Education: Tuition Class

All this is under reconsideration in light of opportunity cost. Parents feel they are not getting value for money? Besides, earning a qualification, hardly earns money?


by Victor Cherubim

( July 16, 2017, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Every parent wants the best in education for their children. This is a natural instinct. It is no small talk that about 70% of pupils in Colombo will have received private tuition by the time they complete middle school and about 83 % of pupils will have received tutoring by the time they reach senior secondary school. I must admit these figures are my guesstimates, as there is no recent quantitative research I can access.

If also we estimate that in school year 13, there is approx.62% of all arts students, some 67% of all commerce students and say 92% of all science students taking tuition, the rewards for success and the penalties for failure in examinations hardly commensurate.

The lesson one generation of urban parents in Sri Lanka learned the hard way and the same generation of rural parents, perhaps, have been literally spared by not falling into the socio-economic trap, is that passing examinations with tuition did not provide jobs.

Even discounting my figures, the scale of tutoring by perception of need for tutoring, seems to have escalated geometrically during the last few years, particularly in the war years. The growth of tutoring centres has quadrupled as schools and colleges around the country have had difficulty in intake of qualified teachers in science subjects.

Higher achievement expectation

Most parents want their children to be a doctor or an engineer, irrespective of the child’s natural aptitude or competence. This is for socio economic advancement. We cannot blame this solely on parents or the educational climate, but it seems the root cause is the market economy which permits, encourages, the emergence of tutoring. The collapse of the once taken for granted values of the knowledge based education for the new wealth creation system, is clearly apparent.

We saw the children of the “new rich”, the families of security services, the families of businessmen, the urban rich, willing and wanting to invest huge amounts of their gains for the tutoring of their children. This was seen as an investment with high achievement expectation?

“Catch Up”

The magic word in tuition was “catching up,” passing examinations. It was a way of catch up on knowledge through route learning. There is also peer pressure, to be seen to catch up and be at par with intelligent students in the class, rather than to be left behind.

We have seen in recent times that this type of intense coaching (battery education) enabled success in passing examinations. However, for jobs, many if not most had exam certificates to show, but could hardly get through job interviews. Success at job placements was a big disappointment for parents who had invested much in tuition fees, travel time, but had little to show for their investment.

The opportunity cost of tuition

Private tuition comes in many forms, one to one tuition, small group tuition and mass tuition. Besides, the necessity for private tuition is created by many factors. Among them are class student/teacher ratio, student absence, and frequent closure of schools, ineffective teaching practice. Students too complained they were unimpressed by teaching style, negligence on the part of school/teacher. In fact, all much to do with free education?

The higher demand for tuition on the part of students in urban areas may be due to a number of other reasons. First there is a higher degree of competitiveness among urban students due to the very competitive nature of urban life. Secondly, parents in urban areas equate tuition to educational attainment and are willing to pay the price.

All this is under reconsideration in light of opportunity cost. Parents feel they are not getting value for money? Besides, earning a qualification, hardly earns money?

Tuition for high achievers?

Those receiving tuition in Sri Lanka comprise not only those students whose academic performance is weak and who need remedial assistance. In fact today, the opposite is the case. We hear of a new dominant group who seek tuition. Students, whose performance is already exemplary and excellent, demand to maintain their competitive edge. They are among the forefront at private tuition. These high achievers are driven to private tuition mainly due for parental pressure. The reasoning is that they can use their free time at school more profitably, not necessarily as professed, to learn the technique how to answer exam questions.

If education has become more “ritualistic”, there is a lack of attention to knowledge. Leisure, sport and other activities are also ignored, which cramps their lifestyle. A wad of Certificates can hardly suffice to satisfy the challenges of today’s workplace.

The question is not so much “job, or no job, as which job.” Tuition for academic achievement is only a part of the equation?

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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