Disclaimer: This is written from my own experience. It isn’t aimed to offend anyone but to explain how frustrating things were from my side. It is meant to be an informative piece for people learning driving for the first time. I am a beginner learning how to drive from a private driving instructor, and the four that I had so far didn’t give me a great experience. While I do acknowledge that it was partially my fault and also because of circumstances that caused things to turn out this way, the treatment I received from my four private driving instructors still left much to be desired.
When it comes to getting your driving license, there are 2 options – you can choose to learn from a private instructor or under a school (Bukit Batok Driving Centre, Ubi Driving Centre, to name a few). It is costlier to get your license from a school (around $2-2.5k) because students have to clear checkpoints and go for fixed number of lessons to get past these checkpoints. With these high costs in mind, I chose to take private lessons for more customized learning and also because I wanted to save money. But I had such a bad experience with these private driving instructors that I never want to learn driving from private instructors ever again. Not one, but four private driving instructors.
Each one rejected me after a few lessons, saying that my progress is too slow because I’m just a beginner and they are packed with too many students. Then they tell me to look for another private instructor from the Bukit Gombak MRT Station carpark (the area where most instructors conduct their lessons) who have lesser students on hand. This is the common excuse that ALL FOUR of them give. My question is:
Then why agree to take the student in the first place? I told them over the phone that I’m a beginner. Bearing this in mind, if they are experienced and good instructors, they should have set aside time and a proper lesson plan.
After being rejected by my 4th private driving instructor, Mdm Hang, and thinking about this for many days – I realized the truth. Since there are no rules governing how driving instructors conduct their lessons they are free to charge whatever rates they want, plan out whatever routes they want etc. These private instructors also are not bonded to the students or any organization – meaning they can reject students as and when they like. Take this scenario for example – which is a win-win situation for the driving instructor:
A new student calls up a driving instructor after reading reviews online, on websites such as www.pdireviews.com (the website where I got the contact for my 2nd and 4th private instructors). He or she then books a lesson with the instructor, after briefly telling him/her briefly about their current driving standards. The instructor then slots in the student into any available slot which he/she has no students. Fair enough. However, after 1 or 2 lessons, they will give this common excuse: ‘Sorry, I have no time and can only give you 1 hour lessons per week. As a beginner, you haven’t mastered your basics yet, so it is better if you have 1.5 hour lessons at least twice a week so you can learn faster. If not you’ll be wasting your time with me. It’s really better if you find another instructor.’ Sounds reasonable right? ALL 4 INSTRUCTORS SAY THE SAME THING.
Wow what a coincidence! All have no time for a beginner but agreed to teach the beginner student in the first place. When it came to the 4th instructor who told me the same thing after only 6 forty-five minute lessons (supposedly 1 hour but she takes 15 minutes to drive to the learning area and back to the meeting point at the Bukit Gombak MRT carpark) I got so angry and demoralized that angry tears were just inevitable. She even said that I should consider driving an auto car since my skills were so bad after 6 lessons
Then I came to a revelation: These 4 private instructors that I’ve been taught under (perhaps not all) are teaching for monetary gain. It is so easy to accept any beginner student and earn a quick buck of $30-$32 per hour since most private students pay per lesson. Especially if their current students have something on and do not book them for that usual slot – why not make something out of it and ‘teach’ a beginner student?
And when it’s near the practical driving tests dates the current students will book more lessons (they are already quite experienced drivers and require less effort to teach, as compared to teaching a beginner like me) so they can conveniently reject me AND MAKE THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY, IF NOT MORE. Unethical business ethics like these give private driving instructors a bad name.
After that last lesson with my 4th driving instructor I sat in her car and cried but she continued her euphemistic line of reasoning, placing herself on a moral high ground and making me out to be failure in life. I could not find any organization to solve this issue because technically she is free to do what she likes. However if instructors like these are allowed to continue with their suka-suka ways, the beginner drivers will just continue to bleed their wallets dry and have their self-esteem trampled upon a million times in this pass-it-on game with them.
To be fair, they were nice. Being there in my infantry days, teaching me how to start the car’s engine and risking damage of their cars. Saving me high costs from registering lessons at a school. I owe them an apology too. I want to sincerely apologize to all 4 of my private driving instructors, Mr Poh, Mr Goh, Mdm Goh and Mdm Hang, I am so sorry that I did not manage to make a proper turn, kept on stalling the engine and hence shortened the lifespan of your car. And of course, for not knowing how to start the engine in time to move off from the traffic junctions, for driving too slowly and not signalling right and left on time, and putting your precious lives in danger in our short time together. I am truly, madly, and deeply sorry from the bottom of my heart and to my 4th – I hope that you will forgive me for not being as good as Lewis Hamilton after 6 lessons with you.
So, in conclusion: Private or School?