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lee shumow

higher education
art farlowe

international trends
mark bray


Tutoring typically involves two individuals, a tutor and a tutee. The tutor is more knowledgeable or expert than the tutee and attempts to help the tutee learn, usually in an academic area. Age is not necessarily a factor in the tutoring relationshipthe tutor and tutee may be the same ageas long as the tutor has greater knowledge or skill than the tutee. Traditionally, tutoring has involved one-to-one instruction, but some tutoring programs do involve a tutor and two or three tutees.

Scholars have long considered tutoring the most effective form of instruction. Numerous research studies provide evidence on which to base this conclusion. The American public appears to be aware of the value of tutoring. According to a 1998 Newsweek survey, 42 percent of Americans strongly believe that children should receive private tutoring outside of school. In addition to providing extra practice, tutoring appears to be successful because the intensive individualized attention allows the tutor to identify the student's level of expertise. When the tutor has a clear idea of the next steps in the learning process, he or she is then able to present tutees with materials at their precise level of understanding. Tutoring also is thought to be effective because of the social support and modeling inherent in the process.

Tutees run the gamut from students performing far below grade level to students vying for Ivy League admissions. A wide range of options exists for students who need or desire tutoring. Those options vary in cost, availability, quality, and effectiveness.

School-Based Tutoring Programs

Tutoring is a component of numerous educational programs designed for the prevention of, or intervention with, students at risk of educational failure. These programs are to be delivered by professional or paraprofessional teachers in schools. Reading has been the focus of many school-based tutoring programs. For example, tutoring by certified teachers with special training is a component of Success for All, a comprehensive program designed by Robert Slavin for at-risk primary-school children. More than one million students have participated in Success for All. Studies have documented the effectiveness of the program, and it has been extended to other academic subjects with the Roots and Wings program. The Success for All program is most effective in schools that fully implement the model, and when it is maintained into, but not beyond, middle school.

Reading Recovery is another popular programit was used by more than 9,000 schools in the 19951996 school year. Reading Recovery identifies first graders performing in the lower 20 percent of their class in reading, and these students receive thirty minutes of individual tutoring each day beyond the time spent in classroom reading instruction until they can read at grade level (on average, this takes three to five months). Tutors are certified teachers who have been specially trained in Reading Recovery methods. Numerous studies document that participants in Reading Recovery read better than control group students. However, some researchers point out that Reading Recovery has not been effective for somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of participating students.

Many school districts use Title I funds to finance Reading Recovery. Initially, teachers must be trained, a cost that varies from five to eight thousand dollars. In subsequent years, the costs involve teacher time for one-to-one instruction. Some schools have scheduled creatively so as to minimize that cost. Cost estimates are site specific, and vary from $2,500 to $10,000 annually per student, which is less than the cost of special education programs.

Reading One-to-One, a tutorial program for students in kindergarten through eighth grade who are struggling in reading, has been implemented in more than 100 schools in the United States and Mexico. The program builds on concepts of Reading Recovery and Success for All, but uses paraprofessionals rather than professionals to deliver forty minutes of individualized reading instruction several times per week. Only one study has been conducted on the effectiveness of Reading One-to-One. That study used few students, but found significant positive reading gains associated with program participation. The program designers state that seventy sessions are needed for students to make significant gains. Program costs have been estimated to be $600 per child per year to cover books, materials, tutor training, and paraprofessional salary.

Volunteer Tutoring Programs

Some tutoring programs depend on adult volunteers. Numerous schools throughout the country utilize parents as volunteer tutors. These parents often listen to children read, or they practice academic skills with students individually or in small groups. The circumstances, time spent, and the tutor preparation, skill, and knowledge vary enormously between programs. There are very few studies on the effectiveness of using volunteer tutors. Barbara Wasik reviewed the literature in 1997 and found only two programs that had used control groups in the evaluation. Those two programs were evaluated positively, but one of the programs no longer operates. A reading specialist supervised both programs, and training was provided to the tutors. The cost of both programs to the school districts entailed the salary of the reading specialist and any materials used during tutoring.

Dropout prevention has been the purpose of a number of other school-based mentoring programs. Mentors are usually volunteers from school staff or the community. There is some evidence that such programs are successful when mentors meet consistently with students and regularly monitor their progress. Social support and modeling appear to be the mechanisms through which those programs help to lower school dropout rates. The cost of those programs involves the time of the program coordinator at the schools.

Two nonprofit educational literacy organizations, Laubach Literacy and Literacy Volunteers of America, support the provision of free tutoring for older youths and adults who need basic literacy instruction. The two programs agreed to merge in 2002. Together, the program professional managers will support approximately 160,000 volunteers in 1,450 local, state, and regional literacy programs. Educational materials are published for tutees and for tutor training. Tutors receive information about approaches that have been found to be effective through experience and empirically tested theory. Laubach Literacy has developed a rigorous accreditation program for literacy tutoring programs.

Private For-Profit Tutoring

Private tutoring paid for by fees is another tutoring arrangement. There have been no comprehensive studies of private tutoring, so little is known about the extent and effects of private tutoring. Parents choose to send their children to professionally trained tutors at private businesses to address concerns about student's educational progress or preparedness for examinations. Local tutoring businesses operate in affluent communities throughout the nation, and private tutors command as much as $125 per hour in affluent urban enclaves.

Several tutoring chains operate throughout the nation. Huntington, a corporation that has been operating since 1977, has centers located throughout the United States. Local offices provide tutoring in different subject areas and in test preparation for preschoolers through adults. Most instruction for children takes place in a ratio of three students to one certified teacher but individual (one-to-one) tutoring also is available. Tuition depends on the geographic location of the facility and ranges from thirty to forty-five dollars per hour for group tutoring and from forty to sixty dollars per hour for individual tutoring.

Sylvan Learning, which has been operating since 1979, has approximately 900 centers located in North America, Hong Kong, and Guam. Sylvan conducts their own testing to pinpoint student needs. Most instruction at Sylvan takes place with three students and one certified teacher. Sylvan tutors use the mastery learning approach, in which students must demonstrate proficiency on each skill or concept before progressing. Most students attend between 50 and 100 hours of instruction, with a recommendation of two to four hours of instruction per week. Sylvan uses an incentive system based on behaviorist principles of positive reinforcement, in which tutees receive rewards for their cooperation and learning. Several large urban school systems have contracted with Sylvan to provide reading instruction at public schools to those children who are struggling the most in reading. Sylvan has also introduced live online tutoring for students in the third through ninth grades. The electronic system entails having a student and tutor interact electronically, following the same principles as the center-based program.

The Kaplan organization began test preparation centers for standardized college entrance examinations. Kaplan has since expanded by forming Score! Educational Centers, which tutor students in basic skills and subject matter. Kumon Math and Reading Centers, which originated in Japan, have more than 1,000 centers throughout the United States. Kumon focuses on timed drills of basic skills.

Peer Tutoring

Peer tutoring often involves students of the same age or grade teaching each other one-to-one or in small groups. A host of research studies provide evidence that peer tutoring is effective for promoting both student achievement and positive attitudes toward both content material and individual differences. Peer tutoring is vastly improved when students are provided with information about how to increase interaction and provide feedback during tutoring. Some evidence suggests that peer tutoring is especially beneficial for children from ethnic backgrounds where cooperation is valued. Peer tutors often cannot help students in sophisticated ways, however. Instead, it seems that peer tutors help classmates succeed by increasing their attention to the learning task and their involvement in practicing.

Cross-age tutoring involves having older students tutor younger students. This method has been used with a variety of both students and subjects. Evidence suggests that cross-age tutoring can provide benefits for both tutors and tutees. Experts agree that providing tutors with guidance in tutoring techniques, content, and social interaction and behavior management skills increases the effectiveness of the programs. Some evidence suggests that primary-grade students can make gains even when tutored by minimally trained adolescents.

Computer Tutoring

Computer-aided instruction (CAI) is a relatively new form of tutoring that has become more popular as computer availability and use has grown. Three types of CAI are available. The first, and most popular, type involves drill and practice. Drill and practice programs present items for the student to answer and feedback about the correctness of the responses. Such programs sometimes provide helpful suggestions or vary the level of item difficulty based on the user's performance. Tutorial programs teach or reteach material geared to the student's proficiency level as measured by a pretest or performance record. These programs provide alternate paths depending on student responses during tutoring. Simulations present students with problems to solve, and students must learn new material, use existing knowledge, and test ideas to solve the problems.

CAI programs vary widely in quality. Most experts agree that many available programs are not high quality. Drill and practice programs have been criticized for providing less practice than old-fashioned methods. This is because the attention-getting features that have been added to many programs distract students from the material they are meant to learn, and actually result in little direct practice time. Tutorial programs are very expensive to develop and require the expertise of gifted programmers, educators, and instructional designers. Simulation programs might require teachers to be very involved in helping the students negotiate the challenging situations presented, thus necessitating that the teacher spend time with individuals or small groups while others wait for help. In 1999 Yukiko Inoue pointed out that evaluations of intelligent tutoring systems had resulted in little valid research on which to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of such programs.


A wide range of tutoring options exists. Tutoring programs are offered in public schools, by private corporations, and by nonprofit corporations. Tutors might be volunteers, professionals, peers, or computers. More studies are needed to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of tutoring offered by private corporations or by computers, but there is considerable evidence that one-to-one instruction by a more skilled or knowledgeable tutor, whether a professional, volunteer, or peer, contributes to the learning and academic development of students.

See also: Compensatory Education, subentry on United States; School-Linked Services.


Adler, Jerry. 1998. "The Tutor Age." Newsweek 131 (13):4750.

Fitzgerald, Jill. 2001. "Can Minimally Trained College Student Volunteers Help Young At-Risk Children Read Better?" Reading Research Quarterly 36 (1):2847.

Ginsburg-Block, Marika, and Fantuzzo, John. 1997. "Reciprocal Peer Tutoring: An Analysis of 'Teacher' and 'Student' Interactions as Functions of Training and Experience." School Psychology Quarterly 12 (2):134149.

Inoue, Yukiko. 1999. "Evaluating Intelligent Tutoring Systems." ERIC Document Reproduction Service ED 429101.

Juel, Connie. 1996. "What Makes Literacy Tutoring Effective?" Reading Research Quarterly 31:268289.

Marius, Sidney E., Jr. 2000. "Mix and Match: The Effects of Cross-Age Tutoring on Literacy." Reading Improvement 37 (3):126130.

Mathes, Patricia; Torgeson, Joseph; and Allor, Jill. 2001. "The Effects of Peer-Assisted Literacy Strategies for First-Grade Readers With and Without Additional Computer-Assisted Instruction in Phonological Awareness." American Educational Research Journal 38 (2):371410.

Murray, Bridget. 1995. "Good Mentoring Keeps At-Risk Youth in School." APA Monitor. 26 (9):49.

Thrope, Lynne, and Wood, Karen. 2000. "Cross-Age Tutoring for Young Adolescents." Clearing House 73 (4):239242.

Wasik, Barbara. 1997. "Volunteer Tutoring Programs: Do We Know What Works?" Phi Delta Kappan 79 (4):282287.

Weiler, Jeanne. 1998. "Success for All: A Summary of Evaluations." ERIC/CIU Digest 139. ERIC Document Reproduction Service ED 425250.

internet resources

Education Commission of the States. 2000. "Reading One-to-One." <www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/18/90/1890.htm>.

Education Commission of the States. 2000. "Reading Recovery." <www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/18/91/1891.htm>.

Huntington Learning Center. 2002. <www.800canlearn.com>.

Laurbach Literacy International. 2002. <www.laubach.org>.

Literacy Volunteers of America. 2002. <www.literacyvolunteers.org>.

Sylvan Learning Centers. 2002. <http://educate.com>.

Lee Shumow


The practice of an institution's providing tutors is not a new: Early higher education in America was based on small lectures given by a professor to a group of students. Most often, the method of instruction consisted of drills by the instructor and recitation by the student. The phenomena of large lecture halls and examinations administered by graduate teaching assistants on computer scantron sheets was still two hundred years away.

By and large, institutions of higher education are not able to replicate the early classroom instruction. American college campuses, however, have instituted various forms of tutoring programs that provide a small group environment and a modified form of lecture and recitation. These programs include tutoring for student athletes and at-risk first-generation college students, and departmental programs for honors students, among others.

Tutors come from a variety of backgrounds and interests. Many are graduate students who work as tutors to offset the cost of graduate education; others are upper-level undergraduate students who excel in a particular subject area, or full-time teachers or employees of the institution. The role of the tutor is to complement, not replace, classroom instruction. A tutor should review classroom notes and assigned readings, and be prepared to discuss the classroom topics with his/her students. It is not the role of the tutor to re-teach the material that was covered in class; instead, the tutor should help to clarify major points or explain difficult concepts.

An effective tutor should be aware of various learning styles and should be able to recognize different methods of relaying information. For example, a student who is a visual learner may have difficulty in a history class where the instructor employs only a lecture-style mode of instruction. The tutor can assist the student in understanding the material by utilizing maps or pictures from the time period that depicts key events. The tutor must be creative in developing different learning strategies, and must not assume that all students process information in the same manner.

The most successful tutors have completed a training program. Although one may know and understand a particular academic subject, that knowledge does not always translate into the skills needed to be a successful tutor. A tutor should be trained in some theories of educational psychology and learning styles, and be cognizant of signs of learning disabilities in students. Tutors should also be well-informed about techniques that can motivate honor students since not all students who seek tutoring are borderline students.

There are several different types of tutoring programs, depending upon the target student population: for example, student-athletes, honors students, and at-risk students. Most National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) member institutions offer some form of tutoring for student-athletes. At many institutions, first-year athletes are required to attend some type of tutoring during their first year of enrollment. The purposes of the tutoring program for student-athletes are varied. Most important: students receive assistance in meeting their academic goals and meet NCAA eligibility requirements. Tutors working with student-athletes shoulder a great deal of responsibility. These students have tremendous demands on their time in addition to the time commitments of completing academic work. In addition, many of these students are first-generation college studentssome come to college ill prepared for the challenges of college work. The tutor not only helps to explain and clarify academic work but can often become a mentor, friend, and role model.

Other tutoring programs such as those for honors, first-generation, at-risk students, or specialty programs such as English, mathematics, or foreign-language centers differ in that students are not required to attend these sessions. Institutions offer these services either at no charge or for a reduced fee to students.

One college, the University of South Carolina, met a demand for tutoring by establishing several tutoring centers in its residence halls through the Department of Housing. These Academic Centers for Excellence (ACE) are partnerships between university housing, the math lab, and the writing center on campus. Students can seek out tutors in the lobbies of their residence halls. Graduate students provide on-site support in mathematics and English at the ACE offices.

Tutoring in higher education cannot be narrowly defined as it is interpreted differently by various institutions. Tutoring is an important component in undergraduate education as it provides students with the opportunity to seek help in a one-on-one basis or small group setting. Depending on the institution, this goal can be accomplished in a myriad of models.

See also: Adjustment to College; College Athletics, subentry on Academic Support Systems for Athletes; College Student Retention; Teaching and Learning, subentry on Higher Education.


Brooks, Dana, and Althouse, Ronald, eds. 1993. Racism in College Athletics. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

Byers, Walter. 1995. Unsportmanslike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Collinson, Vivienne. 1996. Reaching Students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Jewler, Jerome, and Gardner, John. 1993. Your College Experience. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Meyer, Emily, and Smith, Louise Z. 1987. The Practical Tutor. New York: Oxford University Press.

Winston, Roger B. Jr.; Bonney, Warren C.; Miller, Theodore K.; and Dagley, John C. 1988. Promoting Student Development Through Intentionally Structured Groups. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Art Farlowe


Private tutoring in academic subjects is defined as tutoring provided on a supplementary basis at the end of the school day, at weekends, or during vacations. In some countries, especially in East Asia, out-of-school supplementary tutoring has long been a major and accepted part of social and educational life. Elsewhere, especially in North America and western Europe, such tutoring has been less significant. It seems, however, to be growing worldwide, including in some countries where it was previously nonexistent. Some observers welcome the phenomenon, but others view it with disquiet.


Countries in which tutoring is a major enterprise include the following.

  • Egypt. A 1994 survey of 4,729 households found that 64.0 percent of urban primary children and 52.0 percent of rural ones had received supplementary tutoring.
  • India. A 1997 survey of 7,879 primary school pupils in Delhi found that 39.2 percent received tutoring.
  • Japan. A 1993 survey found that 23.6 percent of elementary pupils and 59.5 percent of lower secondary pupils attended tutorial schools known as juku.
  • Malta. A 19971998 survey of 1,482 pupils in upper primary and lower secondary schools found that 50.5 percent had received private tutoring at some time.
  • Tanzania. A 1995 survey of 2,286 grade-six-pupils found 44.5 percent received tutoring.

The scale of tutoring appears to have increased during the last few decades. In Japan, for example, attendance at elementary-level juku is reported to have doubled from 12.0 percent of pupils receiving tutoring in 1976 to 23.6 percent in 1993; in Singapore surveys in 1982 and 1992 suggested that the proportion of primary pupils receiving tutoring had increased from 27.0 to 49.0 percent. During the 1990s the shift toward a market economy in China and Vietnam permitted and encouraged the emergence of supplementary tutoring in settings where previously it did not exist. Eastern Europe has also undergone economic transition. The partial collapse of public education during the period that accompanied that transition has required families to invest in tutoring on a scale not previously evident. Supplementary tutoring has also become more evident in parts of Australia, Canada, and the United States.


Tutoring may take diverse forms. They include individual tutorials held in the homes of either tutors or tutees, and large cramming institutions that utilize not only lecture theatres but also overflow rooms in which students watch on a screen what is happening in the main room.

Zeng's 1999 study compared patterns in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan and focused on "cram schools" in which students gain intensive preparation for examinations. He noted that some tutorial schools are old-fashioned but others are ultramodern. In Japan and South Korea, many tutoring companies have multistory buildings and branch campuses. In Taiwan, by contrast, large operators are much less prominent. This may partly reflect government regulations but also reflects broader economic patterns which emphasize small enterprises more than multibranch chains.

Not all tutees, even within particular locations, receive tutoring for the same duration each day or deek. One Malaysian study of 4,340 primary and secondary students indicated that 69.5 percent of students who received tutoring did so throughout the year, while the others only received tutoring prior to important examinations. Over half the students received tutoring in only one or two subjects, but nearly 20 percent received tutoring in five or more subjects.


Among the determinants of the scale and nature of tutoring, and thus its geographic spread, are cultural, educational, and economic factors. Many Asian cultures, particularly those influenced by Confucian traditions, stress effort as a factor that explains and determines success. In contrast, European and North American cultures are more likely to emphasize ability. Supplementary tutoring is especially widespread in cultures which stress effort.

The nature of education systems is also important. Private tutoring is more evident where success in examinations can easily be promoted by supplementary tutoring; tutoring becomes more necessary in systems that are teacher-centered rather than child-centered, and/or which are intolerant of slow learners.

A further crucial factor concerns economic rewards. If supplementary tutoring helps people to stay in education systems longer, then for those people it may be a very good investment. Further, some societies have particularly wide differentials in living standards between individuals with different amounts of education. Differentials have long been great in such societies as Singapore and Hong Kong, but less marked in the United Kingdom and Australia. This implies that the rewards from extra levels of schooling, and from supplementary tutoring, are greater in these Asian societies than in western Europe or Australasia.

Private tutoring is more common in urban than in rural areas. This may be partly because incomes are commonly higher in cities than in rural areas. Also, cities may be more competitive and students may be able to find tutors more easily in densely populated locations.

Impact on Mainstream Schooling

Supplementary tutoring may affect the dynamics of mainstream classes. For example, where all students receive tutoring, mainstream teachers may have a decreased workload. Where some students receive supplementary tutoring but others do not, mainstream teachers may be confronted by disparities within their classrooms. Some teachers respond to these disparities by assisting the slower learners, but others take the students who receive tutoring as the norm and permit the gaps between students to grow. In the latter case, parents are placed under greater pressure to invest in private tutoring for their children.

When supplementary tutoring helps students to understand and enjoy their mainstream lessons, it may be considered beneficial. Supplementary tutoring can enable remedial teaching to be undertaken according to individual needs and it may help relatively strong students to receive more out of their mainstream classes. However, students may be bored by their classes if they have already covered the content outside school.

The curriculum emphasized by cram schools may be contrasted with that in mainstream schools. Especially in public education systems, schools are expected to develop rounded individuals who have sporting and musical as well as academic interests, and to promote courtesy, civic awareness, and national pride. Mainstream schools may also keep all students of one grade together, in order to reduce labeling of low achievers. Cram schools, by contrast, cut what they perceive to be irrelevant content in order to focus on examinations, and may have much less hesitation about grouping students by ability. Many analysts view this phenomenon negatively, arguing that the tutorial institutes distort the curriculum, which has been designed with care by specialists. However, the phenomenon may also be seen as an expression of public demand, and perhaps even as a check on curriculum developers who might otherwise be too idealistic.

Social Implications

On the positive side, the pressure created by supplementary tutoring may bring out the best in students and maximize their potential. To some extent, the degree of pressure that is considered appropriate is determined by social and cultural norms. East Asian societies influenced by Confucian traditions tend to place great value on discipline and dedication, and to see the pressure applied by supplementary tutoring as generally beneficial. Also, Russell's 1997 study noted that most children in Japan found the Kumon approach to teaching mathematics (involving considerable repetition and gradual increase in difficulty of exercises) an unthreatening experience. Many parents enroll their children in Kumon classes because the children like the activity.

However, many analysts concerned with other contexts consider the negative aspects of tutoring to outweigh the positive ones. One factor concerns social inequalities. Like other forms of private education, supplementary tutoring is more easily available to the rich than to the poor. Research in Mauritius has shown that in primary grade one the proportion of children receiving private tutoring in the highest income group was 7.5 times greater than the proportion of children in the lowest income group.

A further consideration concerns the types of tutoring. Mass tutoring in Japan and Hong Kong may be inexpensive, but it may also be limited in the extent to which it promotes learning. Richer families can more easily afford one-to-one and small-group tutoring tailored to individual needs, while poorer families must tolerate mass-produced tutoring.

Economic Implications

Advocates of human capital theory may consider supplementary tutoring to be highly desirable. The scale of tutoring may be one reason why Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan became prosperous societies during the second half of the twentieth century.

However, an alternative approach is less positive. Critics argue that most tutorial schools are parasitic, that they waste financial and human resources that could be better allocated to other uses, and that in systems which are dominated by traditional examinations, cramming stifles creativity and can damage the bases of economic production.

These views cannot easily be reconciled. They reflect broader debates on the nature and impact of mainstream education that rest as much on ideological principles as on empirical research. The broad literature on the links between education and development contains many ambiguous findings. No clear formulae can link certain types and amounts of education to certain types and amounts of economic development.


Private supplementary tutoring is widespread in some societies, and in others it is growing. Such tutoring has major social and economic implications, and it can have a far-reaching impact on mainstream education systems. Because the nature of supplementary tutoring varies, different policies are needed for different societies. Some planners may prefer to let the market regulate itself, but others may wish to intervene to alleviate what they perceive to be negative dimensions. The growth of private tutoring may be seen in the context of a worldwide shift toward the marketization of education and reduced government control. In many settings, this shift is viewed with ambivalence. Governments may have positive reasons for withdrawing the dominant role that they have played in many countries; but in some societies the rise of private tutoring appears to be a social response to inadequacies in government quantitative and qualitative inputs.

See also: Compensatory Education, subentry on Policies and Programs in Latin America; East Asia and the Pacific; Private Schooling.


Bray, Mark. 1999. The Shadow Education System: Private Tutoring and its Implications for Planners. Fundamentals of Educational Planning No. 61. Paris: UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning.

Russell, Nancy Ukai. 1997. Lessons from Japanese Cram Schools. In The Challenge of Eastern Asian Education: Lessons for America, ed. William K. Cummings and Philip G. Altbach. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Stevenson, David L., and Baker, David P. 1992. "Shadow Education and Allocation in Formal Schooling: Transition to University in Japan." American Journal of Sociology 97 (6):16391657.

Zeng, Kangmin. 1999. Dragon Gate: Competitive Examinations and their Consequences. London: Cassell.

Mark Bray