NationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 30

Tuition: A bane or boon for students?

There is no concept of education without private tuition in our country, says Laila Rubab, the mother of grade 9 and grade 7 students. Teachers in almost all private and public sector schools do not teach their students. What they do in classroom is simply take attendance, check students’ notebooks and write on the blackboard what homework students are supposed to do, alleges Mrs. Rubab.

The students copy the homework from the blackboard in their diaries and show it to their parents. Now it is the parents’ headache to get that homework done. If they are educated and have sufficient time at their disposal, they help their children do that homework. But in more than 90 per cent cases, they are unable to do so. Either they are not literate or they don’t have enough time to sit with their children to help them complete their homework. In such a situation, they have to send their children to private academies or hire tutors to teach their children at home.

Laila Rubab is quite right in her assertion. The tuition culture is on the rise in Pakistan. Tuition is considered a necessity for almost all students now. Almost all teachers offer tuition after school. A survey conducted by weekly Cutting Edge revealed that not only the students of higher classes but also of primary classes get tuition. The students have to pay tuition fees ranging from Rs1,000 to Rs10,000 per subject. Every other student, whether gifted or average, rich or poor, is taking tuition, which has made the culture take root in the present educational system.

According to Bilqees I. Patel, a former teacher, the situation is completely contradictory to the past when availing tuition meant that you were a weak or bad student. Tuition today is a significant need of every student. If one were to evaluate the causes for this, one would find several reasons.

The biggest cause of the increasing demand for tuition is the large number of pupils in school classrooms. Each class is full of varied capacities and needs. The ratio of teacher to student is usually 1:50 and they have short periods (around 30-45 minutes) to teach, which makes it difficult for the teachers to pay individual attention, especially to the class’s average or slow learners. A teacher may find it difficult to identify each student’s need in order to help them cope with studies. That is why a student is compelled to seek tuition in order to successfully complete the examination requirement.

Teachers’ status in society and lower monetary benefits in the teaching profession also contribute to an increased demand for tuition. Many teachers, who run private tuition centres on the side, see to it that their students attend those instead of benefiting from what is taught in the classroom. It is in the tuition centres where they teach what was to be taught in the classroom, and with greater care and attention.

Another important factor leading to tuition culture is the present examination system in Pakistan. The students are expected to imbibe the information of their subject, rather than develop understanding, which leads them into the trap of rote learning.

Tuition centres encourage students to take shortcuts. Rather than studying the respective subjects in depth, they provide them with old examination papers to solve them in a given time period and as such studying becomes a training of the mind to work mechanically rather than think creatively.

The parents’ education level or the time they can give to their children also contributes to the demand for tuition. Research has proved that the parents’ level of education has a high positive relation with students’ educational achievement.

Even today, many of the parents, especially mothers who are considered responsible for their child’s education, are illiterate. This enhances the need for arranging tuition for children in order to provide them with an opportunity to improve their educational ability. In addition, the concept of both working parents has led to parents spending half, or sometimes even a whole, day outside the house. This makes it difficult for them to pay due attention to their children. How many working parents in this day and age find the time to sit and do homework with their children in the evening? Tuitions are a solution to this problem as well.

These causes have made a huge impact on the social and educational system of our society. The quality of classroom teaching has been affected. Teachers are usually cognizant of the fact that 90 per cent of their students take tuition, causing them to fulfil their responsibility in class half-heartedly. Tuition is expected to fill the gap.

On the other hand, students also pay less attention in the classroom as they feel that their tutors will do the needful later. The level of respect for school teachers in the eyes of the pupil has gone down considerably due to this fact.

The innate learning capacity of students has been affected. Students have become dependent on tuition and tutors for understanding concepts, rather than making an effort on their own to investigate a subject and develop their own understanding. That impedes the curious nature and analytical and reflective ability of the student. Where is the need for all that when you are getting readymade material from tuition centres to deal with an examination?

According to Dr. Sania Chaudhry, a public sector management analyst, school children in Pakistan have a busy day. In the morning, they attend the school session officially, while after school hours they are busy with tuitions that have become a necessity to score well in exams. This regimen causes a mental burden on students and restricts them from giving their minds a break and indulging in activities such as sports and other hobbies. Thus a child’s social development is also under threat.

The parent-child relationship is also affected. Helping children with their studies at home is an important way for parents to bond with them and acquaint themselves with the habits, studying style, areas in need of improvement and strengths of their offspring. However, tuition reduces the opportunity for parents to know their child better.

In the past, all bright students took pride in their results, as their performance was a result of their own hard work and not engineered through tuition factories. What has happened in the last two decades is that today it has become a fashion, as well as a necessity, to take tuition to secure better grades in the exams. Did parents replace their efforts with tuition bills or did teachers commercialise the profession of teaching to exploit the most honourable profession of all times?

In a nutshell, the negative aspects of giving tuition outweigh the positive ones. This existing situation lays an important responsibility on school authorities as well as parents. School authorities need to ensure that teachers fulfil their responsibility to the students. An effective monitoring mechanism needs to be devised to ensure the quality of teaching in the classroom. The parents, too, should try to pay more attention to their children as they are the first and most important teachers in their children’s lives.