ST Forum letter on tuition for students

I got to say, initially I agreed with the letter when it questioned this: “What is wrong with our education system today, where we are so reliant and dependant on private tuition and enrichment classes?”

There are two kinds of people who ended up going for tuition:
1) Those who are too weak in a particular subject
2) Those who are too kiasu

It is the (2) people that I am worried about. Those so called top school students who have tuition teachers coaching them on plenty of subjects when they should be able to cope by themselves, being “top school” students. Ultimately, if they decide to choose coaching over other activities, there is nothing we can do about it. Technically, it is not wrong. After all, you either study yourself, or get someone to study with you isn’t it?

Anyway, the letter begins to deviate into creating illusions when the writer talks about enrichment classes like MindChamps and Adam Khoo, saying that they cost a lot. The writer also says that poorer families are at a disadvantage because they cannot afford. Or are they?

To put it simply, does your child need to go for these so called motivational camps? The answer is fairly simple. No. It’s not compulsory and you do not need it to do well. Tuition and enrichment classes, by default are not these camps. You can get a fairly cheap tutor to coach your child in a few subjects, and if your child puts in the required effort, he or she can improve. Simple as that. It is not required to go for motivational camps. Hence, what disadvantage are there? From my point of view, the writer is kiasu and jealous because his son’s friends go for Adam Khoo whilst he has no money to afford.

The writer goes on to say: “The present education system is counter-productive to producing well-educated and well-balanced students. Instead of enjoying studying, students are stressed out and failing in too many subjects.” I agree that Singapore is a stressful place, where you have to put in effort to excel, but you do not need to put in plenty of effort to pass. Passing is easy. Getting that A is not. To put things in perspective, if the writer’s son is failing in too many subjects, perhaps he is trying too hard to be well-balanced, in the sense that he is over-balanced in trying to have other “outside” activities like games and hanging out. We have to take responsibility when we fail. Blaming the education system is not good because tens of thousands of us have already gone through the system and we do not see what the big deal is.

In the real working world, is the boss going to say “It’s ok that you cannot do this, just do slowly and try your best? Don’t forget to knock off early and have some exercise at the gym.”? Of course not.

Besides, whether it is stressful or not depends on your personal attitude. My friend can be happy and contented with B’s, but I may not be. Hence I may be stressed out whilst they are not. I guess the question is, “What are you trying to achieve?”

Hence aim well. Don’t reach for Pluto when you can only touch the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere. Tuition is not a big deal if you want your son to pass. Tuition does not cost 2 to 3k a month. Some parents need to wake up.

Schools should not rely on it and ministry should act

WHEN I attended a teacher-parent meeting because I was told that my Secondary 4 son had fared poorly in his school examinations, I was shocked. I expected to see a handful of parents and their children. Instead, it seemed as if the school had summoned all the parents.

When I questioned several teachers why so many of his classmates had also fared poorly, the standard responses were along the lines that my son’s class was ‘a very challenging class to teach’.

My son needed more help, I was told. Their suggestion was that ‘he sign up for tuition lessons and attend all the remedial classes we have planned for the holidays’.

What is wrong with our education system today, where we are so reliant and dependant on private tuition and enrichment classes? This is great news for tuition centres and the enrichment centres like Mindchamps, Adam Khoo, SuperCamp for kids, Lorna Whiston, Julia Gabriel, Shichida and the lot, who charge very high fees and make big bucks due to the very real fear and desperation of parents who want their children to do well.

But what if you are not in the ‘privileged group’ who can afford the thousands of dollars needed for tuition? What if you are a heartlander struggling to make ends meet?

Will your child be able to keep up with children from more privileged backgrounds, whose parents shell out $2,000 to $3,000 every few months for various extra private tuition classes?

The present education system is counter-productive to producing well-educated and well-balanced students. Instead of enjoying studying, students are stressed out and failing in too many subjects.

The Ministry of Education must be more proactive in ensuring that students are less reliant on external tuition or enrichment classes, and ensure a well-balanced education for all.

Tan Eng Hong

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