tuitions, private tuitions, education system, pakistan education
'Tuitions rob children of opportunities to discover and figure out things for themselves'. -File photo by AP

The concept of private tuition is fast becoming a trend for students. The idea of a private tutor to coach and cater to the students’ every academic need completely undermines the entire system of education but sadly, it has become a necessity and an established part of the system, according to some parents. 

For most, the need for private classes arises due to difficulty in comprehending material taught in the classroom and that is usually because of the teacher’s approach towards the subject. Maha, a student of grade 11, says, “The teachers at school purposely do not teach anything of value in the morning classes at school, sometimes glossing over parts of concepts and later, explaining it in full only to the children who come to their houses for private tuition.”

Therefore, parents are left with no choice but to send their children in for lessons, as beyond a certain point, coaching them on their own becomes impossible. As lessons get more and more complicated, a time comes where the experience and expertise of a qualified teacher is a must to help them cope with studies to get through.

Surprisingly, this is not only the case for students in higher classes. Children as young as two years old are sent off to tutors’ homes, spending hours on end in the hopes that the training will help them get into a reputable school.  The ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) 2011 states that most children from the ages of 3-16 are reported to be taking paid tuitions.

This private tuition culture has become like a parasite, feeding on desperate parents’ fears of their children failing exams and corrupting students of every kind, whether good or bad. Provoked by friends’ and family’s academic achievements, parents have grown to have highly unrealistic expectations and are set on expecting the same from their own children.

According to the ASER 2011, the incidence of private tuition-taking in the urban localities in Pakistan is unusually high, with Lahore coming in first with a massive 62 percent, Karachi following with 54 percent and 34 percent in Peshawar.

But the real question is how and why has this trend managed to set such deep, firm roots in our present academic system?

One reason may be that students, who have different personalities and learning habits, are not given proper attention during lectures.  It is a fact that a single teacher, during the course of a normal 40-minute period, simply cannot cater to all their needs at once and it is likely that some of the students will have to be overlooked and may be neglected.

Additionally, opening up a tuition center in the comfort and privacy of one’s own home ensures a steady tax-free supplement to some teachers’ meager incomes plus the rising trend of socializing at tuition centres.  For parents, what could be better than having an educational expert, ready and willing to cater to your child’s academic needs and guaranteeing success?

But success in what sense? Is academic success through private tuitions at the expense of students’ creativity and learning worth it?

A mother of two from Karachi, feels that “the kind and type of tuitions offered in Karachi are such that they rob children of opportunities to discover and figure out things for themselves. They don’t experience the same level of satisfaction and self-confidence as when they are spoon-fed answers by their own private tutors.”

Rote-learning teachers’ notes which are guaranteed to provide success and poring over old solved examination papers in the hopes that the questions will be repeated are some of the techniques that famed tuition teachers put into action.

This vicious cycle leaves no room for students to think for themselves and none for creativity, doing little more than producing narrow-minded, dependent people who, when facing the real world, will have trouble competing with students from other nations who are experienced and driven by their own thoughts and determination to excel and who thrive on creativity and individuality.

So how to control and weed out this trend, which has been spreading like wildfire, and has dug its claws firmly into the foundation of the academic system, refusing to let go?

Maybe it is time the government reconsidered its education policy.  Large and thriving tuition centers should be watched closely to ensure at the very least, that teachers are not coaching students from their own schools, giving an extremely unfair advantage to the others. Other ways to discourage this include making it difficult to set up tuition centers, perhaps in the form of setting up groups of professionals who ensure that the teachers and students’ performances are up to a certain standard required for tutors, or maximum price limits on the fees they can charge for their services.

If the salary the teachers are receiving is unfair, then perhaps teachers’ salaries and wages should also be reconsidered. Of course, in the end, there will always remain those who are genuinely in need of personalized help. For those, alternate solutions can be formulated. Before the tuition craze set root into our system, students made the extra effort of staying back after class to ask questions and teachers provided remedial classes that were part of the school system and not an additional activity. Students researched and practiced relentlessly; they made honest mistakes and learned from them, gaining valuable experience and self-confidence along the way.

For those who cannot afford additional help, perhaps NGOs and private sector organisations can contribute by getting education experts or other students to help those who cannot get private tuitions. One-on-one tutoring lessons or open-question sessions headed by educators are sure to make a difference.

But  it needs to be realised that what may seem like the easiest way out may not the best in the long run after all.

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