KOCHI: A few minutes before 7 on a recent morning, Greeshma Salin swivelled her chair to face the computer, slipped on her headset and said in faintly accented English, “Hello, Daniela.” Seconds later, she got the response, “Hello, Greeshma.”

The two chatted excitedly before Salin said, “We’ll work on pronouns today.” Then she typed in, “Daniela thinks that Daniela should give Daniela’s horse Scarlett to Daniela’s sister.” Then, she asked: “Is this an awkward sentence? How can you make it better?”

Nothing unusual about this exchange except that Salin, 22, was in Kochi and her student, Daniela Marinaro, 13, was at her home in Malibu, California. Salin is part of a new wave of outsourcing to India: tutoring US students.

Salin, who grew up speaking Malayalam, has been tutoring Daniela in English grammar, comprehension and writing.

Using a simulated whiteboard on their computers, connected by the Internet, and a copy of Daniela’s textbook in front of her, she guides the teenager through the intricacies of nouns, adjectives and verbs.

Daniela, an eighth grader at Malibu Middle School, said, “I get C’s in English and I want to score A’s,” and added that she had given no thought to her tutor being 20,000 miles away, other than the situation feeling “a bit strange in the beginning”.

She and her sister, Serena, 10, are just 2 of the 350 Americans enrolled in Growing Stars, an online tutoring service based in Fremont, California, but whose 38 teachers are in Kochi. NYT News Service

There’s a new wave of outsourcing to India - tutoring US students. Teachers at Growing Stars, an online tutoring service, offer tutoring in mathematics and science, and recently in English, to students in grades 3 to 12.

Five days each week, at 4:30 am in Kochi, the teachers log on to their computers just as students in US settle down to their books and homework in the early evening.

Growing Stars is one of at least half-a-dozen companies across India that are helping American children complete their homework and prepare for tests.

As in other types of outsourcing, the driving factor in “homework outsourcing”, as the practice is known, is the cost. Companies like Growing Stars and Career Launcher India in New Delhi charge American students $20 an hour for personal tutoring, compared with $50 or more charged by their American counterparts.

Growing Stars pays its teachers a monthly salary of Rs 10,000 ($230), twice what they would earn in entry-level jobs at local schools.


Still, the cultural divide is real. In Kochi, Leela Bai Nair, 48, a former teacher who has 23 years of experience and is an academic trainer for Growing Stars, said she was “floored at first when 10-year-old American students addressed me as Leela. All my teaching life in India, my students addressed me as Ma’am”.

NYT service