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Tutoring - When is it useful?

Nowadays, many children and teens have private tutors, but when is tutoring really necessary and above all, helpful? When does a child or teen need tutoring, and when not? Why do some students struggle more than others to study by themselves?

Why do some students struggle more than others?

Tutoring is necessary for students who are not keeping up with school subjects. But before picking up the phone and hiring a private tutor, it's important to identify the cause of the problem.

There can be many reasons why a student is not keeping up with their classes. It could be that he or she has poor eyesight, needs a hearing aid or suffers from a learning disability such as dyslexia.

On the other hand, problems at home, including divorce or parents being unemployed or ill, can also impact on a student's academic success. Additionally, bad marks at school could also be a reflection of a pupil not feeling comfortable in the right class or school, and being overwhelmed by their environment.

It’s important to talk to the student and come up with a solution. This way, as well as catching up, the cause of the learning problems can be addressed.

When should you consider tutoring?

If your child is in any of the following circumstances, they could probably benefit from receiving tutoring:
  • They are about to fail a class.
  • They repeatedly have trouble with homework for a subject and have difficulty following lessons.
  • They tell you that they have problems in certain school subjects and would like to solve them.
  • They have difficulty doing homework independently and need a lot of support.
  • They don't feel like going to school and learning.
  • They feel embarrassed about their low marks.
  • They have missed a lot of schoolwork for some reason and they can't manage on their own.
  • They recently moved to a more competitive school and feel like they are behind.
  • Their family circumstances (death, divorce, illness etc.) are interfering with their ability to concentrate and their motivation for longer than they should.
Another good indication of whether or not a student needs extra tutoring is their average mark in a subject. If they are consistently on the border of passing or failing tests, the student is clearly struggling and could have problems with the subject.

Tutoring is a good idea when parents don't have time to help, but also when parents don't know enough about the subject matter to help their kids themselves. However, private tutoring can be advantageous even when parents do have the ability to help their kids. Constant discussion of marks and homework can lead to tension at home, which in turn causes more issues with studying rather than remedying them.

In addition, an external, neutral teacher can provide more objective help with problematic subjects. The child can then focus on the subject in a specific, neutral location where they are much less likely to be distracted.

However, this does not mean in the least that parents should stay out of it once their child is in the hands of a private tutor. Ideally, they should continue to support their child and try to find out the reason for their low marks. Before even thinking about contracting a tutor, it's also a good idea for parents to find out if their child is comfortable with the idea of having private lessons. If they aren't interested and reject it out of hand, the private classes will not do much good and they will need to look for another approach.

How long should tutoring go on for?

As important as it is to figure out if a pupil is willing to undergo tuition, it's equally important to have a concrete idea of how long the tutoring will last for. Private tutoring sessions should be a resource with which to overcome the obstacles that prevent us from advancing in a subject, and they should therefore be understood as something specific and with a specific objective, instead of a constant reinforcement to normal classes. This is due to a number of reasons:

Firstly, there is a danger of the student losing their independence and ability to learn by themselves. It could be that they get used to having help and will no longer try to solve problems by themselves.

Secondly, a good school system should teach the subject in such a way that children can reach their potential without having to take extra lessons. If students become "too good" at school as a result of private tutoring, there is a danger that the teachers will adapt their classes accordingly and become more demanding. This then only results in students becoming more dependent on private classes.


First and foremost, tutoring should result in a student's marks improving significantly. However, this shouldn't be necessary as a permanent solution to get through the school year. If that is the case, parents need to consider whether the student is in the right school or class to suit their needs. It is equally important that the pupil is not forced into tutoring. They should be able to see the benefit to themselves and be motivated to have a tutor. If not, learning will not be successful and tutoring will just be a costly waste of time.
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