Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Private Tutor = Nanny

Why parents need tutors: To do the job of parents - Navene Elangovan

The debate over the necessity of tuition in Singapore was recently reignited by comments made by Indranee Rajah, the Senior Minister of State for Education. Private tuition, she said, was not necessary in Singapore’s education system.
Time spent in class is sufficient for a child to grasp the necessary knowledge, the argument goes. Pay attention in class and keep up with your homework, and the average student can perform decently at examinations. Remedial classes will help weaker students to catch up with the rest.
But all this misses the real function of tutors in Singapore. The truth of the matter is that tutors here are nannies.
The argument that students can cope without tuition is premised on the assumption that the average child is intrinsically motivated to push himself to do well in school.
Yet it is unrealistic to expect most children to be so motivated.
The nature of academics is such that frequent practice, even beyond the allotted curriculum time, is required to reinforce concepts taught in the classroom. But the average student is unlikely to fully grasp the need for this. More often than not, all that is on their mind the moment they step out of their school gates is hanging out with friends.
This is where tutors are crucial. Often tutors are engaged to help a student with his homework, forcing the child to get his homework done before tuition begins. Tuition homework assigned on top of this means the child gets more practice in applying the concepts learnt in the classroom.
As such, tuition is a means to prod the student, whose priorities would otherwise probably lie elsewhere, into revising their work outside of curriculum time.
Should parents be nannies?
Some may suggest that it is the onus of the parents to play the role of nanny, ensuring that their child keeps up with school work. But this may also be an unrealistic demand in an era where double-income families are the norm, with both parents exhausted after working long hours.
And maybe whatever little time parents have left with their child is best set aside for more family-friendly activities, such as having dinner together. The relationship between parents and child risks being strained when dads and mums interfere in their child’s education. I see so many parents frustrated when their children do not perform up to their expectations.
Exhibit A: My neighbour, whom I’ve dubbed “Tiger Mummy”. Every day, from 8pm to 10pm, Tiger Mummy can be heard berating her son during their study sessions. Too slow, too stupid, she shouts.
It works both ways. Children resent their parents bossing them around. I’ve seen my siblings pull a long face after my parents tell them to do their homework. Faced with such hostility, parents soon retract their orders for fear of being seen as the bad guy — the last thing a parent wants after clocking a long day at the office is to return home to an unfriendly environment.
So that’s where tutors play come in: They’re pseudo-parents. Tuition can be scheduled while the parent is still at work, so mum and dad can come home to a child who is done with his homework and available for family time.
The “outsider” status of a tutor also means that the child is more likely to respect and respond to a tutor’s demands. Also, many parents are out of touch with the current school syllabus and are not in the best position to help their child academically.
Can’t live with it, can’t live without it
If one truly seeks a tuition-free world, then one must be able to raise intrinsically-motivated kids who understand the importance of education. Sounds good, but in such cases I worry that such a child may not have had the opportunity to be what he or she truly is — a child.
The other alternative is to simplify the education syllabus to reduce the demands placed on students. But we can’t risk compromising the standards of our school system.
The issue of whether tuition is a necessity is symptomatic of a larger problem in Singapore — that of balancing growth and competition with the desire for a slower pace of life. Until that is resolved, tuition will quite likely remain a necessity. – Todayonline.com, October 1, 2013.

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