- It’s an extra burden on students
By Fawad Ali
The mantra of Educational Reform has always been a part of our rhetorical political discourse. Much has been talked about corporal punishment, revamping of curriculum, regulation of private institutions, the issue of teachers absenteeism and to a degree, some well-intended steps have been taken in the recent past.
These reforms appear to be a top priority for the government but the abysmal state of education needs deeper solutions than mere policy changes.
One of the most palpable yet unaddressed issue is of private tuition and tutoring academies. Sometimes referred to as ‘‘shadow education’’, it stands as a successful business reality that has critical implications for the growing segmentation in the society.
While we are still debating equal opportunities of basic education for every citizen, as provided by our Constitution in Article 25A, the growing network of private academies continue to complicate the availability of quality education for everyone.
Let us look at the basic purpose of private tuition centres. Initially, home run tuition centres emerged to assist students who were unable to grasp daily lessons in their schools and colleges. But gradually, this individual-run tutoring model evolved into a giant private-run academic system that has now established itself as a necessity, especially for the students enrolled in secondary and higher secondary education.
Students are required to attend their regular classes, in a usual 8am-1:30pm routine and right after a break of an hour or two, they catch a ride to the academies, often in their school uniforms to avoid getting late for their second round of daily lessons.
Firstly, this is a highly grinding academic routine that restricts the students from finding time for their extra-curricular aspirations and also puts extra strain of achieving maximum numbers because of the expectations associated by their parents.
Secondly, not everyone can afford to send their children to private academies as they charge much more than the private institutions these students are officially enrolled in. So, an average lower middle-class family that avoids the government schooling system and struggles to sponsor their children in private institutions has to now face this new dilemma in the form of tuition academies.
We’re still stuck in the conventional Private-versus-Government Schooling debate, while a third form of educational system has gradually taken over. The monopoly of private academies is so strong that their owners are turning them into private schools and colleges to avoid any sort of restriction from the private institutions they are associated with
There’s an inherent problem with the structure and functioning of private academies that offer ‘extra’ knowledge to the ones who can afford it.
Now let’s recall the purpose of these private academies which was to assist the low performing students to catch up with their daily lessons. But the ongoing practice prefers students that achieve good marks on their own in one half of SSC or HSSC level of education and attracts the top performing students by presenting scholarships.
These students also serve as an advertising opportunity for academies who take pride in their top performers by displaying their images on street banners and digital media. Interestingly, the institutions they are part of also rely on the same strategy of associating their brand success with their top performers. But in contrast, nobody’s yet ready to take the responsibility of low performing students or even probe the reason of their failure.
There’s a very strong objection to these academies by the teaching community, which complains that they are not paid enough money for the effort they put in the institutions. So, they have to rely on maximising their time to ensure financial stability for their families. But there is a definite conflict of interest when teachers who are unable to tutor their very own students in private schools and colleges offer them extra assistance in return for more money.
It is also seen that some teachers put in more effort in their tuition academies than they would during the official duty hours. So, a great deal of students who attend private academies have a much better ability to solve critical questions than their fellow students who only attend the normal academic hours.
This is not only a downright dishonesty by the teaching staff but is also a preferential situation for a selected segment that can afford these academies, creating a discriminatory environment for students who enrol in a private institution to attain an equitable amount of knowledge.
We’re still stuck in the conventional Private-versus-Government Schooling debate, while a third form of educational system has gradually taken over. The monopoly of private academies is so strong that their owners are turning them into private schools and colleges to avoid any sort of restriction from the private institutions they are associated with.
It’s high time for the policy sector to take notice of this growing network and bring the topic into discussion, as the lack of comprehensive research on it is alarming.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]