Monday 14 April 2008

A smart alternative to disgraced teachers


B D Narayankar
Pune: Four days a week, after a brief siesta, Hardeep Singh plunks down his backpack, pulls out his math textbook and logs on to his laptop to teach students thousands of miles away in a foreign country.

A similar ritual goes at every 2 am in countless Indian households, with one major exception.

A growing number of US families are hiring tutors based in India to help their children with math, science, Hindi and even English.

The Indian tutors, who start their shifts in the wee hours of the morning to be available to US students during prime homework hours, cost far less than their American counterparts.

There are nationwide chains like WiziQ, TutorVista, Sylvan Learning Center, as well as dozens of independent companies with clever names like Math Magician, Math Medics and Mathnasium.

Outsourcing of teachers is a cost-effective exercise for foreign students, while it has been fetching Indian teachers some big bucks. “For teachers based there, students pay Rs 20,000 for an hour of study, while Indian teachers offer them with Rs 1,000 per hour," said Hardeep.

According to Harman Singh, founder and CEO of wiziq.com, of the 20,000-odd students and teachers enrolled with wiziq today, over 4,000 are teachers.

Singh said the virtual classroom (website) is equipped with two-way audio, text, chat, PowerPoint and PDF document sharing. The session can even be replayed. Raashid Malik, a software engineer with wiziq, says one can find the tutor for any subject in the site's massive tutor directory.

American and European children are the same as children anywhere. One day, they are bright and do their work very well. One day, they are tired and difficult, S Ramesh, another online teacher says with a sigh.

To be able to be a successful teacher, you need to be extremely patient. Parents looking to boost their children’s grades have plenty of choices. Despite the competition among private tutors, hiring one can be costly. At Sylvan, which offers a 3-student-to-1-tutor ratio at their centers throughout the city, fees are $45 to $50 an hour. An in-home private tutor can run $65.

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