The Arabian Gulf countries of UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman & Kuwait have over 1000 international schools delivering education to over 1.2 million students. The UAE alone has over 548 international schools, Saudi Arabia follows with 238 and Qatar with over 154 schools. In fact according to a new study undertaken by ISC research The United Arab Emirates continues to be the leader in the world in K-12 International schools with over 518,000 students enrolled, with nearly 40 % schools following the British curriculum.
This extraordinary expansion of international schools is simultaneously being matched by the growth of private tuition. According to some estimates, nearly 50% of students in UAE are availing some form of academic assistance beyond school resources. The growth of private tuition has become a global phenomenon. In 1984 Benjamin Bloom introduced his famous 2 Sigma Problem research which stated that “The average tutored students is above 98 % of his class”. Implications being clear, students who undertake one to one private tuition would always have an advantage over students without it. This achievement gap would be reflected in grades as well as in admissions to top universities. In the Persian Gulf, it has added dimension of strong peer pressure as most expatriate parents are extremely keen to ensure that their children get the same educational support as their fellow friends.
However, face to face tuition is not cheap. From most reports a suitable tutor for Grade 5 to 12 can charge between AED 120 to AED 300/hour. Consequently, a family’s tuition budget can go over AED 3000/ month. In addition there are transportation costs if the parents have to drop their children to the tutor or the tuition centre. While Home-tutors have their own timings and parents have to adjust schedules accordingly. Hence, historically students having advantage of funds, time & proximity could have only availed advantages of personalized tutoring assistance.
This has changed dramatically in last few years as technology is acting as a strong democratizing force. Just like in U.S & U.K markets the Arabian Gulf countries are also experiencing a high growth of online tutoring services. As explained in my book
“Tutor The World & Grow Rich” three factors are fueling growth of online tutoring:
In UAE all three above factors are at play. With internet penetration over 90% and over 80% of population being of expatriates the trend is with continuing the examination board of the native country e.g. a majority of Indian Expatriates after landing in UAE continue with the CBSE examination board. Another important implication of an expatriate country is that most families are already using different online communication tools like Skype etc, with their families on daily basis.
There are primarily two online tutoring options available in UAE & other Gulf countries : Individual online tutors & Online tutoring companies.
In the online tutoring companies there are three main tutoring models at work:
But unlike United States & United Kingdom markets where significant percentage of the online tutors are themselves based in those countries, here the phenomenon is more of cross continental nature .This has its own advantages & challenges.
For Parents in UAE the first & foremost advantage of utilizing online tutors is that of cost The rates for online tutoring varies between AED 40 to AED 120/hour.
The second advantage is of flexible timings. Students can undertake sessions at 8 pm UAE or even later. Online tutors normally do not have fixed days & most are available 7 days a week.
There is of course the additional cost saving of transportation fuel.
As most of the online tutors are cross continental it is possible to get excellent tutors from around the world well versed in the particular examination e.g. a retired IGCSE examiner and senior tutor based in Oxford, United Kingdom.
The biggest challenge for parents is to verify the credibility & competence of an online tutor especially as most tutors are continents away. As most of the individual tutors are on Skype it is very difficult for parents to distinguish between an experienced tutor and someone who is just trying to make extra bucks in an unemployment period.
Another issue many students in UAE & Qatar have faced during online tutoring sessions i.e. voice breaks. In case where the both student & tutor are writing on a white board the digital pen slips on writing or if documents are being shared then student is seeing one document & tutor is seeing an another. This is primarily on account of bandwidth squeeze.
Skype as a tutoring tool also has limitations. Digital pens cannot be used which are extremely useful especially when past examination papers are being taught.
For students & Parents in UAE and other Arabian gulf countries online tutoring provides a cost effective option of building students academic skills reflected in better grades.
However, it is essential that parents do the following:
Personalized online tutoring can be an effective & cost effective educational asset for students & parents in Arabian Gulf. Undertaking few basic provisions for selection of the online tutor & for session management can deliver the desired academic results.