According to a 2015 Program for International Student Assessment, which tested 15-year-olds from 80 different countries in math, reading, and science, the U.S. ranked 24th in science, 24th in reading, and 39th in math. Singapore, by contrast, performed an average of 20% better on each test and ranked #1 in each of the three categories.
Interestingly, Singapore has a 71% tutoring attendance rate for all students who attend school in contrast to less than 25% for U.S. students. Some may say that tutoring is absolutely needed and students cannot do well without it, some may say that it’s the fault of our educational system, while others say they don’t really care about international rankings. However, all would be wrong.
While there are many factors that contribute to individual success, and thus, the success of a nation, learning how to think through problems, reading the text and analyzing it, and understanding how basic science works is definitely important. For better or worse, the U.S. has become a nation of expectation without contribution or, in other words, a nation of entitlement — the majority of which is a result of our inability to reach a point of adversity and break through it. As most people know, facing challenges is often what makes us stronger and more determined. Since far fewer people are taking on that challenge at a younger age, it is a skill that is lacking in our younger generations.
So how does tutoring fit into the picture?
Let’s look at the first statement that tutoring is needed to combat the falling rankings. Tutoring is not unto itself a requirement. (But you are a tutoring company that is in business to provide tutoring?) True, but tutoring simply for increasing grades or test scores is not the answer. It is a wonderful side-effect of what true tutoring should be about: confidence, self-esteem, and breaking down the wall of adversity. Turning “can’t” into “can” and “too hard” into “Watch this!” The best tutors and tutoring facilities don’t simply focus on the symptoms, they focus on the student, similar to the best doctors. By focusing on the student, what they are good at, what they need help with, and how to best light the fire of determination, the solution is found by the one who truly needs it — the student.
The second statement about the decline being the fault of our education system is also not entirely true. The system still provides for the opportunity to learn, the skills required, and the challenge. So the core of what is needed is still present and available. The problem begins after that: class sizes, individual and small group attention, and remediation opportunities. This is again where tutoring can help. We can provide smaller groups and remediation opportunities to decrease the rate at which kids fall behind and then begin to accelerate their growth in order to catch up and get ahead.
The last statement about not caring about the international rankings is somewhat defeatist. There’s nothing that says we have to be the best, and there’s nothing that being the best gives us as a country. But what it does say is that we’ve lost our competitive spirit. Competitiveness drives excellence and performance. Combine competitiveness with a moral and ethical standard and some wonderful things can be imagined, created, developed, and realized.
If we can turn “can’t” into “can,” provide support for those who need a smaller setting to be successful, and regain the competitive spirit, we can begin to see the results that we as a country for so long prided ourselves on. Historically, education has been a strong indicator of the success of a nation. When education has fallen, so have nations. Tutoring is not the only solution, but it will substantially help. Students need to know that education is part of their health as a citizen and our health as a country. When each student’s individual success is combined into a collective of proficient problem solvers, proficient readers and thinkers, and proficient scientific minds, the country will reap the benefits.