An educational tutoring agency called BrightSpark Education, based in London has resorted to hiring maths graduate students based in India to offer tutorials to primary school pupils and students taking GCSEs and A-levels in the United Kingdom. The tutors, who are based in Punjab, have undergone coaching by BrightSpark Education and will be available all day and night to UK pupils over the phone and via the internet. According to the company, their services are available 24/7, and the tutors are paid £7 per hour, which is higher than the minimum wage in Punjab of £2.52.
BrightSpark Education is encouraging more state schools to take up their services, with one school; Ashmount Primary located in Islington, London having already signed up to the service. Ashmount Primary is using the non-traditional tutors to supplement maths classes once a week for 30 of its pupils. The company charges £12 which is less than half of what most one-to-one private tuition sessions in the UK cost.
Maths teachers are in demand in the UK, with a golden handshake of £5,000 offered to maths graduates when they enrol on post-graduate teacher training courses to encourage them to take up teaching. Last year, only 5,980 students graduated with math degrees in the UK compared to 690,000 who obtained similar degrees in science and mathematics each year in India.
BrightSpark Education uses an interactive whiteboard to conduct lessons, a headset to communicate with pupils, and a recorded system to play back each tuition session to parents, teachers, and students. BrightSpark Education’s Managing Director, Tom Hooper, stated that he had chosen Indian tutors due to the ongoing shortage of maths graduate teachers in the UK. He expects the bulk of the sessions to take place in the early evening and believes that while face-to-face tuition would always be better, primary school children learning over the internet with a headset are confident and enjoy the process, which gives them an unintimidating learning environment.
However, at least one UK teaching union, Nasuwt, has voiced its concern, stating that using remote tutors instead of UK-based teachers sets an unacceptable precedent, and it further questions what other traditional jobs will be inevitably outsourced soon. Each of the company’s tutors has undergone background checks that ensure that they are fit to work with children.