Thinking Twice Before Joining a Tuition Centre with Marketing Gimmicks

Written by
Timothy Gan

In the competitive landscape of Singapore’s tuition industry, a new trend is emerging where tuition centres lure students with attractive offers like Universal Studios Singapore tickets, movie passes, and more. While these offers might seem to prioritize student welfare, a closer look reveals a different story.

A Personal Anecdote: The Pitfalls of Misleading Education

I recall a conversation with one of my students who had a disheartening experience at a tuition centre. She told me, “Mr Gan, ABC tuition centre taught me the wrong stuff for economics. The same essay question appeared in my actual exams. I remembered their answer word for word and scored only 2 out of 10.” This incident highlights a critical issue in humanities subjects. Unlike sciences, where a lack of knowledge is immediately apparent, humanities tutors can mask their inexperience with confidence and charisma, misleading students into believing they’re receiving quality education.

Here are some of the points a student needs to consider before joining such tuition centres:

1. Misrepresentation of Technological Advancement

Some of these centres claim to be at the forefront of edutech. However, a deeper investigation often reveals a lack of substantial technological integration. Students might find that there are no online portals for accessing recorded lectures or additional resources, contrary to what is advertised. Instead, they encounter traditional teaching methods using whiteboards and notes, questioning the tech-savvy image portrayed.

2. Questionable Allocation of Funds

When considering the allocation of funds in tuition centres, it’s important to strike a balance. Marketing, undeniably, plays a crucial role in promoting the services of the centre and attracting students. However, when marketing expenses become excessive, it raises concerns about the compromise on educational quality. Over-investment in marketing gimmicks like movie tickets or theme park passes means there’s less available to invest in crucial educational resources.

Don’t misunderstand; a healthy level of funding towards marketing is necessary and even beneficial for increasing visibility and student engagement. But when this is overly prioritized, the core purpose of the tuition centre – to provide quality education – may be undermined. Excessive spending on marketing can divert funds from essential areas such as hiring qualified teachers, developing comprehensive curriculum materials, and investing in advanced teaching technologies.

When the focus shifts too heavily towards attracting students through perks rather than through educational excellence, the student’s learning experience can suffer. Parents and students should be wary of centres where the glamour of marketing overshadows the substance of teaching. The priority should always be the enhancement of the learning experience, not the embellishment of the centre’s image.

3. The Importance of Tutor Profiles

The personal anecdote shared earlier, where a student was misguided in economics, underscores the crucial importance of a tutor’s qualifications and experience. This point cannot be overstated in the context of tuition centres.

Reliability Through Qualifications

Qualifications serve as a fundamental indicator of a tutor’s expertise in their subject area. They provide a baseline assurance that the tutor has undergone the necessary education and training to understand and teach the subject at a high level. In subjects like economics, where conceptual understanding and application are key, a tutor’s academic credentials become even more vital. They are not just teaching the subject; they are also tasked with fostering critical thinking and analytical skills.

Experience: The Litmus Test of Effectiveness

Experience, on the other hand, is where the depth of understanding and ability to teach effectively is truly tested. An experienced tutor has not only mastered the content but also knows how to communicate complex ideas in a way that is understandable and relatable to students. They have honed their skills in addressing diverse learning styles and can adapt their teaching methods to suit individual needs.

Using the anecdote as an example, the student’s unfortunate experience in the exam was a direct result of being taught by someone who, despite perhaps seeming confident, lacked the depth of knowledge and teaching expertise required for the subject. This situation could have been avoided if the tutor had both the qualifications to understand the subject matter deeply and the experience to convey it effectively.

Beyond Confidence and Charisma

The anecdote also highlights a critical misunderstanding in education: the idea that confidence and charisma in a tutor are adequate substitutes for true understanding and teaching skill. While these qualities can make lessons engaging, they are no replacement for genuine expertise. In humanities subjects, where there’s often no immediate right or wrong answer, as in sciences, the risk of being misled by a charismatic but underqualified tutor is even higher.

marketing gimmicks Thinking Twice Before Joining a Tuition Centre with Marketing Gimmicks

4. Profit as the Primary Goal

Another critical aspect to consider is the underlying profit motive of some tuition centres. While it’s understood that every educational institution needs to be financially sustainable, prioritizing profit can lead to deceptive practices. Students and parents often find themselves entangled in a web of hidden costs that weren’t disclosed upfront. These could manifest as additional fees for ‘extra’ classes or resources, significantly inflating the initially quoted price. This overemphasis on profit often results in a complex array of payment schemes, each designed to extract more money under the guise of enhancing the educational experience. This tactic not only misleads but can also place undue financial strain on families seeking quality education for their students.

5. The Reputation of the Tuition Centre

A crucial aspect to consider when selecting a tuition centre is its reputation, specifically, what it is known for. In many of these centres that use marketing gimmicks, their reputation often hinges more on the entertainment value they provide rather than the quality of education.

When asking students about their experiences at these centres, their responses are often telling. More often than not, they enthusiastically share stories about their fun trips to Universal Studios Singapore (USS) or other entertainment activities provided by the centre. While these experiences are enjoyable and can be a part of a well-rounded education, they should not be the focal point.

The concerning part is that very rarely do students highlight the educational aspects of the programme. Discussions about the quality of teaching, the depth of subject understanding they’ve gained, or the improvement in their academic skills are notably absent. This trend indicates a shift in focus from education to entertainment, where the priority seems to be creating a fun experience rather than fostering a solid educational foundation.

For parents and students, this should be a red flag. The primary purpose of a tuition centre should be to enhance learning and academic performance. If a centre’s reputation is primarily built on non-educational aspects, it may not be the best environment for students who need serious academic support. When choosing a tuition centre, it’s essential to look for one that is reputed for its educational excellence, where fun and entertainment are just a complement to, not a replacement for, quality learning.


While the allure of freebies and fun perks might be tempting, students and parents should exercise caution and scrutinize the actual educational value offered by these tuition centres. The focus should always be on the quality of education and the credentials of the tutors, rather than the superficial attractions that these centres use as marketing strategies. Remember, a sound education is an investment in the future, and it should not be compromised by short-term gimmicks.

It’s essential to look beyond the surface-level attractions and delve into the quality of education, the integrity of the institution, and the transparency of its operations. Remember, the ultimate goal should be enriching the educational journey, not falling prey to marketing gimmicks that prioritize profit over learning.

Published: 17th November 2023
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