Love ’em or hate ’em, tuitions are here to stay

No matter how relaxed a parent you might be, when it comes to education, you want only the best for your kids. With cut-offs getting higher with each passing year, the desire to score accordingly too has risen. Naturally, in homes where parents are working hard to achieve aspirations for their kids, or are unable to supplement the child's educational needs, private tuitions are the way to go. An industry worth nearly Rs 1.5 lakh crore private tuitions meet the need left by rising aspirations in combination with the falling quality of mainstream education.Are they a waste of time, effort and money, though? How good are they for a child, really? There is an urgent need to look into these issues in a non-judgemental, analytical manner in order to make an informed decision that will work for your child.The malaise runs deep, and wideWhy do students need to go for extra tuitions in the first place, if the school already has taught them everything required by the curriculum? Is there so much more included in the curriculum that only extra tuitions can help complete recommended portions?Among the many reasons parents hire private tutors is the need to compensate for declining teaching standards in private schools. The mismatch between demand and supply at this level is immense. The shortage of top-tier colleges means that students have to score 95 per cent or more in their board exams to gain admission in the university of their choice. Getting into a good university is also very important in light of the perception that in India, if you don't get into a top university, you're wasting your time. So you have to make that superhuman effort to score top marks.

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Tuitions out of necessity, not choiceThe common refrain from parents is that they themselves cannot coach their children and so need someone to help. Mathematics and science are subjects that children typically need help in, given how demanding the syllabus in those subjects is and that most competitive exams focus on their proficiency. A mother I was speaking with the other day said that both her children found mathematics very difficult and they were not doing well in their monthly tests. Since she herself was not mathematically inclined, she did not have much of a choice and had to quickly look for a tutor. If nothing, she explained to me, tuitions would make her feel she had done her best to prepare the children for stressful examinations.To try out an online service that will help you find a qualified tutor to come home to teach your child, click hereWhen school teachers cannot bridge the gapWhile our education system in general is perceived to be robust and as delivering strong students, the quality and competence of school teachers can vary vastly. Additionally, teachers who are already loaded with handling a class of 30, or more, still have many administrative duties to perform. In such a situation, teachers may rush through subjects without really engaging the child or giving them enough time for concepts to be entirely understood. The task of bridging the gap, then, is left to the parent, and now the tutor.When parents do not have the timeMaking sure a child does well in school is a commitment that many individuals undertake. Some mums (even dads. these days) may give up their careers for this purpose and become "private coaches" for their children as soon as they start primary school. But for those homes where both parents continue working full time, the luxury of checking homework or going over books at the end of a day is not an option, there by creating the space for a private tutor.Group tuitions or coaching classesMany students report that tuitions, especially those conducted in larger groups, don’t help them much. Firstly, they may not be able to cater to the differing learning pace of the many students, if the class is too large, thereby emulating a traditional classroom. On the plus side is the fact that these group tuition classes many times become a place for social gatherings, complete with friends, food and banter. The social pull of tuitions further reinforces a destructive cycle, one that weakens the quality of formal schooling (there's always a back up!) and channelling more students into private lessons.

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Picking a tutor who helps, not hindersThis might be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack but making the effort to look for a good tutor benefits the child tremendously. Someone who is able to motivate, work with your child’s strengths and weaknesses, who can make lessons interesting and who will seek to improve understanding of important concepts is who you need to look for. After going through a few home tutors and a couple of coaching classes, a friend finally found a math tutor who she is happy with. Apart from working with the kids, the tutor has also built a rapport with my friend, the mother, and discusses how tutoring can be supplemented at home to make the learning experience more enriching. I am happy to report that my friend's kids are doing much better at school.Private tuitions aren't necessarily a bad thingJust to be clear, on its own, private tuition isn't a reflection of your child's smarts or capacity to work hard. Have no doubt that good tuition classes and teachers can help children become more disciplined, knowledgeable, hard-working and determined.If the understanding of why your child needs tuitions is missing, then sending children for tuition classes leads them to become a part of the rat race, which is best avoided. It could be possible that we’re inadvertently raising a generation of sleep-deprived, unfulfilled and unhappy learners. Worse still if they grow up to be unhappy workers!So as a parent if you decide to send your children for tuition classes or not, it is important to make that decision with the right perspective.

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(This story was written in collaboration with