenny Doyle-Gray – firstname.lastname@example.org