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Not all tuition centres are the same

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The dark side is that while there are admittedly well-managed centres with dedicated tutors, a few of them are out-and-out money-making concerns, write Khong Kah Yeong.

Schoolchildren attending tuition classes is nothing new. Weaker pupils have been seeking extra help from teachers and tutors since before Merdeka.

Back then, there were few, if any, tuition centres like those found today. Pupils would go to the home of a teacher known to be an expert in teaching the subject they were weak in, usually during a weekend, for extra help.

Tuition centres began to sprout when both students and their parents began to feel the pressure of the competition for the limited places at tertiary institutions.

This pressure is made worse and becomes stressful when they read almost annually reports in the local newspapers of university applicants being rejected despite their excellent results.

Hence, parents who can afford it – and those who are barely able to afford it – will send their children for tuition. They do this in the hope their children will achieve outstanding results that will enable them to gain university or college admission – a passport to a reputable career and a comfortable future.

Among students who enrol themselves at tuition centres are those who are the unfortunate “victims” of weak teachers, whose teaching leaves much to be desired.

These weak teachers rush through their topics regardless of whether their students really understand what they have been taught. Their main purpose is to show their school head that they have completed their syllabus on time.

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They are quite unlike the better teachers who teach from their hearts rather than by the book. The better teachers would “learn” with their students even though they already know the subject-matter at their fingertips. This allows the students to enjoy the fun of learning and exploring new knowledge together with their teachers.

The weaker teachers’ rushing through the syllabus and their lack of personal attention for students often drives their charges to seek help from tuition centres. This is just so that these students can keep up with their school work and obtain just a “memuaskan” (satisfactory) grade.

The tuition centres themselves play their part in attracting students. They advertise in various ways their successes and give token rewards to those students scoring distinctions.

In the quest to achieve commendable results and enhance their reputation, these tuition centres are not beyond employing teachers in active service.

Some of these teachers may then use, directly or indirectly, their knowledge of their school’s forthcoming test papers to coach their tuition students!

The dark side about going for tuition at the tuition centres is that – while there are admittedly good and well-managed centres with dedicated tutors – a few of them are out-and-out money-making concerns.

These centres are often packed to capacity, and students attending these centres receive no more personal attention than what they receive in their schools.

Many of their tutors are often part-timers, fresh school leavers or graduates who have no teaching skills or any teaching experience. They often take up these jobs to mark time until they get employed with better pay and security elsewhere.

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Many tuition centres are registered, if they are registered at all, with the Registrar of Companies as private companies, and they not under the purview of the Ministry of Education.

Thus, as long as they comply with the requirements of the conditions they have been approved for and have not deviated from their stated purpose of business or moved from their registered address, the Registrar of Companies will leave them alone.

These centres are free to employ whomever they want and give whatever level of service they are capable of – as long as there are no complaints to the registrar. Neither will the ministry bother them as long as their staff are not suspects in any purported leak in national exam question papers.

In short, the principle “buyer beware” applies to these centres.

Khong Kah Yeong is an Aliran newsletter subscriber who has some acquaintance with Malaysian schools.

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