Tuition or no tuition?

This is the question that haunts every parent of school going kids. Should we send our children for tuition? Is it necessary?

It all boils down to the individual parent and child, their expectations, values and even skill sets. There is no right nor wrong, the choice is a personal one. It is as personal as choosing how to dress oneself.

Some parents are happy with average grades, to them tuition is redundant and not needed. To some parents, academic success is everything. Tuition is to them is needful as it helps the children get the results they want. Some are motivated by fear. Fear that their children will 'lose out' to the others. Fear that the kids will develop low self esteem because of poor grades. Fear that their off springs cannot enter into good secondary schools which eventually determines their next education route. Hence, they are ever so willing to dig into their pockets for tuition as a way to fight off their fears.

Other parents are 'forced' into accepting tuition. At first, they professed that they are determine to ward off tuition but eventually they had to succumb to the tuition fever because they realise their children are falling far behind and are struggling. They have no choice but to step in (with money) to help their kids. For what can a parent do in such a situation? Leave them in lurch?

Parents aside, the decision to have tuition also lies with the student. Some children really need that extra classes to keep up at school. Perhaps because the pace at school is too fast for them. Some others need tailored lessons to help them understand the subjects. But there are students who do not need any extra help and still can attain above average scores. In fact, even better than those students who have tuition. These are the independent, hardworking and motivated students who have no need for tuition. Of course, there are also the above average students who specifically asked for tuition because they want to better themselves. They find tuition is necessary to give them that extra boost or to help maintain their grades.

The answer to the question is varied. It all depends what we want our children to achieve, how able our children is in handling pressure. But as we consider enrolling our kids for tuition there are some things to think about.

1) Will tuition really help the child? We have erroneously believe that tuition is the magical formula. We think having tuition will miraculously turn our children's grades around. I beg to differ. I think tuition will help improve grades if the child himself is a keen learner. An unmotivated student will absorb nothing as long as he is not interested in learning no matter how much money and time is spent on tuition. Brain science proved that the brain shuts down when the subject at hand is too easy or too challenging. I believe this happens also if the subject is not of our interest. Take me for an example. When I had tuition at primary school, my grades still hovered around borderline. My brain simply shut down (perhaps because I deem the work too challenging for me then). But when I got older, I decided to get my act together. I taught myself and worked harder. I was determine to prove to myself and others that I am not all that stupid. In the end, I scored well even without tuition. If tuition can indeed help the child inherit more confidence in managing a subject, I say go for it. Otherwise, I think it is necessary to relook what is the root cause of the below par results. Tuition is not always the answer.

2) Does the child really need help? Some kids are simply self driven. They pay attention in class, grasp concepts well and give their best in their school work. Yet some parents still enrol them for extra classes, as I said earlier, purely out of fear, 'just in case'. Apparently, I am talking about myself. At the moment (I say 'at the moment' because I am fully aware that lower primary curriculum is a breeze), Sonshine is coping well in school. Still, I enrolled him for Mandarin and English lessons. Many times over, I asked myself if he really needs the classes. Sometimes, I wonder if the classes really helps him. Honestly, I cannot tell if these classes have any direct effect on his grades. I am pretty sure he is able to attain his grades even without the tuition. He is quite the independent learner. His school work is also relatively easy, easier than the tuition classes. Many times I notice that the curriculum in his tuition classes is not in line with his school work. They each have their own curriculum which makes me wonder how are his tuition classes helping or even relevant to his school work? And I question a thousand times if he is applying anything he learns at tuition to his school work? Yet what is holding me back from withdrawing the tuition? FEAR. I worry that if I don't give him the head start, he may not cope in the future. It hasn't even happen, yet I am already worrying. Typical Singaporeans isn't it? I know I am not alone. So I am asking myself and urging others to think about it. Does the child really need help? Can he manage without the class? If he can cope well then why add more onto his already packed schedule that would only eat into his free time? Is it not better to free up his time so that he can have time for relaxation and enjoyment? *Nudging thyself*

3) Do we want self driven or overly reliant children? A friend who's son is in primary 5 said she became a Stay-At-Home-Mum (SAHM) to focus on her son's school work. She pushed her son to work hard and like many of us, also sign her child for tuition classes. Last year, her efforts paid off. The son improved by leaps and bounds and even got an award. Yet, she is still not happy. She shared with me that this achievement is only possible with her hovering around her child and pushing him. Ultimately, she wants her son to 'fly' on his own with minimal effort from her. She worries that he will still rely on external help even when he enters secondary school. What she wants is a child who can take ownership of his own work and eventually, his own life. To think for himself and learn to make choices himself. She is considering withdrawing tuition and let him go. She is even prepared for mediocre PSLE scores just so that he can start to learn. She raised a very good point and I credit her for being a far sighted parent despite all the upcoming PSLE drama.

It is something we need to think about too. Do we rather a child who knows to make the right choices i.e. study hard for themselves or a child who needs his mama and papa to help him make the right decisions? Besides, is there any glory when a child do well because of tuition? It is almost like an office worker getting a promotion because of his 'special' network with the upper management. Is there glory in that? Take me for example, that sense of self confidence and sense of achievement cannot be described when I attain good grades solely from my hard work & with no help. I realised then, even as a mere student, that there was nothing I could not do as long as I put my heart into it. With that same strength and motivation, I went on to do well in my 'As' and got into University faculty of my choice. Till today, I stand proud of my achievements and it is a constant reminder to me that I have what it takes in me to succeed. We want our children to know that for themselves too don't we? We do not want them to look back and say 'oh I did well because I had help'.

I am not against tuition. As I had confessed, I enrolled my own son for tuition. It is a personal choice and there is really no right nor wrong. Sometimes tuition is necessary; at other times, it is not. It is our role as parents to study our children's needs and know how to balance our expectations against their developments. We must also be wise in knowing when we should pull our children out of tuition classes (like my friend) and put a stop to it. We have to be very clear what we want for our children and remember that PSLE and the other major exams are not the ultimatum, it is but the begining of their lives. We should make our decisions not based on short sighted goals like PSLE. We got to play the tuition cards very carefully and wisely.

So, is tuition necessary? The answer lies with you.

This post was first published over at Homeschool@sg on 16 April 2015. It is reproduced with permission.


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