Private tutoring A critical issue for our education system

Bidur Prasad Upadhyay

Within the current public education system, high achieving students, whose educational needs are not fully satisfied, may look for ways to challenge themselves outside the school. Likewise, low achieving students may want to receive supplementary out-of-school education that will strengthen them in their weaker areas of the study. However, the prosperity of private tutoring endangers public education and distorts student’s ability to learn by encouraging rote memorisation. Further, it decreases student’s curiosity and interest in subjects, discourages them from class-room participation and eventually leads to low student achievement. Besides, private tutoring is more available to students whose parents can afford the services and it also increases educational inequality among groups from different soci-economic backgrounds.

Private tutoring is defined as private education by informal education institutions such as coaching and tuition institutes. These institutes also offer to teach subjects related to entrance examination of technical fields at least two to three months ahead of college schedule. Though private tutoring had a long history in the private education market of Nepal, but it is only recently that pre-class tutoring has been introduced in the market. As competition is intestified and the number of students who got involved in pre-class tutoring increased the term began to appear in the media more frequently. Specially to gain entrance in medical and engineering institutions students believe that enrollment in these institutions is their best chance to succeed in society.

Because of this, even the guardians are willing to pay any amount of money to provide their children with excellent education and various educational aids, including private tutoring. However, the prosperity of private teaching in Nepal has been attributed to the following reasons: inefficient and unsatisfactory teaching and learning process in school education, inappropriate aspects of the current education system, the anxiety and competitive eagerness of the parents, and socio-cultural factors that have made entering prestigious colleges one of the important goals of the students.

Private tutoring trends have manifested in two ways: the increase of students leaving at early age to study abroad as well as the school not satisfying the needs of the students. The former phenomenon has made some parents psychologically unstable, the spread of pre-class tutoring has expanded the private education market and led to the deterioration of public education. Another element of distortion is cheating the students by promising to make them eligible to appear at the Board exams. Besides, there are gangs in such private tutoring institutions that are producing and selling bogus academic certificates.

It is widely accepted that accelerated expansion of private tutoring is a major part of the public education crisis. In addition, people believe that many students receive private tutoring on content that is much more advanced than their level of knowledge, which can help them to understand the basic concepts. For this reason, private tutoring is an area that demands attention. Still many parents think that if private tutoring were indeed ineffective, it would not be so widespread. Therefore, there is an urgent need to systematically investigate the reality and effects of private tutoring.

However, from various studies carried out in different countries it was found that the belief that private tutoring helps to secure high marks is a subjective assumption unsupported by scientific evidence. Major factors determining student achievement is a learning attitude rather than private tutoring. Moreover, there exists a strong belief that one should graduate from a prestigious institution. This results in obsession with competition, which leads to aimless worries and the preoccupation with getting ahead, and the marketing strategies of cram schools succeed. Because of this it should be reviewed before introducing improvements to discourage pre-class tutoring. Schools should equip themselves with diverse elective courses for talented student enrichment programmes for highly capable students and special programs for slow learners.

Finally it is imperative that teachers put in great effort to raise the quality of school education. It would be too much to ask teachers to pay attention to each student like instructors do at private tutoring institutions and it would not be easy to reverse the current situation. Much has been said about teachers neglecting their assignments. But the teachers too have much to complain about not being accorded due status and respect. A large number of teachers working in adverse circumstances are committed to their job. A little professional motivation like participation in training programme and additional reading materials could go a long way towards enthusing them.

Prof Upadhyay is chairman, UGC