by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
Going for private tuition has become an integral part of school education in a lot of countries in Asia. In countries like China and India, private tuition has become a huge business, to the point that many tuition teachers make more money than regular school teachers. But is tuition serving a good purpose? Is it destroying independent study habits in children? First, let us look at why tuition may be a necessity.
In many Asian countries, the classes are very large, with 40 or 50 students crammed in a classroom. Understandably, teachers cannot pay attention to each and every student. In most cases, they teach according to a scheme of work and lesson plan that is previously set, and seldom deviate from it no matter whether students understand the material or not. Teachers cannot be at fault here; the system is such that it is impossible to pay attention to whether each and every student in the class has learnt what has been taught.
Times are such that both parents have to earn to lead a comfortable life. Therefore, both parents work, and they have hardly any time to supervise the kids’ education. However, sometimes mothers work because they are educated, qualified and they like to work. When parents come back from work exhausted, they neither have the energy or the willingness to supervise homework or clear doubts. Thus, such tasks fall on the tuition teacher.
Why is that kids who are not weak, and whose parents have enough time to supervise them, still go for private tuition? The reason is competition. When there are many children who are doing very well in class, the one child who gets some extra coaching may do better than the others. This happens a lot in developing countries with high population and limited opportunities.
A child who is doing very poorly in a subject is likely to have very low self-confidence and self-esteem because no matter how he tries, he does not succeed. An extra push from a dedicated tuition teacher might be of great help for this type of a student.
All this is very well, but are there negative sides to private tuition? Many parents would say yes, especially if they had sent their kids to private tuition very early in life.
A child who has had a private tutor from the beginning of his schooling may become too dependent on the tutor for all his study needs, including homework, projects and other assignments. He does not learn to manage his studies on his own, and may lack the motivation for self-study. Over time, it comes to such a point that unless there is a tuition teacher who makes the child do his work, he will not do this work. This may be not a problem in school, but when the child reaches the university it does become a problem. This is because independent study habits and time management skills are supremely important for success at college level.
Private tuition widens the gap between the rich and the poor as it is only the rich kids who can afford to go for tuition in all his difficult subjects. Those who are from a weaker financial background cannot afford tuition, and hence might fall behind. This leads to a situation where students from rich or well-to-do families do well, but those who are not, fall behind, thus furthering the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
There are school teachers who give their all to teaching, and go the extra mile in helping their students. It often happens that students who go for tuition do not listen in class or appreciate the hard work put in by their school teachers. This is highly demotivating to the school teachers who feel committed to their job.
It often happens that the tuition teachers often make more money than the school teacher! This is because, while a school teacher’s salary is fixed, a tuition teacher has no upper limit to his earnings, as he is running a business. This is a highly unfair situation since the school teacher typically puts in more hours of work at school while the tuition teacher devotes much less time to teaching. The financial aspect of tuition also leads to unhealthy competition between tuition teachers.
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