Tutoring Industry around the World


April 9, 2020

Private tutoring industry in South Korea account for more than 12 percent of total household expenditures… is the US catching up?

As the demands of high school and the competition in college admissions continue to increase, it’s no surprise that the tutoring industry in the United States is growing. And with increased demand comes increased access. Long thought of as something only reserved for the “nobility,” tutoring is becoming more accessible to the average American family.

So who is getting tutored in the United States? 

It is no surprise that, historically, tutoring has been reserved for those economically advantaged. This has had ripple effects, resulting in incredible economic inequality at the nation’s top schools. It’s no surprise that standardized tests come under fire as a roadblock for low-income students. You can read more about that here.

However, the tutoring industry is on the rise, which means more and more Americans are accessing the transformative power of one-on-one education.  In fact, between 2001 and 2011, the tutoring industry grew tenfold, reaching a size of $5 billion. Tutoring now ranges anywhere from remedial help for young students to intense SAT prep for students destined for the Ivy League.  And with technological innovation comes new opportunities to hop on a Skype call in a moment’s notice when math homework gets hard. This increased accessibility to tutoring does mean that prices have become more variable to match the different services offered; prices can range anywhere from $15 an hour to hundreds of dollars an hour depending on location and type. It is estimated that 43% of high school students have sought out math tutoring alone!

But what about the tutoring industry in other countries?

If you look to other countries, the US actually seems behind in its mainstream adoption of supplemental education. Tutoring is a $102 billion a year industry globally. In China and South Korea, the tutoring industry is enormous. In South Korea, a country 6 times smaller than the United States, the industry is estimated at almost $14 Billion annually (3 x the size of the industry in the US). 

Though clearly very popular, the tutoring industry in Asia is fiercely debated because of its economic costs to families. In South Korea and China, there is growing unease because of the side effects of private tutoring. For example, private education costs in South Korea can account for more than 12 percent of total household expenditures.  Many have tied this immense economic burden to the ever shrinking birth rate. The problem poses so much of a threat that successive governments have tried to rein in the tutoring industry by capping rates.

In India, adult tutoring has popped up as a bustling business. Professional coaching and linguistic tutoring has taken the country by storm, with most services offered via online platforms.

This is all to say, we don’t see the industry boom slowing down anytime soon. One-on-one tutoring obviously offers a great deal of benefits— it allows students to grow in a comfortable, positive setting, where they don’t have to worry about being judged by peers. What we do hope to see, though, is more programs like SmartyScholars, our non-profit, which is dedicated to offering transformative tutoring services to deserving students free of charge.

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