Kids in Britain + Online Tutors in India = Divided Opinions
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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.
India was once a colony in the British Empire. But now Indian tutors are helping to teach math to some British children over high-speed Internet connections.
Early results suggest that online tutoring may improve student performance. But not everyone is happy at this so-called outsourcing of tutors.
It’s three-thirty in the afternoon at Raynham Primary School in London. Students are gathering for their after-school math lesson.
Five time zones and thousands of kilometers away, their math tutors are also arriving for class.
Each pupil gets an individual online tutor. The students work with activities on their computer screen and wear a headset and microphone to talk to their tutor.
Their classroom teacher, Altus Basson, says he has seen an improvement in results.
ALTUS BASSON: " Children who struggle to focus in class focus a lot better on the laptops."
Nine-year-old Samia Abdul-Kadir says she enjoys the online lessons.
SAMIA ABDUL-KADIR: "It helps me because sometimes when we’re doing it in class, I don’t hear the teacher very much and I don’t understand, but online is better."
Her friend, Abdul-Fadil Badori, agrees.
ABDUL-FADIL BADORI: "Online, you can hear it, it’s not shared by everyone, everyone has different topics they’re learning."
Tom Hooper started the company that provides the online tutoring. The company is called BrightSpark Education.
TOM HOOPER: "Children today feel very confident online, they feel very engaged, they feel very in control. And that’s half the battle with education. Give them control, make them feel confident and enjoy their learning and you’ll see them start to improve and embrace it."
Online tutoring costs between twenty and twenty-five dollars an hour. An online tutor is about half the cost of traditional face-to-face coaching.
But some people say an Internet connection is not enough of a connection for teaching and learning. Kevin Courtney is deputy general secretary of Britain's National Union of Teachers.
KEVIN COURTNEY: "We think there’s something that's a really important emotional connection between a teacher and a child, whether it’s a whole class or whether it’s one-to-one. You need that immediacy of feedback, and we’re not convinced that that can happen across an Internet connection. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we think that we can afford to have teachers with the genuine emotional connection there with the children."
BrightSpark Education says the online tutoring is used only as an addition to supplement regular teaching. The company says its service does not represent a threat to teachers’ jobs in Britain.
Some parents say they are satisfied with the results. And what about the children?
CHILDREN: "I love it!" "I love it!" "I hate maths!"
So math -- or, as the British call it, maths -- is still not everyone's favorite subject even with the latest technology to teach it.
And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. You can watch a video of the online tutoring by going to voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.
Contributing: Henry Ridgwell