The Rise of the “Super Tutor” in Asia

For hundreds of years, private tutors have been providing one-to-one tuition to students. Whilst schools and universities have been a place of group learning, structure and set curriculum, private tuition has always been about supplementary education and bespoke learning.

The widely held view is that a student or their parents only request private tuition when the student is in need of some extra support with a subject. Whilst it is true that a lot of parents look for a private tutor when their child is struggling, it is interesting to see that in some countries, private tuition is very much a way of life for many families.

Private tuition has always been a very big industry in Asian countries. For many students, the typical day involves going to school during the day and then having individual study with a private tutor in the evening. In a report released by the Asian Development Bank and the Comparative Education Research Centre of the University of Hong Kong, there are some fascinating statistics about the percentage of students that are tutored: “in the Republic of Korea nearly 90% of elementary students receive some sort of shadow education and in Hong Kong and China, about 85% of senior secondary students do so”.

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In places like India, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, the rise in demand for tutors has created a market for “super tutors”. Whilst pop stars and footballers have traditionally held celebrity status, a new breed of tutor has emerged who is held in equally high esteem. Some of the “super tutors” can earn millions of dollars a year with wealthy families battling for the best educators for their children.

Earlier this year, it was reported that one tutor in Hong Kong was offered $11 million to leave a tuition agency and join a competitor! Gone are the days when parents would show off their flashy cars and expensive jewellery; today, it’s all about who has the best tutor! Many of the “super tutors” are not only there to teach students, but they are also there to motivate, inspire and encourage them. There have been reports of some students in Hong Kong crying in lessons given by some of the “super tutors”, not because they can’t cope with the work, but because they have been so inspired by what the tutor has said that the emotion of it all has been too much to keep in. With the rise of social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, it will not be long before global brands ask tutors to start to advertise products.

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In the UK, there has been a huge growth in the private education sector and with this has come a rise in the hourly rate of the brightest and best tutors. Many of the best graduates are turning away from a career in the City and focussing instead on tutoring. With reports of some tutors charging nearly £1,500 per hour, some tutors claim that they now earn more than some of their bosses did at investment banks, law firms and other companies in the City. However, it is yet to be seen whether tutors in the UK will ever develop celebrity status like some tutors in Asia have.

With the global education sector worth about $4.4 trillion and set to grow to about $10 trillion by 2017, the next few years will be an interesting time for the education sector both in the UK, Asia and globally.

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