Dyfunctional Education System ….

The tuition problem that nobody wants to solve

Source: Todayonline  19 Sep 2013
By Ian Tan Yong Hoe

I refer to the report, “MPs call for closer look at private tuition industry” (Sept 17).

The parliamentary replies indicate that the Ministry of Education does not consider the tuition industry to be a critical issue.

This is disturbing. We can abolish the Primary School Leaving Examination aggregate score or change admission schemes to improve the education system, but all these would be derailed if we ignore the tuition problem.

Parents send their children for tuition for various reasons. But as many have voiced out in the past few years, tuition is now a necessity because of the unrealistic primary school syllabus and the poor balancing of teacher workloads.

Anecdotally, I know of teachers who struggle to cover all the topics in the school syllabus, so they rush through the basic concepts when teaching. Pupils are left bewildered, then are asked to do “high-level” and “critical thinking” questions when their foundation is shaky.

Parents do not understand how to help their children because they cannot figure out some of today’s mind-boggling exam questions. Do they have a choice but to turn to tutors?

Many parents enrol their children on tuition not because of the desire for top grades but because of the fear that their children cannot catch up enough to get a decent passing grade.

Then, any free time the child has is sucked up by travelling to tuition classes or doing tuition homework. Where do they get the time to enjoy outdoor activities, learn new hobbies or other things that would make them well-rounded individuals?

I find it increasingly common to hear young married couples saying: “I don’t want to have kids and then put them through this ordeal.”

As our partners in education, can the ministry see the same perspective, too?

  • Wu Yanping · CCPE at St Andrew’s Junior College

    Tution is only the tip of the iceberg. I am bewildered by the PSLE questions that requires high-level thinking skills, something that not all 12-year-olds have. If the questions are too tough that even parents cannot handle, they have to resort to tuition, which squeeze the already tight time that Primary Six children have.

    I suggest that MOE look at the PSLE questions. If the syllabus are too hard, students will lose interest in their studies because they feel that they cannot acheive even a passing grade. For some, their self-esteem is tied up to acheivements in their academics. Constantly failing a subject will deal a blow to their self-esteem.

    • Kelvin Tan Tuan Wei · Top Commenter

      Perhaps you could reverse the causality: “The questions are harder BECAUSE of tuition?”
      Reply · 2 ·

      · 8 hours ago

    • Evangeline Ng

      Well, at the age of information overload , with more educated parents, you can’t expect their kids to be duurrrrrrrrrrrr ….more stupid, can you?

      Questions r harder because our MOE can’t have everyone scoring 100 marks! Cos then they can’t draw their favorite bell curve. Which is the reason of our kids sufferings..

      Reply ·

      · 6 hours ago

  • Evangeline Ng

    some people believe the syllabus should be tough and vigorous…..so that you know where you are ranked.

    But it’s going to be an upward curve and it is not going to come down. 10yrs later, our future generation will do the secondary syllabus…because the top 10% could do it. The ministry is just using PSLE as a sieve, to sieve out the best. Our future generation can only get smarter not because of school ……..but because of the ease of getting information. ….and the PSLE system will want to out beat them.

    as of now, the average kids feel stressfull enough….and so does the top 10%…..look at the kids at expensive tuition centers…all coming from top schools.

    Poor kids, they need a more balance life. Their intelligence or talents are not confine to just 4 subjects.

    The schools have become factories, churning out the same end products— kids only good at English, Chinese , Maths , and Science. How creative! Or is it?

  • Lee Henry · Top Commenter · ACS

    @mark questions are not hard but extremely hard. Even teachers stumble to answer. Yes, ten percent of questions can be set really tough. But save the average 90 percent of the kids.
  • Leonard Low · Top Commenter

    I brought my daughters primary 4 maths paper to my younger brother who is a NUS degree holder and he was stumped by the questions … so go figure …
  • Mark Wong · Top Commenter · Michigan State University

    What exactly do you want the Ministry to do?

    offer official MOE-regulated tuition service? How does that solve the problem?

    If students aren’t able to complete their learning in school then what choice is there but to complete their learning after school?

    Or should we dumb down the syllabus to allow our weaker students not to have to resort to tuition?

    Or do we create a separate school system for students who cannot cope. But what would be the future of these students after primary school?

    • Seldom Bin Laid · Top Commenter · Jakarta, Indonesia

      @Mark Wong, have you attempted any of those PSLE questions lately? imho, we’re overteaching our kids. We’ve supposedly the best edu sys in the world & when we hit the workforce, suddenly, we’re not good enough & the gov & businesses get to employ hundreds of thousands of foreigners, many of whom hail from dubious universities. The writer is right…we need to look @ the root causes. I’d hate to be taking the PSLE now. Then again, we can agree to disagree
      Reply · 1 ·

      · 14 hours ago

    • Andy Fong · Top Commenter

      The choice of words reflects a lot… “Or should we DUMB DOWN the syllabus to allow our weaker students not to have to resort to tuition?”

      Do we apply most of these “Smart questions” in our lives in the first place. What is the point of information over-loading and neglecting other aspects of development? What is the definition of weaker students? Everyone have different strengths and weakness. Only when a child is being weak in the aspect that is overly emphasized by the curremt syllabus, it is seem as dumb and weak. While we have kids cracking under pressure from an unbalanced expectation and development, that is somehow ‘smart’ in our current context.

      Reply · 4 ·

      · 13 hours ago

    • Mark Wong · Top Commenter · Michigan State University

      Seldom Bin Laid Yes the questions are hard. Not everyone would be able to do them. But isn’t that the point of an exam? What’s the point of having an exam where everyone scores full marks?
      Reply · 1 ·

      · 12 hours ago

  • Elmor Dorado · Works at Accenture Technology Solutions

    I noticed an odd way how they teach lessons in primary school, i find it odd because let’s say for Math lessons, they are always given assignments of lessons that are not yet taught
    to the class but are given for the kids to answer by themselves first.
    And only after checking these assignments the following day do the teacher gives them the corrected answer and discussed it using her corrected answer (not too sure if the
    theory behind the Math problem is discussed or not) and then proceed to give them another assignment for newer lessons at the end of the day and the cycle goes on.

    I have a problem with this coz im seeing my daughter having hard time coping to understand how to solve a new math lesson without the teacher teaching them how to solve it
    first hand. I wish it would be like teach them first what and how the Math …See More

  • Reuben Lee · Singapore, Singapore

    They make the syllabus more and more difficult so that tuition centers can survive and tutors gt money to make. If not, when ge 2016 comes , nobody will vote for them
  • Lee Henry · Top Commenter · ACS

    Agree wholeheartedly with the writer. Do we really need the types of questioning we see now. Even teachers are stumped. What are we trying to achieve?
  • Evangeline Ng

    I couldn’t agree more with the author, thumbs up!
  • Adelina Koh · Executive Financial Consultant at Finexis advisory

    If the teachers and parents themselves are stumped by the questions, how can MOE still expect a primary school kid to answer them- what an unrealistic school system!



Even teachers think school alone is not enough

Nancy Lim

Source: Todayonline  20 Sep 2013

I used to share the sentiment that our education system is “run on the basis that tuition is not necessary”. After all, we send our children to school so that they can learn. (“MPs call for closer look at private tuition industry”; Sept 17)

However, with two children in primary school and having spoken to parents about different schools, I realised that only some primary schools truly have a philosophy of “no tuition, trust our teachers”. Many believe instead that the learning will be supplemented by tutors.

Many pupils in “branded” schools attend external enrichment classes after school, while neighbourhood schoolteachers often stay in school to help with remedial classes.

My son’s form teacher even told me which enrichment centre to send him to when I raised my concern about his composition writing. I would have thought she would have more confidence in her teaching to help him.

With external vendors having their own methods of teaching mathematics, for example, many parents are psychologically nudged to turn to them, to make up for what schoolteachers are not actively teaching.

A holiday class by some vendors could range from S$500 to S$800 for a primary school pupil. The diverse teaching methods can also confuse the pupils. Yet, it is a constant race to learn extra because the exam often has extra questions that were not taught but are tested.

A troubling implication of the booming tuition industry is that we are grooming a generation of pupils with a clutch mentality, always needing someone to help them rather than being taught how to learn or being motivated to learn on their own and working as a group to help one another.

Schools, too, must see that laying the foundation in learning is more important than striving incessantly for good exam grades. Must there be exams every year? Education should be viewed from a long-term perspective for the pupil.

How can classroom teaching be better customised with a finer comb to suit the different learning paces of pupils, so that external help is not needed? It must go beyond the distinction between the current high-ability and mixed-ability groups.