The tuition trend is undeniable: throughout the past decade, there has been an explosion of tuition centres and tutors across the island, and many students and parents are starting to develop a dependency on tuition to excel in the various academic examinations. Although it is true that there is a severe lack of transparency in terms of publishing results and performance statistics of students from the respective tuition centres – compounded by the fact that there is a plethora of private tutors – there is a common consensus on the ground that having tuition makes a significant difference to a student’s academic performance in a landscape that places specific emphasis on memorisation and antiquated forms of rote-learning.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) should also be cognisant of the fact that students from less-privileged or poorer households would definitely be disadvantaged in this supposed level-playing field. This seems like a overt detour from the purported policy of meritocracy, because tuition – which enforces and pressures students in exam-specific programmes – are typically advantageous in an education environment where standardised examinations assume the highest priority.
Does the popularity of tuition mean that teachers and schools are doing enough? Perhaps; but ultimately it has been our competitive examination-based system that has been the true fodder for the growing tuition trend. While the administration has introduced a slew of initiatives, such as the Integrated Programme (IP), there certainly needs to be increased emphasis on soft skills such as oratorical, communication, research and presentation skills et cetera. How the tuition trend evolves would depend largely on how MOE progresses in years to come.
From a more technical perspective, there should be increased guidelines and measures to ensure the basic qualifications and abilities of individuals who are offering tuition services. Tuition centres, given the need to protect their reputations and to maintain a steady stream of students, would definitely demand that their employees hold the appropriate certifications before they are granted the respective positions. However, the MOE should look into private tutors who might be offering services despite a lack of exposure and knowledge; it is imperative for the MOE to release guidelines to advise parents on make wiser selections and decisions on the tutors for their children.
Tuition would remain to be a significant element of our eduction system; yet its rapid growth serves as a timely reminder for schools and teachers to ponder if there are aspects that should be worked upon. Though it would be fair to contend that some parents might be overly-paranoid and anxious for their children’s performance, there is tremendous room for improvement; things that MOE would need to speedily ponder over.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.