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Should students be pushed into tuition?

Updated: Aug 17

This is a topic that came up after I answered a question from a student on Quora. Parents pushing students into tuition is an issue that both tutors and agencies come across from time to time. This is the question and response from the original Quora post:

Q.Should I take a tuition class at 14 years old. My grades are pretty good, but my mum insists on tutoring. I feel like I don't have time for myself.


I’ve worked as an academic tutor for the last eleven years. This is a problem that sometimes arises.

To put it bluntly, tuition can be an extra, unnecessary burden on students. If things are going quite well in school and there are no major exams on the horizon, then is no pressing need for extra work. One of the things I vet for with clients is how many other commitments a student has and what their level of commitment to the tuition is. If a students has a lot on in their life and is not really interested in tuition themselves, then I will usually be reluctant to work with the student. Most tutors are of the same view.

Private tuition is an incredibly efficient way of learning and for students who are wanting to push the extra mile in terms of grades and exam results it’s an incredibly helpful process. Equally for students at the lower end who are struggling to pass, tuition can be a life-saver. For students who are already doing reasonably well and have no particular ambition or need to get the top grades, frankly it doesn’t make much sense. It’s a waste of a student and tutor’s time to do unwanted and unnecessary sessions. It’s also a waste of parents’ money.

Some parents have a perfectionist vision for their own children that can end up being damaging to the child. Sometimes it can stem from their own shortcomings in their education or career and they are trying to somehow make-up for those things through their children. On other occasions it’s just a straightforward OCD or perfectionist personality structure that they inflict on their children. Unfortunately this can have negative long-term consequences - children can become anxious and depressed - often this comes on in their late teens and early adulthood when their psyche finally begins to crack. I’ve seen this happen with a number of students and friends over the years so the pushy parent is something I’m very familiar with. Parents would do well to show some self-control and avoid inflicting their own personal defects on their children. I know this sounds harsh, but sometimes the medicine works better when it’s just given straight. I should add to this that the parents who do fall into this category are usually not doing it on purpose - they’re not usually aware of how they’re acting and the long-term consequences it can have.

Another point would simply be that grades really are not everything anyway. In the adult world, your professional approach and experience are more important than any grades you got in high-school. Students would do well to spend a little more time on career and financial planning as these are more decisive in the long-term than school grades. When I have been to see my accountant or bank-manager, they’ve never asked me about my school grades. This is not to say that grades, don’t matter, just that other things matter too.

The bottom line is that it sounds like you already have enough on your plate and want a little bit more down-time. There is nothing wrong with this- there are enough demands placed on people as adults - we don’t need to start putting high-school students into a lifestyle where they have no time just to breathe and be young people. You may wish to ask your mother why she feels your grades are not good enough or why she feels the need to have you engage in a process that you don’t want or need to be involved in. She may have some legitimate answers, but you should voice your desires and issues too. My final point is that in my experience students who are dragged in to work with tutors tend not to be very good to work with and tend to cancel a disproportionate amount of times. If this is going to be the case with you, I’d avoid wasting a tutor’s time. There may be a point in the future when you feel motivated to get some extra input and that would be the time you should speak with your mother about tuition.

Private tuition sessions are something that you should feel motivated to do and look forward to. Only today I had a correspondence with a mother in which she said that her daughter very much looked forward to her weekly class online and found the sessions interesting and engaging. While, comments like this are always fantastic to get as a tutor, they are also very common. My view is that if students aren't looking forward to the class then we shouldn't be doing it.

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