Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tuition - to send or not?

Being a parent with school-going children seems tougher these days. I'm referring to this never-ending dilemma of whether to send your child for tuition or not. Is it only me who faces this dilemma?

It sure looks like many parents out there don't give a second thought to tuition for their children, like it's a norm and you're strange if you don't. They say their children, some even as young as pre-school age, are sent for tuition to help them improve, develop, learn more, interact...

For some working parents, tuition or homework guidance centres are their 'saviours' that not only care for their children after school but also help them with their studies since parents are at work and return too late to help their kids themselves. I understand that not all families have the luxury of having grandparents or one parent or a trusted caregiver or househelp at home to care for the kids after they return from school. Something is not quite right somewhere then in the overall system, the education system, the workforce system, our lifestyle, work-life balance system, that leaves parents no choice but to send their kids to such places.

Imagine the kids waking up at 6.00am (some even earlier) to start school at 7.30am or so and after a long day at school, they get dropped off by a transporter at their daycare/tuition/homework guidance centre, have lunch and start on their homework and revision and only get picked up by their parents and reach home around 7.00pm. Some are even still wearing their school uniform until then.

I read this piece written by a teacher and she has taken the words out of my mouth pertaining to this issue.

"Tuition seems to be a major concern for parents these days. If school teachers offer tuition classes, you can bet that the students will be scrambling to fill up the classes, especially if he or she is known to be a great teacher. Someone who is a ‘Guru Cemerlang’ (Excellent Teacher) or has been teaching for a long time usually can, and will charge more. Their classes would be much sought after and if the students produce great results, which in Malaysian context means a long string of As, then you can bet your top Ringgit that more students will register for the next school term."

She had previously given tuition but as she is now teaching in the afternoon session, she has stopped. Yet, she still gets requests from some parents, and says:

"But since tuition to parents is like water to the thirsty, they usually will keep asking, hoping I would change my mind and maybe reconsider. They want it, they yearn for it, and they will try their best to have me agree to give their child tuition. Some even want me to give tuition to their Year 1 child, which I said no to, because I think a seven old year should be allowed to play and just be a kid and should not be made to work hard.

Of course, parents always want the best for their child, and since they have more resources now, they would pay top dollar to give their child the best. Even if it means paying RM200 per month just for six hours of one-to-one English (like one of my neighbours do), they would do it. And mind you, that is just for one subject. Factoring in all the four subjects they have to sit for in the UPSR exam, imagine how much parents actually pay for their child’s monthly tuition fees alone.

There is another side to the argument: that too much tuition is not good for the child because they work from morning to night and barely have time to rest and play like children should. It also means that maybe they thought my teaching might be so bad that these kids would need extra help with their English!

To some extent, I agree that rather than being at home doing nothing, they could go for extra classes, so they would be doing something worthwhile with their time. But maybe, perhaps, we should allow our children a moment to just rest, to take in the day as it comes, so they could relax and focus on being still for a little while?"

During my schoolgoing days, tuition was only for those who were really weak in their studies. Now, tuition is not only for the weak students. Some have the idea that the smart ones should go for tuition so that they can be smarter. Those days, after returning from school and doing the necessary homework by myself, I'd be doing other stuff, like playing the piano, singing, meeting up with friends, chatting over the phone, playing outside or cycling, just like what the writer says:

"I remember my childhood as being rather carefree. I was allowed space to run around, ride with my bike and play with my friends in the evenings, and still had time to do my homework. Kids these days seem to not like physical activities so much. They would rather do something sitting down which to me seems unnatural. Kids are supposed to love running around and they should not hate sports and physical activities. It is just mind-baffling to me."

What happened between then and now? Those days, our parents' first job was also their last, working for their employer for years. Now, everyone tries to find greener pastures every year or two years. Some even leave after two months. Those days, everyone clocks out at 5.00pm and has time to spend with the family in the evenings. Now, they just go pick up the kids from the daycare/tuition centre, have dinner and go to bed. Things and times have changed, and not necessarily for the better despite all the advancements humankind have achieved. Life has become more demanding and fast-paced, and to my mind, it is not all good. Everyone wants a piece of the pie, everyone wants to be first, everyone wants to be one-up, run faster in the rat race, kiasu, kiasi....

"One thing is for sure, things have definitely changed. A long string of As can no longer guarantee a place at the university or a scholarship. The society demands so much more from the younger generation that they now have to equip themselves with a lot of skills just to get ahead.

We want our future leaders to be excellent leaders, to have great soft skills, to be smart and eloquent and to be civic-minded enough to know what the society wants and needs, and to carry out their duties with responsibility and integrity. The society glorifies those with long string of As and so at a very young age, we prepare our kids for the work, so they will someday end up with those long string of As.

Whatever their reasons, I feel for the parents. They are the ones who have to make the choice, whether to send their children for extra classes or not. They are the ones who have to pay the tuition fees each month and make sure their child gets to their tuition classes on time.

Parents do an awful lot for their kids and I do salute them for caring and wanting their kids to have the best, to be the best and to shine in academics, but maybe we should give them some room to breathe and just be kids. After all, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy."

I agree. So, tuition - how? To send or not? Caitlin's Malay language is weak. I worry. It's sad that to do well in school here (and I'm not even dreaming of a string of A's), you must, must, must be reasonably strong in this country's language, never mind if it is not the lingua franca globally...(see what I mean about something wrong with the system?) But no, I shall not succumb to pressure, and use the fact that her Bahasa needs brushing up as an excuse to send her for tuition. I shall hold on for now.

I shall still allow her when she wishes, to plonk herself down on the sofa immediately upon returning from school and watch Ben 10, although it's something I get frustrated with. I'd rather she go take a shower and get out of her school uniform and get down to doing her homework so that she has the rest of the afternoon free to play the piano or drums or her toys. I may never stop nagging at her to stop watching after one hour. And she will still get her homework done. She will shower in the end. I have to remind myself that she is only seven after all. She is not like me when I was seven and she will never be like me. She is her own special self, warts and all, just like me, I have my warts too.


lau said...

Nowadays parents are taking the schools and tuition centers as daycare centers. Teachers are expected too to be babysitters. Do you know how parents wish that there are no school holidays? How parents are complaining to teachers that they do not know what to do with their children while at home during hols??? That's why now there are also tuition centers that operates throughout the sch hols to specially cater for parents who do not know how to take care of their children. During sch days too, parents will demand schools to have extra classes just to keep their children in the school until late hours. SOOOOO should children be sent for tuitions? Ask our own conscience.

mumsgather said...

Caitlin is lucky to be able to get some tv time and still be able to finish her homework. For my poor girl, as soon as she steps in the door, she has lunch, gets whizzed off for a bath and then she starts doing her homework from 3-6pm! Imagine that. Then its dinner, short play before its time to sleep again! So miserable!

Anna said...

Yes, you are right and I actually forgot to mention the part about school holiday tuition when I was writing this post. There are parents who 'don't know' what to do with their kids...that's sad. Why become parents then? So many parents send their kids to tuition centre during holidays to prepare for the next year's lessons...

Caitlin's school gives relatively little homework which most times can be finished within an hour if my girl concentrates and doesn't get distracted, talk, play, walk around, read, doodle while at it....I consider your daughter very disciplined, able to do homework for 3 hours daily!! I guess it's something you have to manage when you make the conscious decision to choose certain schools that give loads of homework.