Booming tutoring industry disrupting schools
A booming, unregulated tutoring industry is causing massive disruption to Australian education with untrained tutors calling themselves teachers, coaching students in the wrong curriculum and working well ahead of the school syllabus.
Top schools across Australia are currently boasting about year 12 results but behind the scenes experts say the $1 billion tutoring is a distraction to teaching in the classroom - with some agencies teaching up to one year ahead of the Australian syllabus and using international curriculums.
The tutoring national body, the Australian Tutoring Association (ATA), is calling on the federal government to regulate the industry to ensure that cowboy tutors aren't burning through parents' money as some agencies charge up to $1200 per subject per term and others charge $90 an hour.
Mohan Dhall from the ATA said it is common practice for university students to tutor school students from their former school, often without relevant Working With Children Checks or teaching degrees.
"Every state has its own rules and none of them are regulated," he said, adding that many tutoring agencies offer free assessments to see if a child needs tutoring.
"We need a licensing system and greater disclosure around testing done. Self-regulation isn't strong enough to stop the worst aspects of this industry. It is a very bad industry for accountability," he said.
Mr Dhall said they estimate one in three senior students in metropolitan areas receive tutoring, one in seven students living in Australian cities will have some tutoring in their school career and nearly all selective school senior students receive some form of tutoring.
Matrix Education, a large tutoring service, advertises that it has over 90 "teachers" with "real teaching experience" and tutors over 4500 students across 220 NSW Schools.
But of the "teachers" on its website, only a handful have actual teaching degrees.
A Matrix spokeswoman said they deleted "qualified" from their website, following a News Corp inquiry but say they will still use the term teachers for their experienced tutors, which they define differently from tutors.
"At Matrix, teachers and tutors have separate roles. Teachers conduct theory classes whereas tutors conduct one-to-one tutorials.
"A teaching degree is not a qualification when recruiting Matrix teachers as we look for teachers who are subject matter experts," she said.
Correna Haythorpe from the Australian Education Union said unregulated tutors should not be charging top dollar to school students for tutoring which is often provided without formal teaching qualifications.
"Teaching is a profession, one that requires university study and registration before teachers are ready to instruct students," she said.
"Teachers also undertake ongoing professional development throughout their careers. Unregulated out-of-school tutors often do not have any type of teaching qualification or experience, and can actually do more harm than good with vulnerable students in their attempts to teach."
A number of tutoring agencies are now advertising they teach "Singapore maths", including the company Seriously Addictive Mathematics which tutors in Victoria, NSW, South Australia and Western Australia and advertises its curriculum is based on Singapore maths, which they say is "reputed to be one of the most successful national programs in the world."
But Dr Christina Ho, Associate Professor at the University of Technology, said teaching outside the Australian curriculum, makes it difficult for school teachers.
"They advertise they teach Singapore maths or they will use textbooks from China or India and then students are taught the content in a very different way than what they get in school," she said.
"Tutoring centres will teach up to term or up to a year ahead and it means that the class time is often treated as revision and sometimes this means the teachers feel they don't need to go through it as thoroughly because they know their students have already done it.
"This has implications for students who are really missing out and it has implications for how students are learning because the tutoring system is completely unregulated - anyone can set up as a tutor."
But one mother, who asked not to be identified, sends her daughter to a high-profile Sydney selective girls school and said that the declining quality of education in Australia, even in selective schools, is forcing parents to rely on tutoring.
"In a selective school kids are selected to join these schools but being a selective teacher doesn't necessarily make them any better and it is easier to teach because the kids are bright and motivated and that can lead to complacency," she said.
Kevin, a former student from a popular Sydney co-ed school, said he was tutored for four out of his five HSC subjects and got an ATAR of 99.3.
He said it was common to get tutored well ahead of the syllabus.
"They try to get your head around it so when you get to class it's not new. It's also easier to ask questions if you don't understand things, particularly when school is a competitive environment."