Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Tuition blues

Back when I was in school, tuition was what you took for remedial purposes – you were weak in a particular subject, and you needed extra coaching. Even then, the numbers who were tutored outside school were small, not to mention the number of teachers who taught after school hours to earn a little more money. I remember a math teacher (he was from UK) who gave me extra lessons in math for free, which is practically unheard of nowadays. Well, as they say, times have changed.

One mother told us her 16-year old son needed tuition because he wouldn’t study otherwise. Another parent said the schoolteachers weren’t teaching and tuition made up for what her son did not learn. Still another said tuition kept her child out of mischief.

It’s a terrible indictment on the education system that more and more Malaysian children are taking personal tuition in multiple subjects, whatever the reasons. It’s not uncommon to hear of children who actually spend afternoons and evenings studying almost ALL school subjects in a tuition centre.

Take a look at the table below and tell me that something’s not wrong with this picture:
  • More than 90% of urban children go for some sort of tuition
  • Private tuition centres can rake in between RM20,000 and RM50,000 a month
  • Tuition fees increase annually and parents forced to send because children are weak in class
  • Parents fork out anything between RM200 and RM2,000 fees for each child per month
  • Schoolteachers unable to focus on weak individuals because of large classes
  • An estimated 50% of teachers reportedly give tuition to earn extra
  • Malaysian education system’s emphasis on paper chase blamed
Read more here:
  • Something is definitely wrong when students have to resort to so much of tuition to help them with their school lessons. If schools were doing their job, there would be no need for the kind of tuition that goes on in money-making tuition centres. Why aren’t students in school learning and what’s hindering schools from doing their job?
  • It is unconscionable that 50% of teachers give tuition. It merely fuels suspicion that some teachers deliberately serve a half meal in school only to dish out more to those who are enrolled in their private tuition classes. Should school teachers be allowed to give tuition anyway?
  • Something needs to be done about the wages teachers are earning. We shouldn’t be surprised about the quality of teaching when the profession draws people with less than noble aspirations and skills. With the salaries they're offered, surely you don't expect the best people to become teachers, do you?
  • The emphasis on examination scores has eclipsed the true nature of education, leading to a skewed understanding of learning and its value to making a whole person. No wonder the papers are replete with stories of secondary school students who have poor social skills, or are unable to learn when placed in colleges and universities abroad where rote-learning take a backseat to exercising one’s critical faculties.
  • The hours spent in tuition simply drains all interest in real learning and leaves a child with no time for other pursuits. Imagine, a child spends nearly 6 hours in school and after a hasty lunch is packed off to a tuition centre where he goes through the very subjects his teachers in school were supposed to have taught him. Is there anything more wearisome for a school kid?
  • Too many children have given up music or art because school, exams, homework, and tuition rob them of their leisure time. No wonder so many graduate from textbooks to newspapers and nothing else once they leave school. We fork out money to put our children through hours of tuition and then bemoan their lack of creativity, social consciousness, or interest in spiritual matters.
  • Think of the stress on families. How much time does a child get to spend with Dad and Mom (and his siblings) if all the time he has is taken up by tuition everyday? It can’t be good when such an inordinate amount of time is spent "socializing" with peers in school and at tuition while so little time is spent doing things together at home as a family.


Sivin Kit said...

I'm one of those who only went for tuition for the following reasons during secondary school.
1. I didn't have Chinese class in my school during SRP so go tuition lah!
2. I failed one of my BM papers during form 5, suddenly got scared!
3. Took a 1119 English tuition because I wanted to check out my future wife :-)

I enjoyed a relatively tuition-less school life. maybe I didn't get all the As I could have got. But I did get loads of memories, friendsm and experiences that no tuition could offer

MaoBi said...

Contrary to popular belief, this storm in a teacup does not mean the sky is falling.

In the time when there was no tuition parents were happy to (and had the time) to tutor their kids. Much like how they had time to cook/clean (instead of having a maid) and so on.

At that time teaching was also a good profession. Heck, being a teacher was something folks actually aspired to instead of it being a "no choice so i go" type of profession it is today.

The world has changed today. Many of us have better jobs which means the profession of teching has lagged. In our quest for these better jobs we don't have the time or energy to tutor our children so outsource it to someone else. Same as cooking/cleaning house.

The problem I can see is that in teaching a person always passes on their values. Are the values of the tuition teacher what you want your kids to have?

David BC Tan said...

I don't think it is a storm in the teacup but the sky over the horizon is certainly getting darker because of our tuition culture. I can think of a few problems arising from the way the sschooling-tuition paradigm affects us all:

1. The value of learning and the understanding of education is compromised because it encourages dependency (instead of self-directed learning) and equates high exam scores with success.

2. It endorses adults’ search for personal material fulfillment at the expense of building stronger family ties which is a cornerstone to civilization, and a trivialisation of relationships.

3. It validates the outsourcing of personal responsibility in the area of parenting and tutoring and promotes self-centredness.

4. It marginalizes the pursuit and development of the arts, curtails creativity, and makes humanity poorer in spirit.

5. Too much tuition interferes with real learning, increases frustration in children, reduces love for lifelong learning, and makes the best time in a child’s life one of the most detested.

6. The amount of time a child spends with peers and with people/teachers other than his parents will allow the transfer of values that may be undesirable, or are in conflict with the parents, and deepens affection/loyalty for other people more than his own family. By pandering to the tuition culture parents put a low priority on passing on values and virtues that help make a better world.

7. Too much tuition and schooling robs a child and his family the time and opportunity to do something worthwhile for others in need in an extended family, or in the community.

8. It does not encourage our children (or parents) to ask, what is all this "learning" (if you can call tuition learning) for?