Parents hire tutors... to do kids' homework
Parents fork out for special tutors to complete students' assignments that 'serve no purpose'
Some parents are paying up to $250 an hour for a tutor to come over to their homes.
It is not for tuition lessons.
Instead, it is for the tutors to do their children's homework.
For these parents, it is something that cannot be helped, they say.
Their children are inundated with so much tuition, co-curricular activities and school assignments that they are struggling to cope.
Some tutors are even hired to complete primary school-level homework set by elite tuition centres.
Think of these tutors as homework elves. While the children sleep, these teachers do the assignments that need to be handed up the next day.
The rates are usually $200 an hour, if the tutor travels to the child's home before midnight, and $250 if it is later.
A mother of a Secondary 3 student, who wants to be known only as Lilly, says she gets the tutors to come over whenever she realises her son is struggling with his homework.
"Most of the time, the tutor will come by and my son will briefly tell him what is required," says the mother of two.
"While the tutor finishes the work, my son will do his other homework, or go to sleep if he is too tired."
Apart from just a problem of time, some parents feel that some of the assignments are superfluous.
They want to free up their child's schedule to focus on more important areas than have them bogged down by unnecessary projects and homework.
Madam Wendy Zeng, 40, a housewife, feels some assignments her 15-year-old daughter has to do "serve no purpose".
When quizzed, she names project-based work that have no direct relevance to the subjects her daughter is studying, for instance, a project on volunteerism where the students had to dissect the pros and cons of being a volunteer.
"But they still have to hand in their homework. I prefer to get her to focus on what is more important. It is not like her grades have dropped or anything."
Madam Zeng spends about $800 a month on such services by tutors.
It is a lot to fork out but it seems the high fees do not deter parents.
In 2012, The New Paper on Sunday polled 80 parents outside some elite tuition centres in Singapore, and found that close to half had hired or would hire tutors to complete their children's homework.
Their job is to finish up assignments handed out by tuition centres their children attend.
Mrs Pauline Soh, 43, a civil servant, hired a tutor to do the assignments given by the elite tuition centres that her 14-year-old daughter attends.
She sets aside a hefty sum of $500 to $700 a month for this tutor.
It had taken close to a year for her daughter to be admitted into the tuition centre and she wanted to ensure she kept her place there.
These elite centres have long waiting lists, and entrance exams. They also require that a kid scores well to continue at the centre,
She reasons: "After all that effort, it would be such a terrible waste if she had to give up her spot for others on the waiting list just because she cannot finish the work."
- Additional reporting by Maureen Koh
"I prefer to get her to focus on what is more important. It is not like her grades have dropped or anything."
- Housewife Wendy Zeng, who feels some assignments her 15-year-old daughter has to do “serve no purpose”
Tuition teachers can earn hundreds an hour
Thanks to this homework-for-money arrangement, this tuition teacher claims he can make 75 per cent of what he earns in his day job as a school teacher.
The man, who declined to be named, says that in the last three years, he has personally experienced a growth in the homework-for-money business.
He charges parents between $200 and $250 an hour to complete their children's homework.
If the assignments are more complex and require research, he ups the price to between $500 and $750 an hour.
In an e-mail interview with TNPS, he says: "They (parents) e-mail me and I charge based on the extent of work needed.
"Sometimes if it is urgent, especially if it is for secondary schools where they have to hand in (the work) the next day, I will go to their homes."
A colleague, who was in this business, introduced him to it.
"She and I realised that some of the students cannot handle their homework and frankly, some assignments are unnecessary.
"However, I could not spend my time doing it for free," he says.
Why just do homework and not give tuition?
"Giving tuition means spending one-to-one time with the students. By helping to do the homework, I can do it in my free time.
"The student will still be able to learn if he makes an effort to go through the assignments after they have been marked," he reasons.
He reveals he has a regular pool of students that he helps. In a week, he can get up to 15 requests, out of which he takes on 10.
And having a different handwriting from that of his clients is barely of concern to him.
He says: "Most projects are now being handed in on print copies."
When asked if he is wary of any repercussions, he declines to comment.
"Sometimes if it is urgent, especially if they have to hand in (the work) the next day, I will go to their homes."
- Tuition teacher who declined to be named
Homework done with a mouse click
ONLINE: Screengrab of the ad offering homework completion services.
It seems individual tutors are not the only ones making money off homework.
A quick search online turns up several sites offering to complete essays, reports and homework.
TNPS even came across an advertisement on classifieds site GumTree Singapore by a group that offers assignment completion services for diploma and university students, and even working adults.
The group, which identifies itself as ProjectWorkHelper, says it can complete projects, essays, reports and homework, at a cost.
The price depends on the difficulty of the assignment and the time taken to complete the assignment.
An example on the ad to demonstrate its pricing system is the cost breakdown for a 3,000-word essay on Human Resource Management, which takes a month to complete. The price listed is $580.
The group claims there is a demand for such services.
A spokesman for ProjectWorkHelper says in an e-mail to TNPS: "While there are spikes in the frequency of people that approach us, we do have a long-term working relationship with some clients on a retainer basis."
The spokesman adds that most students would contact them for help directly, although they have a handful of parents who approach them to help with their children's work.
Their no-questions-asked approach is clear when pushed on whether the service helps students swamped with work.
"This is not a charity, it's a service. Whatever their reasons are, we do the work for them because we get paid to do so. We cater to that demand and we do a fantastic job," says the spokesman.