Something’s not right when kids today must have tuition for what is taught in school
All this work paid off for I obtained distinctions in Chinese as a first language in the Chinese school leaving examination as well as for Chinese as a second language in the Cambridge School Certificate Examination.
I went to an English-medium school, Raffles Institution (RI), for pre-university as I wanted to be a doctor. If I had stayed on at Nanyang, I would have been taught science subjects in Mandarin, though the textbooks were in English. That made no sense, so I switched to RI.
But to this day I am grateful I spent the first decade of my school life in a Chinese-medium school. I am sure my brothers feel the same way.
Throughout our school years, when someone from the BBC was available, my parents would arrange an informal tutorial for us. The tutor I remember best is a Mrs Dinnes, a motherly Scottish woman who spoke English with a slight and pleasant Scottish burr. We would talk about or read aloud from novels like The Hobbit.
When she left Singapore, my father arranged for the daughter of the then British High Commissioner to tutor me. He did not want his children speaking Singlish.
With the High Commissioner’s daughter, I either had a free-flowing conversation or we would read something by Shakespeare. I never enjoyed Shakespeare, and still don’t. But, I suppose, the effort of reading him helped.
From my own experience, I think tuition is sometimes helpful but is not really necessary. Self-reliance is the best approach and it is self-reliance that will get us through adult life.
My brothers and I had tuition in areas that were not covered in school – especially languages. It was not to repeat or revise what had been taught at school.
I don’t remember any of my teachers saying: “Why don’t your parents get you a tutor?” Things have changed since then, for it is common now for teachers to urge their pupils to get tuition.
I’m sure tuition can be helpful for academically weaker children. But the purpose of tuition should be to help them understand what they could not understand in class, not to go over the 10-year series of examination papers or to repeat all that was taught in school. Why go to school again after school?
Despite my tuition in languages, I had plenty of time to play as a child. Indeed, I played rounders almost every evening. I would climb trees and crawl through drains. In secondary school, I took up running seriously. I represented my school in swimming, earned a black belt in karate and was active in the army cadet corps.
School was always both interesting and challenging. How much you get out of school depends on how much effort you put into it. I had a great time in school.
In the 1960s, tuition was optional and most of us coped without tuition. Now it seems, almost all school children get some form of tuition or other.
Are parents today more kiasu than parents of my generation? Is the curriculum today too heavy for average students to cope with?
It seems to me something is clearly not right when most children have to get tuition, and the tutor covers what is in the school syllabus.
I hope the Ministry of Education can put its finger on the problem and fix it soon. Childhood should not be drowned in a sea of tuition.