Who’s Helping with Homework

Back to school: new clothes, new backpack, crisp new supplies, seeing how much your friends have changed over the summer����..and oh yeah, homework.

Enter outsourced homework help and tutoring from India. India has a large number of qualified teachers, especially in maths and sciences (areas that the United States is weaker in) that are willing to work for a fraction of what an American tutor would charge. India already is the recipient of many outsourced customer care and technical support call centers .So why not outsource our kids’ homework help to them, too? With prices such as $18 an hour versus $70-$80 per hour a private tutor locally would charge, it seems to make sense.

There are, of course, some objections: outsourcing any job brings a wave of dissatisfaction about sending American jobs overseas. The fact that highly qualified and well-trained teachers are prepared to work for less money than their American counterparts doesn’t quell those objections.

Other concerns are cultural: how well does a math or science teacher in India know your students’ curriculum? How well does the student understand the tutor?

There are political questions to consider: after three years on the needs improvement list, a school is required by No Child Left Behind to provide tutoring. Providing that tutoring with outsourced teachers a world away is an example of a double standard according to some critics. These critics call preventing a school district from doing its own tutoring, but allowing an overseas firm to provide the help, an example of gross double standards. These critics also feel that there isn’t enough oversight in the tutoring industry, particularly when the tutors are in another country and culture, such as India.

A lot of parents feel they should hire a tutor for their child for one reason or another. Most parents feel inadequate to the task of helping their child with the mounds of homework, anyway. When parents have just had a long day at work, and now need to fix dinner, pay bills, return phone calls, do laundry, pick up toiletries and cleaning supplies at Wal-Mart, eat dinner, exercise, spend time with the kids, watch the evening newsâÂ?¦âÂ?¦.it’s tough to fit helping your child do homework into those few hours. Perhaps the household is a single-parent one, and there simply isn’t enough time to help with homework.

But the homework must be done to keep up the grade average. And the grade average must be kept up so your child can get into a decent college, and earn a chance to support himself in his adulthood. Getting good grades and doing well on that homework are paramount too. Even though the general rule of thumb of homework was “10 minutes per evening, per grade”, most students are bringing home many times that amount of homework.

And that’s why some parents and students, despite their initial hesitation when they learned their tutor was 8500 miles away in India, are signing on for this type of tutoring. Students today are accustomed to and adept at communicating through telephone and the Internet. It might seem weird at first to have a person that you have never seen face to face helping you with your homework or coaching you for an exam, but the results so far have been positive. The students are learning, or at least passing their tests, and getting their homework done; the parents are saving money, time, and those never-ending homework fights; and a person in India makes a decent living for their family.

There are a couple other things to think about before signing onto Career Launcher, Growing Stars, or any of the other burgeoning e-tutoring businesses. One consideration is the accent. Even though the tutors are given two weeks of training in minimizing their Indian accent, and acquiring a more American point of reference, two weeks isn’t very long. And it’s tough enough to concentrate on a difficult subject, without the added distraction of accent and distance.

And distance is another concern. Can a student achieve the same level of learning removed from a human connection? The online tutors do their best to connect personally to their students, but time differences, cultural differences, computer freezes, and other factors definitely make overseas tutoring less accessible. Talking by phone or computer to a person 8500 miles away seems distant in more ways than one. For both these reasons, experts suggest using this type of overseas tutoring and homework help for an older student needing help in a specific area of math or science.

But those are just a couple of minor concerns compared to a child who is learning more quickly with help; lower cost of tutoring when that is needed; making it easier for the student to access help before they are failing in a class; or a child who is learning more and making better grades. After all, Americans are turning to India for medical billing; customer complaints and service; technical support; and even medical procedures. Why not homework?


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