Hiring a private tutor may help some children with their studies. For others, it means an added advantage at staying competitive.

Some students need help with their studies, and others want extra help to improve test scores and gain advantage over their peers.  But tutoring can sometimes become a crutch.

The social pressure to hire a private tutor can irresistible, because tutoring has become part of "the ever-expanding job description of the modern parent," says Carl Honoré the author of Under Pressure: Rescuing Childhood from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting

The Tutoring Boom

In the 1970s and 1980s, when Honoré was growing up, few children had tutors.  Since the 1990s, private tutoring has become a big business as one out of four Canadian children is tutored.  Today, the private tutoring industry is booming globally:

  • SAT tutors in the New York charge up to $1,000 an hour, and one US company charges $21,000 to secure a place at Harvard or Yale.
  • Elite tutors in Hong Kong are household names.
  • Kumon, started by a Japanese father in the 1950s, has grown serving four million children around the world

Parents are driving the tutoring boom

The tutoring boom is driven by parents, says Honoré.  Some parents may want to make up for the shortcomings of their child’s school, but others want to nudge their kids ahead of the pack. 

Private tutoring has been shown to improve test scores, and if the point of an education is to deliver the highest possible scores, then tutoring has a role. 

On the other hand, as Honoré argues, if the role of education is to nurture children to be independent thinkers with a thirst for knowledge, then tutoring can rob kids of independently mastering a new piece of knowledge.  Tutoring also masks weaknesses in the school system and can create an uneven playing field among pupils.


Some professional help may be extremely helpful for students struggling with school.  But for most children, having free time is important.  If children spend all their time hitting the books outside school, they're missing downtime and important lessons.