School tuition centre

By Zubeida Mustafa

A mother whose teenaged children are studying in one of the most prestigious schools of Karachi spends her entire afternoon ferrying them from one tutor to another for private coaching.

Apart from the thousands she is spending on her children’s school fees she pays exorbitant amounts to the tutors. This is a story which is not new. It is being repeated in practically every home with school/college going children in almost all strata of society with minor variations. What is intriguing is that the tuition syndrome is catching the child at the early age of five and onwards.

Why is this phenomenon becoming so common? You find coaching centres proliferating all over, while tutors who are not so visible are equally ubiquitous. You go to a bakery to buy bread and there you come across a handwritten notice announcing the services of a tutor coaching students at home for various classes in different subjects. Evidently these tutors are in demand, otherwise they would not have been coming up so fast. Considering the fact that many of those conducting the classes are teachers from reputable schools, one suspects that they also play a role in creating this demand.

The story of the rise of the tuition centres is a sorry testimony to the decay of our education system. The fact that a student should need coaching – not necessarily on an individual level – after a full day of schooling speaks poorly of the academic standards of our educational institutions. There was a time when one or two children out of hundreds in a school needed special coaching and that too for a short period to help them tide over a crisis caused by an illness or a change of schools. Sometimes kind and dedicated teachers would help out after school hours without charging anything for the extra personal guidance they provided.

Tuition was considered such a stigma for a student that few of those who had to go to a tutor would admit to it. Today it has become a status symbol. Some of the tutors who even advertise in the new-papers are big names, well known in academic circles. Some of them have left regular jobs in schools and colleges to reorganize their lives and make a living out of tuitions to the children of the rich. Not that the children of the lesser gods do not enjoy this privilege. The tutors they go to are not as expensive. But for a man/woman struggling to make two ends meet it is not easy to shell out even Rs.150 a month for private tuition for one child over and above his school over and above his school fees and other educational expenses. The tuition centres sprouted up in the late 70’s in the age of nationalization of educational institutions under the People’s Party government of Mr. Z.A.Bhutto. Since new private schools could not be opened and the government could not keep pace with the growing demand of a galloping population, tuition centres stepped in fill the vacuum. This was the period when educational standards in Pakistan took a nosedive.

The government’s failure to open a sufficient number of schools and colleges led to over-crowding in the existing institutions. Those were also the times when poorly trained teachers were inducted into schools and colleges to provide them jobs. The tuition centres mushroomed because they do not fail within the purview of rules regulating the management of educational institutions. Later on, when the ban on the opening of private schools was lifted by President Ziaul- Haq many of these coaching centres were converted into schools.

Why are coaching centres and private tutors flourishing? Because they are complementing – or so they claim – the education being provided in the schools and colleges which is obviously not of a good enough standard. Since these institutions are failing miserably in their duty of imparting a minimal level of knowledge to their students, the children need extra coaching. What they should have been taught in class they are learning from private tutors. In many cases, the tutors help the child complete his homework or prepare for an examination. Even they very small children need tuition because what they learn at schools is not sufficient for them to do their home assignments independently. Many of mothers are not educated enough themselves to help the young ones do their homework. Many others who are qualified enough to help, do not have the time.

The unhappy victim of this unhealthy practice is the student. He has to spend practically most of his waking hours in school/college and with his tutor. Left with no time for games and hobbies, he can hardly be expected to grow into an adult with balanced and emotionally stable personality. Nor do such long hours in the company of books make him a child prodigy. After all, the inherent weaknesses of our pedagogic system spill over into the tuition centres and the private tutors as well. They have not descended from heavens to teach any differently.

This speaks of a sad state of affairs in our education sector. The tuition syndrome is a direct offshoot of the tot which has set in. But more disturbing is the corruption and lack of integrity which are equally responsible for promoting private tuitions. It is a widely known fact that many teachers in schools of every category – private and government-managed – are not teaching in the classroom but asking their students to come for tuitions, for which they have to pay. This is their way of generating some extra income. But at what cost is not their concern.

Dawn 24 July 1998