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National Post (f/k/a The Financial Post) (Canada)
September 29, 2006 Friday

Desperate U.S. parents turn to India for 'e-tutors'

Jason Szep, Reuters
NEWS; Pg. A9


BOSTON - Private tutors are a luxury many U.S. families cannot afford, costing anywhere between US$25 and US$100 an hour. But California mother Denise Robison found one online for US$2.50 an hour -- in India.

"It's made the biggest difference. My daughter is literally at the top of every single one of her classes and she has never done that before," said Ms. Robison, a single mother from Modesto.

Her daughter, Taylor is one of 1,100 Americans enrolled in Bangalore-based TutorVista, which launched U.S. services last year with a staff of 150 "e-tutors," mostly in India. It charges US$100 a month for unlimited hours.

Taylor, 13, took two-hour sessions each day for five days a week in math and English -- that works out at US$2.50 an hour, a fraction of the US$40 an hour charged by U.S.-based online tutors such as the market leader that draw on North American teachers, or about US$100 an hour for face-to-face sessions.

"I like to tell people I did private tutoring every day for the cost of a fast-food meal or a Starbucks' coffee," said the girl's mother. "We did our own form of summer school all summer."

The outsourcing trend that fueled a boom in Asian call centres staffed by educated low-paid workers manning phones around the clock in other sectors is moving fast into education.

A New Delhi tutoring company, Educomp Solutions Ltd., estimates the U.S. tutoring market at US$8-billion and growing.

The boom comes at a hard time for the U.S. education system: only two-thirds of teenagers graduate from high school, a number that slides to 50% for black Americans and Hispanics, according to government statistics.

Meanwhile, China and India are producing the world's largest number of science and engineering graduates -- at least five times as many as the United States, where the number has fallen since the early 1980s.

Parents using schools like Taylor's say they are doing whatever they can to give children an edge that can lead to better marks, and a better future, even if it comes with an Indian accent about 14,500 kilometres away."

We've changed the paradigm of tutoring," said Krishnan Ganesh, founder and CEO of TutorVista, which offers subjects ranging from grammar to geometry for children as young as six to adults in college.

"It's not that the U.S. education system is not good. It's just that it's impossible to give personalized education at an affordable cost unless you use technology."

Many of the tutors have masters' degrees in their subjects, Mr. Ganesh said. On average, they have taught for 10 years. Each undergoes 60 hours of training, including lessons on how to speak in a U.S. accent and how to decipher American slang.

They are schooled on U.S. history and state curricula, and work in mini-call centres or from their homes across India. One operates from Hong Kong, teaching the Chinese language.

About TutorVista

TutorVista's mission is to provide world class tutoring and high-quality content to students around the world. TutorVista is the premier online destination for affordable education-anytime, anywhere, in any subject. Students access TutorVista from the convenience of their home or in school and use TutorVista's comprehensive lessons and question bank to master any subject with access to a live tutor around the clock. The TutorVista idea: help students to excel in school and at competitive examinations. The management team consists of professionals from education, training and Internet fields whose expertise spans eLearning, instructional design, technology-based learning, professional services management, and Internet technologies. For more information, go to