By Winnie Tam, Centre for University and School Partnership, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
The after-school tutoring market is huge in China because families want to boost their children’s competitive advantage through paid after-school tutoring. However, the cost is too high for most families who are not high-income. Thus, it is unknown how after-school tutoring impacts the academic performance of children from low-income families (LIFs). Li and colleagues conducted a study to explore the impact of after-school English tutoring on the academic performance of LIF children through a randomized controlled trial.
The sample consisted of 529 7th grade middle school students from registered poor families from five schools in a county in Guizhou Province. While 120 students were randomly assigned to receive a free online English tutoring program; the other 409 students were assigned to a control group. The program reviewed key and difficult points of English lessons from school and provided extended learning to improve students’ ability in drawing inferences, summarizing, and reaching conclusions.
Students in the treatment group attended the 2-hour online class every Saturday evening for 16 classes during the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year. Students’ academic achievement was measured by first semester examination scores. After controlling for baseline academic performance and students’ characteristics, results of regression analysis are presented below.
- The after-school tutoring had a significant positive effect on students’ English scores (ES = +0.30).
- Students with higher baseline scores benefitted more from the online program (ES = +0.27).
- Though not significant, a small spillover effect was also found on Chinese learning from the after-school English online tutoring for the students with higher baselines. (ES = +0.22).
- Though not significant, the impact of the program was slightly higher on boys than girls (ES = +0.20).
- A positive effect was still found on English learning in the second semester exam scores (ES = +0.28).
The intervention’s effectiveness might be due to the online English tutoring program’s alignment with the learning content in school; it is a high-quality supplementary educational resource. The authors concluded that quality of education and teaching in economically disadvantaged areas needs to improve and that educational assistance to students from LIFs should be increased.