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Posted online: Monday, May 23, 2005 at 1308 hours IST Updated: Monday, May 23, 2005 at 1706 hours IST
SILICON VALLEY, MAY 23: After high-tech industry, outsourcing of educational services is now a growing business with Indian teachers tutoring American school children at a far less cost than their US counterparts.
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A large number of Indian math and engineering graduates have made the country an attractive resource for some US tutoring firms. "It's a phenomenon that some hail as a triumph of technology, a boon for science-starved American students and the latest demonstration that globalisation is leveling the playing field, particularly when it comes to intellectual capital," the Christian Science Monitor newspaper reported.
US President George W. Bush's 'No Child Left Behind Act,' which mandates testing and says students in low-scoring schools are enbreastled to extra help, provides federal funds for such tutoring -- estimated to be a $2 billion industry. Tutors in Indian cities like New Delhi or Bangalore are already helping kids in Colorado and California over the internet.
Some contract with big-name US tutoring companies, such as Sylvan Online, while others work directly with schools and students. A New Delhi-based firm, which also serves students in the Middle East, tutors about 1,500 American students in math alone. Although it is hard to say how many students are spending their money on Indian tutors, a firm estimates that Indian tutors are now working with some 20,000 American students.
One big reason for the outsourcing is, of course, cost. Growing Stars, a bay area-based small company, with a center with 20 tutors in Kochi, is able to offer one-on-one services for 20 an hour, significantly less than the 45 dollars to 80 dollars an hour charged by U.S. tutoring companies like Sylvan and Kaplan.
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Few would begrudge using public money to give struggling students extra help, although critics worry about a lack of tutoring standards and question how well anyone can teach over a physical and cultural Gulf.
Nancy Van Meter of the American Federation of Teachers says she's concerned about the lack of quality control for all tutors hired under 'No Child Left Behind' (NCLB), but "the offshore tutoring raises that issue even more dramatically than we've seen here in the states." But what is creating much controversy is the fact that some of the outsourced tutors may be used to fulfill the NCLB supplemental education requirements - and get federal funds to do so.
"We are seeing teachers being laid off given that situation, it's hard to understand why our tax dollars are being used to create jobs overseas," Meter says. The Indian tutoring companies say they are simply filling a market void by providing after-hour services. "My teachers are all highly educated, come from math and science backgrounds, and have prior teaching experience. American teachers of comparable quality would be doubly expensive," the head of one such Indian company says.
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