“Indeed, tuition centres consider June a golden period for business, with many rolling out special workshops and camps. A big slice of the demand comes from students due to take major examinations at the year end” (Holidays? What Holidays?, Miss Cheryl Ong and Miss Amanda Tan).
The news article “Holidays? What Holidays?” (May 29, 2011) by Miss Cheryl Ong and Miss Amanda Tan: reports about the proliferation of tuition lessons and increasing attendance during the school holidays feel like the same script, different actors. Psychologists lament about the heightened stress levels experienced by students in their scholastic preparations, while educators emphasise upon the need for holistic developments in terms of more involvement in co-curricular activities, community service et cetera. However parents, more than anyone else, are cognisant of the need for their children to get ahead academically.
Correspondingly, tuition is logically perceived as a constructive platform to ascertain these aspirations, and to obtain good grades from the standardised examinations so as to secure college and scholarship places. In essence, going for tuition may not be necessarily bad. Students have different learning habits, and being in a class with a disproportionate student-teacher ratio may not be ideal for the facilitation of respective teaching-learning pedagogies; naturally, tuition sessions with small class sizes will appeal to these individuals. Subject-specific tuition can reinforce concepts or revise examination techniques, particularly if students cannot grapple with the sheer volume of subjects and content, or if lessons had been missed due to sporting competitions or school trips.
Nonetheless, parents who subscribe their children for tuition lessons must be cognisant of their children’s needs and expectations, before identifying the “right” centre after some basic research. Tuition is not a zero-sum game; coercing a student to go through hours after hours of intensive cramming will yield no tangible results if the former loses interest and fails to maintain concentration. If a student functions poorly in a large class setting, putting him back into a tuition class with thirty other kids will be no different. Furthermore, parents should be realistic with their expectations; tuition is no miracle pill if the child staunchly refuses to put in effort to work hard.
On another note, tuition also raises the question about meritocracy; whether its presence and wide-acceptance undermines the concept because students from lower-income households struggle to budget out money for costly tuition lessons. It seems imperative for the Ministry of Education (MOE) to work more closely with schools to provide supplementary or remedial lessons for students who require the help and lift, so that they will not be unfairly disadvantaged by the lack of tuition.
Given the importance of academic excellence in Singapore, suffice to say tuition will remain a permanent fixture in our system; therefore, given its unchanging form, what matters would be how we approach it, and manage our perspectives towards it in the end.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.