Parents outsource to tutors in India

28th October 2005 at 01:00
UNITED STATES

Homework is the latest activity to be swept up in a global outsourcing craze, with hundreds of pupils studying with online tutors half a world away in India. And firms from the subcontinent say Britain is next.

Propelled by the same forces driving India's computing and call centre success - abundant highly-educated English-speaking workers, rock-bottom wages and technology that makes global collaboration easier - Indian firms are grabbing a slice of America's lucrative private tutoring market.

Growing Stars, based in California, trains its 40 tutors in Cochin, south-west India - near Bangalore, hub of India's outsourcing industry - in US culture, giving them elocution lessons to "neutralise" their British English and help them adjust to Yankee accents, said chief executive Bijou Mathew.

The tutors - mostly qualified teachers with masters degrees - greet students with a perky "How are you?" - even though it may be the middle of the night for them.

Tutors and students interact using headsets connected to a web-based phone service and via software that allows them to "write" into web pages using styluses.

Growing Stars, founded last year, has recruited 300 US students, paying $21 (pound;12) an hour - less than half what US firms charge. The Indian workers are paid $250 a month. New Delhi's Career Launcher, set up in 2004, boasts of a "recent assignment (with) several hundred US high school students" on its website. Educomp, also based in the capital, has won a contract with the education authority in Santa Barbara, near Los Angeles, to provide online training for teachers.

Both firms plan to expand to Britain and Growing Stars is considering a similar move.

Francesco Leccisco, director of the New York-based Brainfuse online tutor service, said that as well as launching services directly, many Indian firms are bidding for sub-contracts with US tutoring firms. The firms fill a skills gap in advanced maths teaching. "You can find qualified US people, but it's hard to find any willing to tutor," he said.

Jaime Zapata of the American Federation of Teachers union said the unregulated trend "raised serious concerns" because the quality of offshore tutors was unvetted.

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