Tutors – Saints or Sinners?

In a healthy education climate, should students need to supplement the time they spend learning in school with additional time (and cost) of tutors and tuitions?

This report from the New York Times gives a variety of American perspectives on the issue, the majority of which indicate weaknesses in the existing system that are causing the felt need to supplement with tuitions.

New York Times – Room for Debate

The articles suggest that the biggest culprits are high stakes testing causing pupils and parents to believe that they must do whatever it takes to get an advantage over others. Maths is one subject where students are seen as particularly vulnerable and needing further inputs.

My biggest fears are that the thirst for tuitions is driven from an out-of-date paradigm in which teachers are the deliverers of knowledge, where learning is seen as an accumulation of knowledge which is ‘put in’ to the pupil by the teacher and where outcome is completely linked to volume of input.

I am also concerned that, later down the line, we’re going to conclude that all these tuitions did long term damage to the person’s potential to be a self-driven lifelong learner. This is because, unconsciously, the learner begins to believe that learning is something done TO them, rather than BY them, that it only takes place when in the presence of a teacher who is the centre of focus.

I believe that a part of the trouble is that we tend to employ two different groups of people in primary and secondary education (three different groups if we also include the tertiary sector as well) and nobody ever really looks at the totality of the learner over the long term. Each group sets itself goals that relate to students’ levels of knowledge (and sometimes skills) at the time when they leave that sector, rather than seeing the bigger, long term picture. Somewhere, some advanced thinking is needed that focuses on the entire learner throughout their life. I believe one aspect of such an approach would see a greater emphasis on acquisition of independent learning skills and habits at an earlier age – primary education that worries more about whether children are inquisitive, curious and creative than whether they’ve completed the syllabus and scored a certain percentage by the end of each class.

Education is not a Taylor-ian production line, with a set of processes to be completed at each work station along the route. A child’s ability to score 95% in an exam in Class IV is not proof of progress along the journey to being an effective lifelong learner, citizen and person capable of fulfilling his/ her potential. It just says they ‘got’ whatever we said they should get in that particular year of their life.

To make such changes we’re going to need to do some new things; train teachers to work with the whole child and see there work in a long term context, trust them to deliver professionally without lots of cookie cutter tests to check if they put the right ‘stuff’ in to class III-B etc.

The answers don’t lie in just doing more of the same and hoping for some magically different outcomes. There’s a long and potentially exciting journey ahead.


One Response

  1. Issue raised is very relevant today. One reason, tutions or business of tutions is spreading everywhere is the way teachers teach in the school and virtually non existent check on understanding the quality of teaching teachers impart in classrooms. This specially prevalent in higher classes say from class V onwards.

    Another issue which most parent are unaware of, but is prevalent in schools or is made to systematically ‘live’ unnoticed in the system is faking the growth of a kid via grades scored. Allow me to elaborate.
    At most schools in NCR, I noticed during PTMs that teachers systematically put incremental scores in students score card e.g. they show that in first term, a kid has scored grade B or B+ in some categories (though in reality, the child was really good in those categories e.g. a kid that learns keyboard for 2 years, wins local level appreciations, is shown to score B+ in keyboard class)
    and in subsequent terms, that kid is shown to score A (term II) and A+ (term III) in the same categories and if you make an attempt to check whether graduating from B to A+ has really resulted in some ‘real’ growth for that subject for the kid, you find that there hardly is a sea change in the kid vis-a-vis given subject.


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