TUITION can be of a great help to students - that is, if they need it in the first place.
There are, of course, those who take tuition classes for the obvious reason: Poor results. But there are many still who do so just to fit in, or simply because they - or their parents - are kiasu.
One secondary school student I recently interviewed, who has tuition for three out of his nine subjects despite scoring nearly As all the time, told me: 'Everyone else in school is doing it, and if I don't, I will lose out to them.'
Another student, who has tuition for two subjects, said: 'My parents don't want me to slip from an A to a B, so I'd better go for tuition - just in case.'
For this group, their schedules can get so packed that they are too exhausted to get any work done at all.
Even for those with less stellar results, tuition may not be for them either, unless their attitudes improve.
Tutors I spoke with share this common gripe: Some students are so lazy, they don't do any school homework, much less work in tuition class.
'What makes their parents think they'll touch their tuition homework?' one exasperated tutor said.
Whether tutors are facing those who do not really need tuition, or those too lazy to work, the story is the same: Student turns up for class. Student has not done any work. Tutor twiddles his thumbs while student finishes homework that should have been done beforehand.
Is it any surprise that every tutor I spoke to describes such students as a waste of time?
After months of tuition, some of them do not even show any improvement in their grades at all, and simply get bumped around from one tutor to another.
Any good it does, really, is to fatten the wallets of tuition teachers, who know they have an easy job with a student who is not 100 per cent there and is just going through the motions.
While tuition still remains a personal choice for students and parents, perhaps more thought could be given to that choice.
A Straits Times survey on tuition in February last year showed that out of 150 teens aged between 13 and 19, 85 per cent of them have four hours of tuition a week, while 60 per cent spend more than $200 a month on extra help.
That is a lot of time and money spent if students do not really need it.
Perhaps some students could better spend their time taking power naps to recharge flat batteries, or get their schoolwork in order instead of piling on more homework.
Similarly, the hundreds of dollars a month could be spent on enrichment programmes to give the teen a more well-rounded education, or simply saved away for future education expenses.
Maybe what the tuition classes should really be teaching is how to get the right attitude, willpower and time management skills to do well in school.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.