In the South Asian culture, unfortunately, the desire to push children ahead in what is seen as a cut-throat, viciously competitive world has manifested in many undesirable approaches that plague the education system and undermine children’s ability to develop holistically with high quality 21st Century skills. Of all of them, few are as malevolent as tuitions. The premise is simple – if my child is to be a winner, then they must just simply spend more time each day being taught, so that they will know ‘stuff’ better and thereby score higher in examinations.
I’ve written on this subject off and on in the past. I believe it makes children jaded towards learning, reinforces a sense that learning is something ‘done to them’ and maybe worst of all creates a perception that learning is purely about quantity, leading to neglect of quality. When a child knows they are going to be taught the same material at least twice in different places all too often this leads them to treat school as their ‘social club’ – a place to have fun with friends and try to get some light relief in their lives. This undermines the value of school, exacerbates discipline issues and is most detrimental for those children whose parents can’t afford the tuitions.
Who delivers these tuitions after school hours and at weekends? All too often the smae teachers who claim to be so committed to the children’s development. Too many of them can’t resist the extra money over and above their teacher’s salary. In major cities parents have been prepared to pay high sums for these tuitions leading to some teachers earning a good deal more than school Principals!!
The Right to Education Act may have had many faults. However, this was one issue on which the Act was very clear and sought to deal with the issue simply and head on. Section 28 of the Act states:
“No teacher shall engage himself or herself in private tuition or private teaching activity.”
Now, when I read that it seems clear, unambiguous and pretty absolute in its terms. Therefore, I struggle to understand why this is apparently insufficient and inadequate to empower authorities to nip this in the bud and bring an end to the menace. However, simple unambiguous words seem to still leave scope for watering down and ambiguity as evidenced by this story from Times of India. despite the simplicity of Section 28, the article suggests that a blanket ban on tuitions only applies to teachers from government schools and colleges. In the case of private school teachers it reintroduces from nowhere the old waffle about teachers being allowed to take tuitions as long as they don’t do it with the pupils of their own school.
As long as such ambiguity is permitted this isn’t going away. teachers will collectively have a vested interest in ensuring that the quality of teaching in schools doesn’t reach such a standard that parents feel their children don’t need tuitions. They may be prohibited from working with the children of their own schools but their financial interests can easily be served by looking after each other’s interests. I’ve even come across instances of teachers in schools openly suggesting that a parent should enrol their child for tuitions and giving the names and contact details of their accomplices.
There is a reason, anywhere in the world, why school doesn’t go on for 11 hours a day! Children need time to pursue interests beyond the realm of school, to reflect on their learning and to relax. They also need the vital personal growth that just simply comes from being a child. It’s high time the word as well as the spirit of the law is enforced.