The prevalence of private tuition suggests that students here cannot succeed without extra coaching outside school. But Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah disagrees, arguing that tuition for children who are doing reasonably well is counter-productive, while weak students can get help through existing school programmes.
"Our education system is run on the basis that tuition is not necessary," she said in Parliament, amid concerns that a widening income gap affords children from better-off families opportunities for a head start on their peers through tuition.
Listing help schemes available for those who need more support, she pointed to remedial and supplementary lessons in schools.
There are also comprehensive levelling-up programmes to ensure that students develop good foundations in English and mathematics. Community tuition schemes, like those run by self-help groups, are also available, including those for children from lower-income backgrounds.
"We hope that parents will not add on to their children's workload and stress level by sending them to unnecessary tuition classes," she said.
She was responding to Nominated MP Janice Koh, who tabled a question on the effect of "shadow education" on social mobility. Education continues to be an important avenue for social mobility, Ms Indranee replied.
Her ministry is also committed to supporting every student, regardless of his or her family background. Ms Koh, in a supplementary question, asked if the relationship between household income and tuition expenditure could be examined, and the effects of such expenditures on social mobility.
She cited how tuition spending here doubled from $410 million to over $800 million between 1998 and 2008.