The HEAD Foundation’s Public Lecture on ‘What is private tuition really doing to-or–for education’ was held to an overwhelming response on 13 October 2015. Professor Mark Bray, Director of the Comparative Education Research Centre (CERC) and the UNESCO Chair Professor in Comparative Education at the University of Hong Kong, presented to a large audience of professionals from the education, business and government sectors in Singapore. Professor Bray described how private tuition has become a global phenomenon in recent years.
Polling company, Nexus Link – in collaboration with The Straits Times, found that of 501 households polled in Singapore, 80% of those with primary students and 62% of those with secondary students paid for private tuition. In comparison, a 2011/12 survey of senior secondary students in Hong Kong showed that 51.4% of Grade 9 students and 71.8% of Grade 12 students received private tuition. Professor Bray noted the popularity of private tuition in East Asia especially in Korea. Private tuition in countries such as China and India are also growing.
A snapshot of tuition in Asia shows:
- South Korea with 81% elementary, 69% middle, 47% high, 56%
- Sri Lanka with 92% Grade 10, 98% Grade 12
- West Bengal, India with 57% primary
- Kerala, India with 72% secondary
In comparison, statistics in Europe are lower but climbing. In France, 25% of lower secondary and 33% of upper secondary students receive private tuition, whereas in the UK, 12% of primary and 8% of secondary students do.
Shadow education around the world takes many forms, on different scales, and is delivered by different players – ranging from individuals to companies and community bodies. Its growth is a result of demand by competitive and anxious parents with adequate incomes, as well as an increasing supply by companies and informal providers. Where tuition takeup rates are high, it also exerts pressure on students to take tuition in order to keep up with their classmates.
However, is private tuition effective?
The Singapore survey found that only 3 out of 10 respondents agreed that tuition improves grades significantly. Yet in Hong Kong, survey respondents seem to indicate that private tuition has a positive effect on students’ examination grades, confidence, revision skills and learning strategies. Professor Bray said ultimately, private tuition’s effectiveness depends on multiple factors, including the tutors’ skill, the students’ motivation and receptiveness, the match between tutoring and the school curriculum, and time management.
What knock-on effects does private tuition create for education?
Professor Bray noted that teachers might put in less effort because they assume students will receive tutoring. Talented teachers may also be drawn away from regular schools to the tutoring sector. Elites, who can and do engage private tutoring, have less incentive to improve the mainstream schools. Regulation could promote the long-term health of the industry, buoy consumer confidence, as well as keep out low-quality providers. However, there are many aspects to regulation that need to be considered. Private tuition is an important but complex issue. It is not necessarily undesirable and can be a positive element in education. However, the ministries, teachers unions, community bodies, schools and parents must find and strike a balance.
Professor Bray’s lecture can be viewed here.
Professor Bray is the foremost international expert on shadow education. He is a multiple-award-winning and highly accomplished scholar who has served as Director of the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning and President of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies.
For more information on private tuition, please visit the shadow education website of Comparative Education Research Centre, University of Hong Kong: http://cerc.edu.hku.hk