In the US and around the world, private tutoring is a well-established sector of growing importance in the education industry. Tutoring is big business in both developed and developing countries as economically and culturally different as Kenya, Cambodia, Romania, the United Kingdom and Morocco.

According to one comprehensive survey, “25% to 90% of students at certain levels of education are receiving or have recently received private tutoring. In some countries, such as the Republic of Korea and Turkey, spending by households on private tutoring now rivals public sector education expenditures.”

Why has tutoring become so vital to educating the world’s children? A recent global market research report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. emphasizes “… the growing desire of parents to secure children’s futures through supplemental education, particularly in view of the inadequacies of the formal education system. This study projects that the global market for private tutoring will surpass $100 billion by 2017.

Experts like Steve Pines, Executive Director of the Education Industry Association, estimate that the $7-8 billion at more than 5% per year despite the economic turndown. The number of tutors is also increasing significantly.

One reason there are more tutors is that the demographics of tutoring are becoming increasingly broad. Tutoring is no longer confined to kids who are faltering in specific subjects, or who have learning disabilities. Increasingly, tutors are being hired to guide students towards top grades in difficult, advanced courses – ultimately to pave the way to stellar college applications.

Kids as young as 6 or 7 are now being tutored. That says a lot about “academic anxiety” and the competitiveness in education in America today. It also points out a widening gap in what has been called “educational equity.”

Another reason for the growth in tutoring, ironically, may be the recession itself. According to a recent industry report, “With the recession in full effect, unemployed Americans began returning to school at an increasing rate, boosting demand for tutoring and test preparation services.”

But tough economic times have slowed the growth of the US tutoring industry somewhat, if only because parents are searching for less expensive tutoring options. While in-home tutors may charge $45 to well over $200/hour, tutoring centers and online-only tutoring can be significantly cheaper – perhaps as low as $25/hour.

The “person-to-person offshoring” of tutoring through online services, especially to India with its large pool of talented teachers, has enormous growth potential. In the US market alone, revenues for Indian tutoring companies have been estimated to approach $2 billion.

Of course, Indian tutoring companies are serving students not only in the US, but also across the world. The most popular subject, not surprisingly, is math. This is particularly true in the US, which has been widely reported as faring poorly in scholastic achievement in math.

With formal education systems increasingly seen as inadequate to foster economic advancement, nobody is predicting a halt to the strong growth of tutoring anytime soon.

Featured image courtesy of the San Jose Library.