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Desi teachers give tuition to US kids

By Jacinta D'Souza
August 17, 2005 12:21 IST
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Taking lessons from the booming BPO industry, several Indian teachers are now turning to online tutoring of US students, keen on some extra help with their homework and improving grades at school.

"There is a huge market in the US for online tutoring especially with the US facing an acute shortage of teachers", according to Anirudh Phadke, principal consultant, e-learning, Career Launcher, an organisation offering education solutions and currently into the business of e-tutoring.

Currently, only five per cent of the total US online tutoring market is tapped and there is a huge potential for Indian players to enter the still nascent industry.

With the US government aggressively promoting the educational legislation that 'no child should be left back' and growing parental concern over falling grades, there has been a spurt in the demand for online tutoring, says Shantanu Prakash, CEO Educomp Datamatics, a player in e-tutoring.

The online tutoring concept makes use of the teacher-student interaction using either voice or non-voice technology to 'remotely aide' the student through his lessons.

Career Launcher has adopted the 'Whiteboard' software, similar to a teacher teaching on a blackboard where a student can hear, see and speak to the teacher.

On the other hand, Educomp uses the 'Mentor Aide' format whereby most of the teaching is done through the non-voice format but the student and teacher both can see each other's screen and interact with each other while using technology that was an advanced version of the chat session.

Some companies allow students to book time slots that could actually translate to midnight hours in India, with teachers ending giving classes at midnight or at 2 am.

"After registration, a student and teacher log in during the scheduled time for the lessons", says Ruchi Dudeja, a teacher, who specialises in online tutoring.

Online tutoring is conducted only during the appointed time and the hours of study are fixed as per the packages opted for.

"A grade three student would have to shell out $20 an hour while a college student would have to pay $40 an hour for the tutoring", said Anirudh, whose company has taught nearly 800 students since its operation and plans adding 1000 more by the end of this year.

"Students could opt for 20 teaching hours, spread over their own time and convenience. It is entirely up to the student when he or she wishes to take those lessons. We offer 24-hour service to our students. Recently, we had a summer package for $199 ", says Shantanu whose company has taught nearly 600 students.

The demand for tutoring was mainly in Maths and hence the companies have currently restricted their services to the subject. Reading was another area that students were now trying to seek help followed closely by science.

The tutorials are not necessarily remedial teaching. "A student logs in, states his problem and asks for guidance. The problem is explained and solved and we might give the student an additional five problems to solve to ascertain whether he has understood the concept", adds Shantanu.

However, according to Ruchi, the online classes taken by her are very much like the tuitions back in India, however, the major difference in the education system here and there is "that the education in the US is more child oriented rather than standard-oriented ".

"Unlike in India where all standard seven students would have completed a set of concepts, there each student grapples with concepts at his own space and ability", Ruchi adds.

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Jacinta D'Souza
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