eBASE, effective basic services:Small Group Tuition Local Summary

Small Group Tuition Local Summary

Summary of the research evidence on the impact of Small Group Tuition on the educational attainment of pupils in sub-Saharan Africa


The text below is a summary of the research evidence on the impact of Small Group Tuition on the educational attainment of pupils in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). It is an analysis of individual studies of small group tuition on educational attainment in sub-Saharan Africa. The information here is valuable for African school leaders, administrators and policy makers. It is even more valuable for parents who maybe thinking of better ways to improve on the educational attainment of their children.

Effective Basic Services (eBASE) Africa developed this summary using available research evidence while also taking into consideration prominent themes arising from key informant interviews (KIIs) and focus group discussions (FGD), particularly FGD with teachers and students. The research evidence in this summary is acquired from a detailed and replicable search protocol used on a wide range – listed below – of research databases for related studies in low- and middle-income countries in general and sub-Saharan Africa in particular.

Definition of Strand

Small group tuition is one teacher or professional educator working with two to five pupils together in a group. The arrangement enables the teacher to exclusively focus on a small number of learners on their own, usually in a separate classroom or working area. Provided in small groups, intensive tuition supports lower attaining learners and can also be used as a more general strategy to ensure progress or teach challenging topics (Higgins, et al., 2016).

Why is this strand important?

The access to basic education is a fundamental human right and has been recognized as the most important element for the development of any country, (Section 26) (UNESCO, 1960).This has been endorsed by most countries in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). Small group tuition has been practiced in some SSA countries since the 1980’s. This can be done in the same institution or out of school environment, or at home, and by pupils’ regular schoolteachers or other teachers. This is usually used to address the poor performance of learners in school.

The importance of this strand stems from the fact that it provides a forum, apart from regular classes, to facilitate student-teacher interaction with the possibility of improving educational attainment.

Research evidence in Sub-Saharan Africa

In SSA, some studies have identified factors that influence the practice of small group tutoring, such economic, social, cultural, educational and geographical (Chui, 2016). Positive feedback from parents and teachers in Kenya for small group tutoring suggest it can help improve learning behaviors and general school performance (Mwebi & Maithya, 2016).

The number of students a group must have for learning to be effective is however not established. Some studies have drawn parallels between small group tuition and class size, (small or large), especially in cases where the classes are large (Anamuah ‑Mensah, 2004, Enu et, al., 2015). Anamuah – Mensah, (2004), and Lou, et al., (2011) suggested small groups should range between 3 to 4 students for effective interaction and greater impact on student achievement. Also, small group tuition has been found to be very effective for mathematics and science subjects. This is a practice done in both public and private school systems.

While small group tuition is being practiced in some countries across the region, some local governments, in Kenya for example, have taken steps to ban small group tuition. One of the reasons for this is fatigue on both the learners, and teachers, which, it is assumed brings about a loss in concentration during learning hours. In addition, using small group tuition can be a source of financial burden to parents of disadvantaged children, with the potential of increasing the attainment gap between poor and rich students. Although remedial classes have been accepted in Kenya, the government has not given directives on how it should be carried out (Jeruto & Chemwei, 2014).

According to Mwebi & Maithya (2016), while parents and teachers saw small group tuition as effective, some governments have taken steps to ban or limit its use. Furthermore, other studies have suggested that the use of small group tuition in the form of private tuition in schools be stopped as per government recommendation, since some teachers use it as an advantage to make more money at the detriment of the learners (Kirigwi & Redempta, 2016).


Overall, the majority of the available evidence suggests positive effects of small group tuition on educational attainment. Some researchers have however established that it increases fatigue in both teachers and learners, and given the need for extra financial resources, it actually has the potential of increasing the attainment gap between well-off students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Some governments have taken steps to limit its use, and some researchers have out rightly advocated for a complete stop of the practice.

Impact, Security, and Cost of Local Evidence

In SSA, while the available literature suggests some benefits of small group tuition on educational outcomes, the evidence on the impact of small group tuition is very limited and of low quality. Robust randomized trials are therefore recommended to ascertain the impact of small group tuition on educational attainment within the region.

The local cost of implementing small group tuition is likely to be moderate.

Search Terms

Small group teaching, small group tuition, small group instruction, paired teaching

Databases Searched


Google Scholar



Campbell Collaboration

Taylor and Francis

Hand search


Anamuah – Mensah, J. M.-A. (2004). Ghanaian Junior Secondary School. Ministry of Education Youth and Sport.

Dr. Mary Mugwe Chui. (2016). Private supplementary Tutoring: motivations and effects: a. Journal of Education and Practice.

ENU, J., PAUL, D. A., & PETER, A. K. (2015). Effects of Group Size on Students Mathematics Achievement in. Journal of Education and Practice.

Higgins, S., Katsipataki, M., Villanueva-Aguilera, A., Coleman, R., Henderson, P., Major, L., … Mason, D. (2016). The Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching & Learning Toolkit. Education Endowment Foundation.

Jeruto, D. T., & Chemwei, D. (2014). Effects of Ban on Private Tuition in Primary Schools on Academics Performance in Private Primary Schools in Rongai District. International Journal of Education and Research.

Kirigwi, L. W., & Redempta, M. (2016). Prevalence for Private Tuition among Parents, Teachers and. ournal of Education.

Lou, Y.„ Abrami„ P.C.„ d’Apollonia„ & S. (2011). Small group and individual learning with technology. Review of Educational Research.

Mwebi, R. B., & Maithya, R. (2016). Perceptions of Parents on the Practice of Private Tuition in Public. Journal of Education and Practice.

Paviot, L. C. (April 2015). Private tuition in Kenya and Mauritius: Policies, Practices and Parents’ Perceptions Examined from an Ecological Systems Perspective. UCL Institute of Education.

UNESCO. (1960). Conference of ministers of Africa member States on Development of Education in Africa. UNESCO.