COVID-19 pandemic disrupts learning, triggers decline in after-school tutoring

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The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in adjustments for many, with tutoring becoming one of those things that some families have chosen to abandon.

Mohan Dhall — chief executive officer and co-founder of the Australian Tutoring Association (ATA) and co-founder of the Global Tutoring Association (GTA) — said tutoring had undergone a 30 per cent downturn since the onset of the pandemic.

“We have, in Australia, an amplified sense through this process of the haves and the have-nots,” Mr Dhall said, pointing to a variety of reasons why some have chosen to give up tutoring.

“Most parents feel stuck,” he said. “They feel like there’s uncertainty around their own work and income. And, therefore, they’re not really parting with the discretionary income yet.”

Mohan Dhall says students will emerge from the pandemic stronger and more resilient.(

Supplied: Mohan Dhall


Also, Mr Dhall said, some tutors have given up on the profession, for now.

“We’ve run a number of webinars to help tutors, particularly those who are older teachers, to understand how to tutor online effectively, and how to use the various software tools to maximise the experience of learners.

“Many tutors can’t cope. So, they’ve given up.

“They’re waiting till this passes, which means there are fewer tutors, who are skilled teachers, who are capable of delivering tuition.”

Tutor role changing

Mr Dhall said he had retained clients who could afford tutoring, but the role of a tutor had changed.

“These kids are independent, with good technology, well moneyed, have had a relatively good experience of online learning, but they’ve had a bad experience of uncertainty,” he said.

“So, the role of the tutor changes to become more focused on keeping [children] buoyant, helping kids to keep focused when there’s uncertainty, and reassuring them, in and among addressing the actual learning issues.”

He said children and parents were feeling quite anxious.

Lots to look forward to

He said that, once society started to re-open and people had adjusted to a new normal – whatever that might be – there’ll be plenty to look forward to.

“What we will see is a generation of kids after this, who have been through quite a lot of difficulty, but who coming through it, will be stronger, they’ll be more resilient, they’ll be more independent, and they’ll probably be more mature than we would have wanted had things just gone along normally.”

Mother and daughter with their arms around each other at a beach smiling. Both have long, dark, curly hair
Jen Ayoub (left) says the added pressure of tutoring would have been too much for her daughter, Sophia, during lockdown.(

Supplied: Jen Ayoub


For Jen Ayoub, tutoring is not a discretionary spend. She considered it a necessity for her daughter, Sophia.

“So, in a group setting, in a classroom, she would not ask for help or wouldn’t say, ‘I don’t understand. Can you explain that again?’

“I think that was the most beneficial thing about tutoring, that she could ask questions, and no one else knew what she was asking.

“[It was] one-on-one. It was private. She didn’t feel silly, so that was a real benefit for her.”

The cost was never an issue for the family.

“We thought, ‘Well, she needs this and we’ll put the money into it. And it’s going to be worth it’, and it was.”

Building resilience

However, Sophia, 12, gave up tutoring when Sydney first went into lockdown last year, and she has not been back.

“Everything was so uncertain, and Zoom was so new, and online learning was so new,” Ms Ayoub said.

“And we thought it was just a bit too much for her.

“And COVID really hit her in a way where she was very anxious.

Sophia had been receiving maths tutoring for two years and her mother said she had found it beneficial.

“I feel like the tutoring was really good and gave her some good foundations to work from.”

Ms Ayoub said that, if her daughter required tutoring again, she would not hesitate to bring it up with her.

“I feel like, now she’s in year 7, she has become more resilient.

“She came through that anxiety, and she’s on the other side of it now, and so I feel like she’s much more stronger, and she’d be able to deal with things that come up.

Deficits need to be addressed

Mr Dhall said he expected tutoring to pick up again next year, once more people are vaccinated and there’s more of an economic recovery.

He said that was when tutoring would again be considered essential, especially for children who have fallen behind as a result of the pandemic.

“There’s certainly been disruption and kids are behind where they should be … there’s definitely some deficit that needs to be addressed,” Mr Dhall said.

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