Wed, Dec 02, 2009
The Straits Times
Tuition may help but it could turn into a crutch

By Eef Gerard Van Emmerik

TUITION lessons are a necessary evil of the Singaporean education system - prepare to lose out to others if you don't have those private classes.

As the O- and A-level examinations draw to a close, many graduating students would probably be breathing a sigh of relief that they do not have to put up with intensive coaching anymore.

And if it's your turn to take a national exam next year, good luck - your parents are probably searching for tutors, if they haven't found them already.

Be forewarned though, the long-term effects of tuition may be detrimental. Once one has had the experience of being tutored, it's extremely hard to break the habit of relying on someone for advice.

I personally have a huge dependency complex. Having had Chinese tuition for more than 10 years and maths for six years, I now constantly need to turn to someone more senior for direction, advice and consolation when things don't go well.

Upon entering university, I took for granted that someone would be there to guide me through the semester. Well, turns out there's no one, so here I am freaking out when exams swing around, trying to cram model answers into my head.

I wish there were competitive tuition services for my law classes so that I could pick one that suits my needs best, spots questions for me and tells me how to plan essay outlines.

I spend time and money buying study guides and seeking model essay answers from bookshops. Those prepared notes are lifesavers.

A case of dependence overload, you reckon?

My example might just be symptomatic of a widespread condition among Singaporean youth. After all, do you know anyone who hasn't had tuition at some point in his life?

Ironically, I am now an English tutor to three students. Such is the chain of progression in Singapore that university students find a sizeable ready market for their tutoring services, once they have climbed the ranks of the educational hierarchy.

It's even more ironic that I teach to fund my supplementary study guides and model essays.

So, I try my best to break the cycle of dependency among my students by emphasising practice rather than rote learning, so they will not grow to need excessive assistance in the future.

It is definitely the case for me and I fear that the dependency is growing to encompass larger aspects of my life in general.

As the years go by and life gets more complicated, I'm finding that I need notes to help me plot my course for that too.

I mean, if it produces results, why not have someone come in and give you a leg-up in the most important test of all - life.

Eef Gerard Van Emmerik, 21, is a first-year law student at SMU.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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