Indian maths teachers to teach American kids real time

Updated: Dec 30 2005, 05:30am hrs
Online tutoring has made it possible for a learner in the US to log on to a tutoring site in India and get connected to an Indian mathematics tutor. Both can discuss the problems that the student is facing by chatting or writing over a WhiteBoard. The student also has the option of faxing or mailing their difficulties in advance, or seek an appointment with the tutor.

This has become easier with the development of Stylus Pena hardware device that acts like a mouse, but is shaped like a pen.

The key benefit of online tutoring is that the learners do not have to call in an expensive maths tutor home from 30 miles away, and can take an appointment at a convenient time.

The main driver for the private tutoring market in the US is the school population that is underachieving in annual assessment tests.

The other major driver for the tutoring industry is the fund which is made available by the US Federal government for supplemental services to improve student performance in the lowest performing schools. Schools are themselves barred from providing these services which instead must be provided by third party commercial companies.

The US market has a K12 (Kindergarten to Class 12) content spend of over $10.2 billion, an assessment market of $ 2 billion and an online tutoring market of over $4 billion .

Overall, the size of the e-tutoring market is very big. By 2005, an estimated 77 million students under 18 will have access to the internet. Thus, internet-based tutoring services are expected to drive the overall tutoring market by reaching out to learners who need help in improving their academic scores.

The estimated $2.7 billion now available for supplemental services has created an excellent opportunity for Indian companies who have the requisite expertise in providing education solutions to schools, teachers and students.

While there are already a few US players in the e-tutoring market, Indian companies with their price advantage and huge pool of highly qualified teachers are on a strong wicket. They can offer quality service at a price of $15-20 per hour. They can also create specialised products with respect to content, lesson plans and tutoring and ensure complete mentoring of students.

At present, there is immense scope for providing tutoring in mathematics, because US schools feel quite strongly about the need for improvement in mathematics scores . Not only does the US increasingly lag behind other countries on international mathematics scores, it is also short of qualified mathematics teachers.

Plus, as school enrollment surges and baby boomers retire, the US faces a teacher shortage, particularly in mathematics and sciences. Nearly 40% of US high schools reported difficulty filling math openings this year with qualified instructors, according to the American Association of Employment in Education.

Indias high-school mathematics curriculum is very strong. There is stress on problem solving thanks to the highly competitive engineering exams in the country. Further, the curriculum at the bachelors and masters level is very competitive, with an emphasis on understanding and abstraction. This combination allows Indian tutors to quickly identify and resolve learning difficulties of children.

Finally, expertise in problem solving will ensure that children in the US are rarely able to stump tutors with a tough problem.

The writer is managingdirector, Educomp Solutions Ltd