Choosing a Chinese teacher/ tutor/ education centre

A parent Mr Eugene Lee articulates in great detail his personal methodology of deciding who is most suited to instruct his child as far as learning the Mother Tongue is concerned, complete with reasons and observations:

" Allow me to share more about how I choose the appropriate Chinese teacher/ tutor/ education centre:

1. Avoid home grown Chinese teacher/tutor. Why?

a . we used to have very good Chinese teachers in the past, however most of them have now retired.

b. For those who pursued (and graduated) with degrees in Chinese local universities, probably more than 80% went on this path not because they were passionate about the language itself, but rather their dismal 'A' Level results did not allow them to pursue other fields of study.

c. We do not have an actual proper facility to nurture Chinese educators from scratch; currently NIE only offers a few months of rushed training in child psychology and teaching pegagogy.

d. I reckon there are probably around 10% of local Chinese teachers who are really good, however most of them have already been promoted to more administrative based posts, or are extremely occupied with school activities, hence a very slim chance your kids will actually be taught by them at all.

2. On the flip side, if you wish to hire a native Chinese tutor/teacher who was born and bred in China, do consider if he/she satisfy the following criteria:

a. Is he/she a mainstream school teacher in China?

b. Did he/she graduate from a proper institution/college/University (eg 师范院校)?

c. Was his/her attained major related to that of the Chinese language (中文系)?

d. Does he/she possess at least 5 years of local teaching experience? Whereabouts?

e. Were the feedback from other parents who hired him/her generally positive?

f. Can he/she speak converse in simple English?

In the event some of the above criteria are not satisfied, coupled with an observation that the child has not made any visible progress under this person's tutelage, I would advise parents to make a switch to someone else. Otherwise, I am afraid the whole engagement will not only waste precious time and money, but also impact the child's confidence levels in handling the subject."

Mr Edric Teo of agrees and at the same time disagrees:

"I think you do raise a lot of valid points though I think there are lots of really good local Chinese teachers/tutors.

For points 1b and 1d, I think your estimates are too skewed. I would say at least 80% are actually interested in the subject. Seriously, who would even attempt studying Chinese at the tertiary level if they don't like it at all? I can perhaps understand that dilemma if it arose from subjects like Mathematics and Sciences, possibly even English but a degree/diploma in Chinese is not something you would pursue if you didn't like it in the first place.

Given that Chinese is not our first language, I would say maybe another 20% of them may not excel in teaching or are just not good enough when it comes to mastering the language. That said, I think we would still have at least a good half of the local grown teachers who are genuinely competent.

However, you are right that a lot of these good teachers are sucked dry by the school. Simply because they do lots of extra work (creating games for lessons) for their students on top of the school assigned activities (like CCAs).

Personally, I feel that a good teacher will make your child learn to love the subject as well as learn on his/her own. This is what I find lacking in some foreign teachers. Their strength in the language is a double-edged sword. It means a lot them are simply banking in on their ability to use the language even though they have no interest in teaching the subject. Sometimes it's more than just imparting words and sentences, it's about knowing your students on a more personal level, which I believe is what you would expect of a private tutor.

I'm not promoting local teachers nor denouncing foreign ones. As I have mentioned, I think your points are very valid but I wanted to share an alternate point of view. There are definitely good foreign teachers but there are just as many good local teachers as well. The most important thing is to see how your child responds to the tutor over a period of time.

Disclaimer: I'm not a teacher (not even close =P), but I do happen to know a number of really great teachers out there."


The Czar (Site Founder)

Dated 8 July 2014


The Problem With Singlish And Singaporean Education