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Private Tuition and learning at School

| by Victor Cherubim

( May 20, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian ) The more and more parents use private tuition to coach their children to compete in so called “education,” the more it becomes fruitless in today’s environment. Some parents start preparing their children for school and even University from the age of three, bringing their anxieties with them. What may be good coaching for competition in sport and gymnastics in particular, may not fit the bill in education.

There is need for a radical reform of our basic education system. German philosopher Richard Precht maintains that “young people would be better prepared for the workforce if there were no grades, no subject based instruction and in some cases, no teachers.” Many of course, would disagree with this premise.

Learn what you want to learn

When I finished junior school and went on to secondary school in the 1950’s everyone said that engineers and doctors were going to be in demand. I can remember being offered tuition in a subject which I found difficult to grasp, perhaps because of my aptitude. My parents gave me tuition at 5.00 am before I went to school. I detested it and I can now confirm I never benefitted by it.

Simultaneously, many of my classmates went through this drill called “tuition”. I know they all came out with flying colours, got through degrees at Uni, but now many, if not most since completing their careers feel lost, abandoned in a world where they find it difficult to cope, unable to relate to their surroundings in a challenging world. They were brilliant in their specialised subject, but were not multi-disciplined. I am sure the parents of these student “upstarts” would maintain that private tuition delivered their sons to get married with a “crammed Engineering degree,” and with a lucrative dowry.

It is also important to note that many of the jobs of the future are entirely unknown to us today. Besides, most of the tuition has gone “underground” as school teachers themselves offer coaching classes at home after school. Hiring private tuition according to modern research is considered insane.


The method of cramming perhaps, was good for a generation or two past, but somehow it does not fit in the plan of a rounded education for living today. According to a Head Master of a private school, Christian Heinrich, “parents are driving their children too hard by giving them intensive tutoring, even when they are studying at fee paying top private independent schools in U.K.”

Parents hire tutors even after spending thousands of pounds on school fees. The average fee at independent schools for boarders here is £9,596, well over a million rupees a term and £4241 for day pupils, according to a census published this year. Tutors charge anything from £25 (Rs.3000/-) per hour.

Parental responsibility

Parents, rather than take responsibility for their children’s learning, pass the buck to Tutors, It is well known in Sri Lanka that we do not trust our teachers, or the education imparted at our schools and colleges. Parents feel their child gets poor marks because the child finds it difficult to grasp as the teacher cannot communicate adequately. Thus tuition is an absolute “must” to climb the ladder of success.

A fallacy in the extreme

Many, if not most teachers in our schools, are dedicated to their profession and trained to teach. But they are paid poorly. Much can be done to improve their lot. However, let us look at this issue from the standpoint of the student. We all know that peer pressure to excel is evident. This is commendable in that it drives excellence, but cramming is not education, nor is it learning. An analogy, though rather inappropriate, is of feeding “battery hens” in the hope of slaughtering for market.

Are children pressuring parents for tuition, or is it the other way around?

The gap between what our children are learning in school and what they will need in life is wider than ever before. Memorising facts and figures is not learning, rather is it any form of education? It is not the kind of knowledge that lasts. Nor does it encourage curiosity or creativity. A child’s motivation to learn must be cultivated, in fact encouraged.

But what is happening in our schools is that every child according to parents should “specialise” in the learned professions, if they are to succeed. Their natural ability and their aptitude mean little. There has been much debate over decades whether our education in our schools “is fit for purpose.”

Asking children to do more even when they are exhausted at the end of the school day to attend tuition, is folly. Besides, it creates a larger social divide, because those with capacity can afford to pay more and more for less and less, while the “have not’s” are at the bottom of the pile.

Is it essential to excel over our natural abilities?

There was a time, a place and an age to coach children to “specialise” in a field of study. Allowing children to develop and excel according to their natural abilities will pay dividends. This is to be fulfilled. In my opinion, there are many other factors to evaluate success than just performance at examinations. Teamwork and inter personal relationships matter most in today’s workplace.

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