People in developed countries have grown accustomed to — if not happy with — competing with the developing world when it comes to jobs in heavy industry or call centers. But school teachers have long considered themselves immune from the outsourcing trend.
A primary school in London has replaced its one-on-one math tutoring program with teachers at a call center in India, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Starting this year, students at Ashmount Primary in north London will get additional help in math from tutors in Punjab, 4,000 miles away. About half the students take advantage of the school’s math tutoring program.
The rationale behind the move is simple: School officials say hiring a one-on-one tutor costs about 40 GBP ($61) per hour in London, while a tutor at the Indian call center costs 12 GBP ($18.50).
The Telegraph describes the new tutoring process:
The service – run by the firm BrightSpark Education – involves each pupil logging on to a special website and talking to a tutor via a headset.
Children complete work on their computer that can be checked remotely by the Indian teacher.
The Islington primary school is currently using the technology with half of its final year pupils, with plans to offer it to nine and 10-year-olds. The school had been approached by the company to pilot the system.
“Moving back-office work or customer service centers to the subcontinent is commonplace in the private sector. But this is believed to be the first time it has happened in teaching,” the Daily Mail reports.
According to the Mail, the tutoring contractor, BrightSpark Education, employs about 100 tutors in the Punjab town of Ludhiana, and each tutor is trained up on Britain’s math curriculum.
“We try to keep every pupil with the same tutor,” said Rebecca Stacey, the school’s vice principal. “The kids really enjoy it. It is a different way of approaching the subject with children who might find it harder to engage with maths.”
“I am sure that this will become commonplace in time,” said Dylan William, director of London University’s Institute of Education. “If brain surgery can now be done remotely, why not maths teaching?”
The Telegraph noted that academics warned the practice “risked undermining teaching standards.”
Williams noted that the success of the program will largely depend on how well the foreign tutors can adapt their teaching style to British cultural norms. And he warned the scheme could backfire.
“As with many things in education, it’s not a silly idea, but as we’ve discovered in recent years, a lot of things that appeared to be good at the time turn out to be useless, or worse.”