Tuition and Tutors

It is always discouraging to be stuck academically and because schools normally build information sequentially, the inability to understand a topic often hinders progression to the next.  Tutors can come to the rescue.

Many parents think that tuition is beneficial to their children and while I do agree after school temporary tuition should be procured when the students need to get over the hump sometimes, I don’t think mandatory tuition should be encouraged.

Tuition to Hothouse

I am curious if people realize that long term tuition can be detrimental as it robs a student of a chance to develop great non-cognitive skills that is vital for academic success at more advanced stages.

My aversion for tuition starts with its instrumentality in dividing our society from the have’s and have not’s. Parents with herd’s mentality jump quickly onto the bandwagon believing and seeing temporal lustrous results in their younger years.

While it is true in any hothousing setting that immediate result can be achieved and hence may open more educational opportunities for the students when they were young I wonder if any parent ever thought of the detrimental effects of tuition on children.

Shifting Motivation/Passion from Child

Students need to want to achieve and learn how to motivate themselves, and tuition removes the need for them to learn that almost completely.

I was told that people send their children as young as five years old for phonics tuition these days, and some 12-year-olds spend more than eight hours a week having tuition!

If you consider 30 hours of school, 8 hours of CCA, 10 hours of homework, an average student already has a whopping 48-hour work week, and parents load another 8-12 hours of tuition… not including the transport time. Where would the child have a chance to think about his dreams, his passion and his direction in life?

How would he ever find the skills to manage his own schedule if he continues to run everywhere for this and that, and none planned by him?How will he have the time to dream and be creative?

Why then, are we surprised when many 18-year-olds have not nurtured a passion or found a calling by the time they start their university studies? (I am not talking about their parents’ passion or calling.)

Loss of Opportunity in Developing Thinking Skills and Grit

Most good tutors have systems and methodologies to help their students achieve high scores in standardized exams, and that is bad. Of course that sounds absurd, because scoring well in standardized exams is good, but not if your answers were created by someone else and regurgitated or reworded for exams.

*Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of learning objectives within education proposed in 1956 by a committee of educators chaired by Benjamin Bloom.

In the midst, the student would have lost the problem solving opportunity. In ‘rescuing’ them too quickly from difficult questions and problems, we save time and help them score higher in exams, but we rob them of that opportunity to develop their thinking skills in critical situations.  They would have also lost the chance to develop grit and problem solving skills.  Instead, we develop their remembering skills, which is the lowest in the hierarchy of thinking skills in Bloom’s Taxonomy.*

Trained to Look for the Single Right Answer

If you work or study in an international environment where your colleagues do not come from a hot housing atmosphere, you will know the delight of watching even an average student or worker think and create his/her own solutions, while those heavily tutored are always looking for the single ‘right’ answer that pleases either the lecturer or the boss, because they have always been fed with the right answers.

As the lecturer and an ex-boss, let me tell you that no single right answer exists in the university or in the real world. So, students who are brought up to look for them are sadly disillusioned and take a longer time to get accustomed to this fact, and learn to create solutions they believe in.

Ultimate Competition is within Oneself

Of course, I understand why everyone is still going to tuition and that some of our best teachers are still leaving public schools to become highly-paid tutors. And it is because it makes complete sense in the current situation where competition is paramount in our society. But is it really?

I have always had difficulty believing competition against peers is important, even when I was the CEO, and even when I was a competitive athlete. The best competition is within oneself, to always want to better oneself and achieve a higher goal than one has already attained, and it need not matter what others have achieved, whether they are better or worse.

Beating a peer can never justify an ego trip, and failing is never about losing face.

More than Academic Achievements

If we need to teach our students that the only way to prove that they are worthy is to have a high PSLE T-score (on a bell-curve), straight A’s for ‘O’ levels and ‘A’ levels, perfect IB and SAT scores, then we have completely missed out teaching them anything important, except to chase for academic results blindly.

Fortunately, most of us who have been through these know the limitations of mere academic results, yet we repeat the same process with our little ones.

Employees and university entrance committees know that good candidates possess great non-cognitive skills. That is why, they look for other qualities: their abilities to think on their feet, articulate their own thoughts, and communicate these confidently.

Therefore, even straight A’s students might not get into the door if they pale in comparison to those with less dazzling academic results but with great social and emotional skills. And even if they get in the door, they may not fair well unless they too unlearn their bad habits learned through tuition and acquire the proper and more important abilities.

Stop Following the Herd!

Perhaps the education system have us parents and educators going in circles chasing after the bell curve and standardized exams, but we have the fiduciary duty to ensure that in chasing these, we do not compromise our values and deprive our kids of learning important skills.

So before you recommend or sign someone up for another tuition or enrichment class, look at the student again: give it a second thought, and him/her another vote of confidence and believe that he/she can do without it.

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