The tuition dilemma
FEB 10 — A few weeks into the school term and I have already received quite a few phone calls from parents regarding after-school tuition. The last few years, I did offer homework assistance and extra coaching after school, but since I am now working in the afternoon session, I decided not to offer that help this year. Work is taxing and can be quite stressful, what with adjusting to the new environment, etc, I feel like I could make do without the extra work tuition will bring me.
Tuition seems to be a major concern for parents these days. If school teachers offer tuition classes, you can bet that the students will be scrambling to fill up the classes, especially if he or she is known to be a great teacher. Someone who is a ‘Guru Cemerlang’ (Excellent Teacher) or has been teaching for a long time usually can, and will charge more. Their classes would be much sought after and if the students produce great results, which in Malaysian context means a long string of As, then you can bet your top Ringgit that more students will register for the next school term.
During my first year of teaching, I decided to just wait and see, and learn more before even considering giving tuition. I was after all just a new teacher, and felt that my inexperience and lack of familiarity with the exam formats would not be fair to the students.
So I decided I would make do without the extra work giving tuition would entail. Although the money made from giving tuition can be quite lucrative, I still think I need some time to recover from school since school, if you know it, can be quite a madhouse.
And now, since I work in the afternoon session and usually do not come home until after 7 pm, teaching tuition at 8.00 pm would be an almost impossible thing for me. I need my time to rest, have dinner and of course, to prepare for the next day’s lessons. Teaching tuition would not let me have all that.
But since tuition to parents is like water to the thirsty, they usually will keep asking, hoping I would change my mind and maybe reconsider. They want it, they yearn for it, and they will try their best to have me agree to give their child tuition. Some even want me to give tuition to their Year 1 child, which I said no to, because I think a seven old year should be allowed to play and just be a kid and should not be made to work hard.
Of course, parents always want the best for their child, and since they have more resources now, they would pay top dollar to give their child the best. Even if it means paying RM200 per month just for six hours of one-to-one English (like one of my neighbours do), they would do it. And mind you, that is just for one subject. Factoring in all the four subjects they have to sit for in the UPSR exam, imagine how much parents actually pay for their child’s monthly tuition fees alone.
There is another side to the argument: that too much tuition is not good for the child because they work from morning to night and barely have time to rest and play like children should. It also means that maybe they thought my teaching might be so bad that these kids would need extra help with their English!
To some extent, I agree that rather than being at home doing nothing, they could go for extra classes, so they would be doing something worthwhile with their time. But maybe, perhaps, we should allow our children a moment to just rest, to take in the day as it comes, so they could relax and focus on being still for a little while?
Their days are often very long. Our school starts very early in the morning and usually the kids would have homework accompanying them home each day. Every day, watching the kids walk home I often wonder how they feel about all the school work, all the extra work they have to do.
I remember my childhood as being rather carefree. I was allowed space to run around, ride with my bike and play with my friends in the evenings, and still had time to do my homework. Kids these days seem to not like physical activities so much. They would rather do something sitting down which to me seems unnatural. Kids are supposed to love running around and they should not hate sports and physical activities. It is just mind-baffling to me.
One thing is for sure, things have definitely changed. A long string of As can no longer guarantee a place at the university or a scholarship. The society demands so much more from the younger generation that they now have to equip themselves with a lot of skills just to get ahead.
We want our future leaders to be excellent leaders, to have great soft skills, to be smart and eloquent and to be civic-minded enough to know what the society wants and needs, and to carry out their duties with responsibility and integrity. The society glorifies those with long string of As and so at a very young age, we prepare our kids for the work, so they will someday end up with those long string of As.
Whatever their reasons, I feel for the parents. They are the ones who have to make the choice, whether to send their children for extra classes or not. They are the ones who have to pay the tuition fees each month and make sure their child gets to their tuition classes on time.
Parents do an awful lot for their kids and I do salute them for caring and wanting their kids to have the best, to be the best and to shine in academics, but maybe we should give them some room to breathe and just be kids. After all, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.