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Free tuition portal raises deep questions about shortcomings of schools

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By making students resort to tuition, we have indirectly absolved schools and teachers of their major responsibility, writes JD Lovrenciear.

The prime-minister-in-waiting, Anwar Ibrahim, in his campaign trail for the Port Dickson by-election, has launched a portal to make tuition classes available online across the nation.

While this may be seen as a novel attempt to make tuition classes free and accessible (where there is IT connectivity), we need to ask some fundamental questions.

Firstly, every pupil spends a good five to six hours a day, five days a week in the classroom. This does not include the time required for extra-curricular activities that take up time after school hours including Saturdays.

Secondly, tuition has become an almost essential need among students nationwide. Many government teachers conduct private tuition to cash in on the demand for tuition. In fact, many parents are even sending pre-school children for tuition classes.

Meanwhile, the numerous tuition centres that have been mushrooming in the country over the last few decades even proclaim that that they can guarantee passes in examinations and develop holistic, smart children.

The question is, why has tuition become a prerequisite for every school child?

If pupils cannot be taught adequately in school, where they spend much of their time, how can a mere two or three hours of tuition per week make them excel?

Indeed, the intention to offer free online tuition may sound all noble and popular. But by doing so we have now entrenched a questionable way out of a major failure. That failure is our schools.

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By making students resort to tuition, we have indirectly absolved teachers of their major responsibility: to educate and prepare our children for life and to ensure that they acquire knowledge and form attitudes that can build a progressive society.

By making tuition essential, which is now popularised by this free online option, we may unknowingly have created another big chasm between urban and rural kids. How will Anwar deal with all those children who do not have computers and internet connectivity and skills to tap into these free online tuition classes?

If only we can resolve to bring back the past glory of schools, there would be no need for tuition. If only we can have the national resolve to believe that passing examinations is not the only path to success, we would have crafted a population that is resilient and capable of providing the skills the country needs.

If only we can resolve not to politicise education but let passion rule in the training, education and selection of teachers and principals, we would have enabled and empowered schools, rather than tuition centres, to be the sole cradle to prepare our children.

It is time to search the nation’s soul if we truly want this new Malaysia to be any greater.

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