A STUDENT who does not go for tuition these days is as rare as the Himalayan black bear. It's part and parcel of life as a student, not something most would raise an eyebrow over.
Parents swear by these extra classes, but are not too confident in government school
Tiger mothers and fathers may consider it tantamount to child abuse if they do not send their precious cubs for tuition. For the others, it is just so that their children are not left behind.
In those days, only weak students would be packed off for tuition, and it was humiliating for parents to admit that their child required help outside the classroom. Not any more. Now, even the brightest sparks attend private tuition to get an edge over the rest and land a string of As.
Just one example was Ng Ching Wei, who was named the best Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia candidate in Perlis in 2010,
When surrounded by reporters at his school, he credited his more than one-hour commute from Kangar to Alor Star for tuition classes every day for his outstanding performance: four As in General Studies, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics, and a cumulative grade point average of 3.92.
"The tuition classes I attended helped a lot," Ng shared. Enrolment at tuition centres probably skyrocketed that year with that endorsement.
Call it what we may -- a burden on students, a parallel education system, necessity in the face of intense competition or simply extra help, the point remains that the tuition culture has carved a niche for itself, a very big one, in the country's education map.
It is a multi-million ringgit industry.
And it's not just the teachers that are in the game, but also private operators, with tuition centres bigger and better equipped than some private colleges. They are everywhere, much like campaign banners during election season.
It's easy to secure a tutor. If there isn't a schoolteacher available, or centre in your neighbourhood, just Google "tuition malaysia", call any one of the hundreds of agencies listed, and one will be sent to your doorstep faster than it took Usain Bolt to break the 100m world record.
But is it wise to send our children for tuition when they spend so many hours in a week in school? Is there an actual need to? Can't a student do without the extra classes and just rely on what is being taught in the classroom?
There are those who have defied the odds.
In 2010, Ahmad Rahimi Sudin scored 7A+, 2As and 1A- in his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia. He did it despite being disabled, and even, more shockingly, without attending a single day of tuition.
How did he do it? "The old-fashioned way: reading my books before the lesson is taught in class," he retorted.
Cases such as these, however, are few and far between, especially in urban areas.
There's a lot at stake as the most enviable record to break these days is to surpass the previous person with the most As in what has always been the sole measure of a student's worth: performance in public examinations.
Malaysians are avid record breakers, after all. Anything and everything can be surmounted, and any record can be bettered.
But ask parents why their children are being shuttled for tuition and their answers will revolve around the education system and the quality of teachers.
A reader from Teluk Intan wrote in: "If I don't send them, they will feel left behind as all the other students go for tuition. They cannot follow the lessons in school because the teachers teach too fast. The Education Ministry does not seem to realise that the public has a poor perception of the quality of teaching in government schools, which is why many parents send their children for tuition."
Another wrote: "It appears that students are not learning much in school or are unable to comprehend what's being taught. Parents must ask why they allow themselves to be victims of such an education system. They need to re-examine their children's dependency on tuition and the ministry must re-evaluate the system."
The good news is the education system is being re-evaluated and Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin indicated that the report would be completed by year-end.
But parents should ask themselves this: if and when the quality of teachers, and the education system as a whole, improve, will they stop sending their children for tuition?
By Chok Suat Ling firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: New Straits Times Editorial 01 March 2012