The tuition problem that nobody wants to solve


Ian Tan Yong Hoe

Published: 4:02 AM, September 19, 2013
Updated: 3:10 AM, September 20, 2013

I refer to the report, “MPs call for closer look at private tuition industry” (Sept 17).

The parliamentary replies indicate that the Ministry of Education does not consider the tuition industry to be a critical issue.

This is disturbing. We can abolish the Primary School Leaving Examination aggregate score or change admission schemes to improve the education system, but all these would be derailed if we ignore the tuition problem.

Parents send their children for tuition for various reasons. But as many have voiced out in the past few years, tuition is now a necessity because of the unrealistic primary school syllabus and the poor balancing of teacher workloads.

Anecdotally, I know of teachers who struggle to cover all the topics in the school syllabus, so they rush through the basic concepts when teaching. Pupils are left bewildered, then are asked to do “high-level” and “critical thinking” questions when their foundation is shaky.

Parents do not understand how to help their children because they cannot figure out some of today’s mind-boggling exam questions. Do they have a choice but to turn to tutors?

Many parents enrol their children on tuition not because of the desire for top grades but because of the fear that their children cannot catch up enough to get a decent passing grade.

Then, any free time the child has is sucked up by travelling to tuition classes or doing tuition homework. Where do they get the time to enjoy outdoor activities, learn new hobbies or other things that would make them well-rounded individuals?

I find it increasingly common to hear young married couples saying: “I don’t want to have kids and then put them through this ordeal.”

The signs have been clear for parents to see for many years.

As our partners in education, can the ministry see the same perspective, too?