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What does it take to… give your kids a good education

Cyrus Afkhami, founder of My Tutor Club, the UK’s leading online tutoring site, advises on giving your children a good start


How did the idea for My Tutor Club come about?

By accident! In August 2011, I resigned from my investment banking job as I found the work repetitive, uninspiring and that sitting in front of a computer for 90 hours a week was a bit of a challenge. At the time, my 12-year-old sister was being home-schooled and I started to help her with maths, English and history, three subjects she found difficult. I had never trained as a teacher but I did find tutoring one-to-one immensely rewarding as I witnessed my sister’s progress at first hand. It was also great to become reacquainted with subjects that I loved at school and to impart that enthusiasm to a younger student. 
The moment when a topic or a subject finally ‘clicks’ for a student is very rewarding and a great feeling.

Over the next few months, word got around my sister’s friends that her older brother was offering tuition. These were my first clients and over the following months my schedule became busier and busier as new students called me and current ones booked in more lessons. I was soon teaching seven days a week and had a waiting list of ten months. It was clear that tutoring by myself had reached capacity. In October 2012, I started recruiting tutors to teach those students that I was unable to fit in my diary, as well as tutors who taught subjects that I did not teach. My Tutor Club has grown purely through word of mouth.

Education is something most parents agonise about for their children. How can we ensure our KIDS love to learn and enjoy school?

We need to encourage children to express their opinions, talk about their feelings and make choices. We should show enthusiasm for their interests and encourage them to explore the subjects that fascinate them. In school, providing lots of different learning styles from listening and visual learning to sorting and sequencing is a great way to keep little minds agile.

Equally at home, helping your child organise their school papers and assignments so they feel in control of their work is important. Celebrate achievements at school, no matter how small, as it is a great way to drive motivation. Discussing with your child the different ways you as a parent find new information, whether you’re looking for cooking tips on the internet or taking a night class in French, is a great way to increase engagement. Focus on strengths and turn everyday events into learning opportunities. In essence, we should encourage children to explore their world, ask questions and make connections.

Do you think we put too much pressure on children to perform well academically?

I believe that a little bit of work, over time, is much more beneficial in the long-term in obtaining positive learning outcomes, as opposed to doing large amounts of homework over a shorter period of time. This latter approach can lead to cramming and can gloss over any weaknesses that may exist in a child’s understanding of a particular topic or subject.

Many families are experiencing exam pressure at this time of year. What advice do you offer to parents and children to get the best results?

Take breaks. Tired students do not learn and will not perform to their full potential. Avoid cramming and working for hours on end. It is totally counter-productive. Create a revision schedule. Break study into manageable chunks, interspersed with breaks and get into a routine which is realistic for them to keep.

Focus on revising past exam questions. It is important to go through past papers as part of the learning (and later on revision) process, taking down notes, understanding how various questions and problems are solved and paying attention to the various ways that questions can be worded. Finally, start practising under timed conditions. The more questions that students practise under timed conditions, the better their own time management skills will become, which is a crucial aspect of exam performance.

With online tutoring and home schooling becoming more commonplace, do you think traditional types of education are shifting?

Certainly online tutoring has broken down geographical barriers to education. Students now do not have to be within a 10-mile radius of where a tutor lives. With great internet connections and online learning platforms, students can learn just as effectively and efficiently remotely.

In fact at My Tutor Club, where we tutor students from 19 different countries, we find concentration among younger students improves when they are learning with technology. As digital natives, students find learning with technology a more enjoyable experience; we should harness this as much as possible.

I also think there is a general trend towards the democratisation of education. The MOOCs are one such example. There are endless resources on the web – admittedly with varying quality – where students can have access to information that prior to the internet would have been not as easily within their reach.

Cyrus Afkhami is founder of My Tutor Club, a leading private tuition company based in London. For more information visit www.mytutorclub.com

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