Why Singapore is a 'tuition nation'

Why Singapore is a 'tuition nation'

I agree with Ms Vivien Tan that a student's performance in school is highly dependent on self-discipline and self-motivation ("Tuition not necessary for good grades"; Thursday). The consensus from my peers who provide tuition services is that many of their students are not necessarily academically weak, but merely unmotivated or lazy.

This can be changed through the ideal situation described by Ms Tan: teachers doing their jobs, pupils being attentive in class, and parents doing their best to motivate their children and supervise their schoolwork. It is when any one of these three factors fail that tuition becomes a convenient solution. Thus, the Education Ministry has to ensure that teachers do their jobs well. It would be dire if teachers think all their students attend tuition classes and push the responsibility of helping them achieve top grades to their "shadow colleagues" - the private tutors.

Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah said the attrition rate of teachers remains low, at about 3 per cent annually ("'Tuition not needed under our education system'"; Tuesday).

This bears further investigation. Is a significant number of high-performing teachers among those leaving? We should also examine why some teachers are leaving to become private tutors. The reasons could include higher pay or their weariness at having to juggle school administrative work with teaching duties. As a "tuition nation", Singapore joins South Korea and Hong Kong in having significant private tuition take-up rates. This is rooted in the Asian mindset that prizes academic excellence.

A report last year found that 97 per cent of all Singaporean students receive tuition, and the trend transcends socio-economic backgrounds ("Private tuition spreads beyond Asia's wealthy"; Aug 7, 2012). Often, it is parents from poor educational and financial backgrounds who are more willing to enrol their children in tuition classes, as they believe in the importance of achieving good grades to ensure future success. The role of tuition has developed from merely "plugging the gaps" to helping students achieve As.

But this should not be the case. Tuition should be viewed as a supplement to a child's education, and not an integral part of our education system or an obligatory pathway to success.

Paul Sim Ruiqi, Reader


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