Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Tuition culture has to go, say MPs

SINGAPORE — Several Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday urged Education Minister Heng Swee Keat to do something about the nation’s pervasive “tuition culture” that has got out of hand.

Tuition culture has to go, say MPs

MPs noted that despite government efforts, Singaporeans still have the mentality that getting good grades is the ticket to securing good jobs and a bright future. Today File Photo

SINGAPORE — Several Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday urged Education Minister Heng Swee Keat to do something about the nation’s pervasive “tuition culture” that has got out of hand.

Kicking off the Committee of Supply debate for the Ministry of Education, Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) said he was concerned that tuition would become a “crutch” for students to the point that they “have lost the skill of self-directed learning”.

Mr Lim, who is also the Government Parliamentary Committee chairman for education, was one of six MPs who spoke on the students’ over-reliance on tuition, which many say is due to the country’s stressful and competitive education system.

Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) noted that the tuition culture is so pervasive that even polytechnic students go for extra classes.

Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) urged the MOE to conduct a nationwide survey on the issue.

“Is MOE not curious enough to study why parents are sending their children for extra private lessons despite having access to one of the best educations systems in the world?” he asked.

Despite government efforts, Singaporeans still have the mentality that getting good grades is the ticket to securing good jobs and a bright future, MPs noted.

Such thinking is perpetuated by programmes such as the Gifted Education Programme (GEP), where parents are still fixated on certain top schools, said Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong.

Calling for the re-examination of such historical structures in the education system, Mr Yee said: “We need not have this competition. We can spread the programme developed for GEP across more schools, and also widen our definition of giftedness.”

In the same vein, Mr Inderjit Singh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) suggested setting a quota in each school for academically stronger students in order to help spread such students across more schools. This will allow parents to see beyond cut-off points and focus on distinctive programmes in secondary schools, he said.

In addition to removing high-stakes academic exams, Ms Phua also called for the pilot of 10-year integrated through-train schools, where students study in the same school from primary to secondary level.

Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) expressed concerns that students who are unable to cope with the stress may be exposed to problems of depression, low self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts.

In his response to the MPs’ concerns, Mr Heng said Singapore needs to make the transformation from a “scarcity mentality” that focuses on a single pathway to success to an “abundance mentality” with multiple pathways.

“If we think there is one pathway to success, whether it’s school or at work … (we’ll) do everything we can to get on that pathway,” Mr Heng said. “For as long as there is only one path to success, the pressure will manifest itself as some point.”

This happens even in education systems that have abolished national exams, such as the Primary School Leaving Examinations, and adopted a through-train system.

On the other hand, having an “abundance mentality” will allow for an inventive, resourceful mindset to think about new ways of doing things and creating new pathways to success, said Mr Heng.

While changes in the economy have created jobs requiring specific skills and multiplied pathways, our thinking about education and pathways have not kept up with these changes, he added.

One way the Education Ministry has tried to change such thinking is through the Applied Learning Programme and Learning for Life Programme, and to create opportunities in every school.

Parents are beginning to see how each school can offer something interesting and special, Mr Heng said.

Over the next few years, efforts will focus on enabling this mindset transformation, and while Mr Heng said he is open to the merits of particular ideas, resources and attention have to be focused on what will make the biggest impact.

Having studied systems from all over the world, Mr Heng said: “I do think that this SkillsFuture initiative and this transformation I talked about in terms of learning for mastery, learning for life, is really the transformation we need to make and there are many things we can do within this context.”

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.

Aa