Monday 7 September 2015

Coaching costs bite

I booked coaching classes in Advanced English, '3 unit' Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry for DS1 next school term (10 weeks of 7-hours/week coaching cost around $800). Although he doesn't start these HSC 'Preliminary' subjects until Year 11 at the start of next year, the plan is that having some advanced exposure to the core syllabus content might help him do his best in these subjects at school next year. We'll see how it pans out. I'd previously bought him a set of Excel study guides for his HSC Preliminary subject selection, but he had hardly glanced at them this term (too busy doing school 'homework' at the last minute to ever actually 'study' - except the night before a class test), so leaving planning and execution of a study schedule to him seems a forlorn hope. Perhaps having scheduled weekend 'coaching' classes and set 'homework' will be more effective.

DS2 has actually been enjoying attending 'Year 4' coaching classes this year (he is in Year 3 at school), and he recently sat for a 'scholarship' exam run by North Shore coaching and did well enough to qualify for a 1/4 scholarship (fee rebate). Unfortunately that was only for entry and attendance in the Year 4 'Young Achiever' coaching classes next year, and when I went to enroll him last weekend I learned that very little of the 'High Achiever' course content differs from what he has already done this year in the Year 4 'Fastrain Extended' program. So instead I've enrolled him in the Year 5 'Fastrain Extended' course for next year, and he will have to sit another 'entry exam' to see if he switch into the Year 5 'High Achiever' course. After I complained a bit about not being told that the Year 4 'Young Achiever' course content would be almost identical to what he has already been doing this year (and hence a total waste of his time and my money), they at least agreed to waive the normal $30 exam fee. I've enrolled DS2 for the next four terms, as there is a small (10%) discount applied for multi-term enrollments of three of more terms. The cost for the four terms was around $2200! Still, I suppose it is a lot cheaper than private school fees, and will be money well spent if he gains entry into OC and then Selective High School. of course one can never be sure if the money spent on coaching has actually 'added value', or if the students might have done just as well without attending any coaching classes. I managed to get into 'OC' when I was in Primary School, but in those days there wasn't the 'coaching industry' that exists today. In some ways coaching is a bit of an 'arms race' - parents whose kids might struggle to get into OC or Selective HS send them to coaching to get the extra few marks that might get them in, which in turn means that parents of 'bright' kids are worried that their kids might 'miss out' of the chance to attend if they don't go to coaching also...

At a minimum coaching should help improve exam technique and reduce exam nerves/stress in the actual selection exams, and provide some help in any subject areas that need improvement. Whether it does any good in areas where a child is already performing well is much less certain. And there is a view held by some academics that the nature of coaching classes might make them counter-productive for more gifted pupils (who might find the 'workbooks' favoured by coaching school to be repetitive and boring). As with most things it is up to the parent to decide whether or not coaching may/will be beneficial and if the expense is justified.

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