Private tutoring - a complement to public education?

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Much ink (not to mention cyberspace) has been spilt on debates on the relative merits of public and private education. Entirely left out of these debates is the question of private tutoring, a potentially important complement to primary and secondary education. A recent report on this phenomenon from the World Bank Development Research Group aims to remedy this. The authors draw on evidence from a diverse set of countries, including Romania, Turkey, South Africa, Korea, and Cambodia. The report finds that at least in some countries private tutoring is an effective method of improving student achievement:

Tutoring lessons are found to increase test scores in India…mean matriculation rates in Israel…the quality of colleges in which students can enroll in Japan…and student academic performance in Vietnam.

Given these results, demand is high for private tutoring services. Yet little is known about the private providers who have stepped in to provide these services. The Bank report points to public high school teachers who teach after regular school hours, but a quick search points to a number of companies that have jumped into this apparently lucrative field:

  • Kip McGrath Education Centres – a chain based in Australiathat operates in over 20 countries, including China, Indonesia, and Kenya

  • Career Launcher – an Indian chain with over 130 locations in India, the Middle East, and the United States

  • TutorVista – a company based in India that sells online tutoring services for children in the United States and the United Kingdom

A big question remains—will governments treat these businesses with benign neglect, promote them as a useful complement to the public sector, or attempt to legislate them out of existence, as has occurred in Cambodia and elsewhere?


Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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