The value of tutoring: step in to help your child step up

by Media Xpose

Does this sound familiar? For some time now, your child’s school marks have been dropping. They’ve been complaining that they hate Maths or don’t like their teacher. And their self-confidence has taken a dip.

You’ve been meaning to get help, but now the situation is so bad that you simply can’t leave it any longer. So, what do you do?

The sooner you intervene, the better the outcome for your child, say husband and wife team Wynand and Gemay van Heerden, founders of academic extension centre Edify. “The longer you leave it, the wider the crack. Act immediately.”

The figures prove their point: they have found that both learners who start with Edify in Grade 8 and matric will increase their marks – but it makes a big difference whether they start with, say, 75% in Grade 8 or 40% in Grade 12. “As an example, we might pick up a child’s marks in matric from 40% to 60%, but the kid who started in Grade 8, we pick up from 75% to 90%.

“We’ve just had the second group in matric that started in Grade 8 with us – and our average mark for a child who started with us in Grade 8 is 80%, where our average mark for a learner who started with us in matric is around 62%,” says Wynand.

Every child can benefit from tutoring if they’re in the right environment, he adds – even those who are already doing well at school.

“Tutoring is not just for children who are struggling; it’s also to provide that extra push,” says Gemay. “Many of our students are doing phenomenally well. It’s all about challenging them and enriching them with skills they’re going to need.”

So, what do you need to know when it comes to personalised learning and the benefits of tutoring? Here are some top tips from Wynand and Gemay.

1. Consider the snowball effect

“Maths is a very emotive subject,” says Wynand. “Your marks can decrease very quickly – but the other side of the coin is that they can also increase quickly.” Tutoring can help your child stay on the “right side” of that trajectory.

“Once a child believes they can do Maths, they then want to do Maths, and from there it’s a snowball effect … The moment they start doing better in Maths, everything else follows, because then they start believing in their own abilities,” adds Gemay.

But once your child starts believing they “can’t do Maths”, it can quickly lead to a loss of confidence and self-esteem.

Parents should be aware of several critical areas in specific grades to ensure Maths success:

  • Preschool: start developing a love for numbers, through playing “in a smart way”
  • Mid-primary school/Grade 4: this is when your growing child becomes quite self-aware. If they’re on top of Maths at that time, it’s good for their self-esteem and social and academic development – if not, seek help
  • Grade 7 is when your child prepares to go to high school. Their Maths must be at a level where they can start Grade 8 on the front foot. If they’re struggling now, this is an excellent time to find support
  • Grade 9: this is a watershed year when your child must master many fundamental Maths concepts and topics (such as, vitally, factorisation) – get help if your child is falling behind
  • Grade 11: the Grade 11 exams are critical to provisional university acceptance – make sure your child has the support they need

Tutoring can also make all the difference when it comes to subjects such as Afrikaans First Additional Language. Children often start at Edify with a very limited Afrikaans vocabulary which, says Wynand, “is like going to war without bullets”.

“We need to increase their vocabulary in order for them to have more options when they’re answering an exam question.”

Gemay adds, “Again, if they get to us early, we can really do a lot for their language.”

2. If in doubt, assess

If you see your child studying hard, but their marks don’t reflect it, something is going wrong.

But what? Expert educators are trained to pinpoint problems and find solutions.

Qualified teachers know the baseline knowledge that children should have at different stages of their schooling, says Gemay. They can assess where your child is academically, where they should be – and how to get there.

Edify offers free 30-minute baseline assessments by subject experts in your child’s grade, both to provide feedback to parents about the way their child learns and to allow the teachers to create an individualised action plan.

For subjects like Maths, the assessor will look at your child’s understanding of foundational subject matter, and whether they can apply new knowledge and retain that information. This will help them determine which aspects to focus on and what pace to set.

If there’s any doubt in your mind, says Wynand, bring your child for an assessment. “Get to us early – the sooner we intervene, the more we can do.”

3. Choose the experts

There are myriad tutoring options out there, but Wynand and Gemay warn parents against simply going for the cheapest option.

It may be more economical to pay a university student for extra lessons, but they may not know the exact requirements of the curriculum or how to convey complicated concepts effectively. Chances are they’re not equipped to assess your child, work on specific areas of concern or know what they’re working towards.

“You get what you pay for,” says Wynand. “What sets us apart is that you will have an expert working with your child who checks every single thing they do and immediately picks up on areas of concern.”

“Our teachers do continual assessments and do not label the kids – as they improve, we also adapt their learning programmes … That’s why we assess our kids on a weekly basis.”

All Edify’s teaching staff work full-time for the company and are university graduates with extensive knowledge of their subject matter. Many have teaching degrees, are qualified engineers, have BSc degrees, or are chartered accountants. Daily lessons start at 1.30pm, with the last session commencing at 5.30pm. Three mornings a week, all teachers undergo training on different aspects of the syllabus.

“We see this as a major differentiator for Edify … Because you can always improve as a teacher,” says Wynand.

Some parents may wonder about the value of extra classes if they’re already paying for a good school, but the goal is for the two services to complement each other, stresses Gemay.

At Edify, the teacher-to-learner ratio is, at most, 1:5 or 1:6 for the older grades (and less for the younger grades). “So, we have an in-depth idea of where every kid is at. Every single thing a child does, we check …”

While the basics of the teaching remain the same for all learners in a grade, the questions they are set and the pace at which they work will differ, he explains.

4. Heed the warning bells

Parents often think it’s normal if their child’s performance declines once they start high school, but that perception is false, stresses Wynand. “If your child is a 90% candidate in primary school, they should be operating at the same level in high school.”

Something is wrong if there’s more than a 10% deviation in your child’s results, and marks should also not be going down from year to year, he adds. So, don’t wait until their marks have dropped by 20% or more before seeking help.

Consult an expert if:

  • Your child (Grade 3 and younger) starts saying things like, “I hate Maths”, “I don’t like my Maths teacher” or “I don’t like numbers”
  • Your young child writes numbers the wrong way
  • Your child starts believing they can’t do a particular subject
  • Your child can’t count forward and backwards by Grade 2 or 3
  • Your child can’t do fractions by Grade 4 or 5
  • Your child’s marks drop once they start high school
  • Your child’s marks decline year on year
  • Your child’s marks are constantly fluctuating by more than 10%

5. A final word

If a child is self-confident, the battle is 60% won, says Wynand. Trained Edify teachers know how to build learners’ confidence.

Make sure your child is 100% “present” when they’re studying – cellphones and social media are big distractions. Rather set aside an hour for TikTok and Instagram, and then get your child to focus on their studies.

Finally, stresses Wynand, there’s no need for a child to study for hours or days on end – you need to work constantly, and in shorter increments, to get the brain to process the information you just learnt.

Visit Edify’s website for more information:

Gemay and Wynand van Heerden with two of their children

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