Tuition - Want or Need?
Singapore's very own Minister of Education, Mr Ong Ye Kung, says that he is not against tuition. Yet, he hasn't sent his daughters for tuition, either. Given the suffocating tuition culture that has formed in Singapore over the past decade, debates regarding its benefits and drawbacks on our children have come forth. The two opposing views are clear: Tuition is good for enriching learning, instilling discipline, helping the weak; tuition is bad because it stresses our kids, cultivates dependence, creates an unfair advantage.
These are all valid arguments—so where should the Minister of Education stand? To tutor or not to tutor?
Beneath the high-profile minister lies a simple father of two. He admits that he is "not overly anxious" about his daughters' grades. All that is important to him is that they take ownership of their studies and do their best.
But what is enough? A pass, or an A? The answer is neither—’their best’ is hard work and effort. It is not a number or a grade.
All parents have expectations—but it is important to remember that they could be at odds with your child’s own goals. They see the world differently from us—and naturally, want different things. While children may not yet have the sensibility to make important choices, they must be given the freedom to explore their interests, strengths and weaknesses. Like they must learn to identify “I don’t like the piano. I’d rather play basketball.” they must learn to realise when they need help—then actively seek for it.
To Mr Ong, tuition is not out of the question. The deal? His daughters have to want it themselves.
Of course, it doesn’t sound reasonable for parents to watch your kids’ grades plummet and do nothing just because they say they “don’t want tuition”. Realistically, no one wants extra work. The middle ground, hence, is communication.
If you see your child struggling in class, talk to them about it. Give them options: An assessment book, online videos, class tuition, a home tutor. What would they prefer—and what do they think would be most helpful? Talk about your expectations and their own, and compromise for something attainable. Navigate through the alternatives; figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Enforcement risks anger and a lack of cooperation. Mr Ong notes that children should learn to be responsible for their own choices and outcomes—including their failures. If your child insists against tuition but cannot find a way to overcome his difficulties, he will himself suffer the consequences. It is unpleasant—but it is an important lesson to learn. Proactiveness needs to be trained.
Like most things, tuition has its goods and bads. By itself, it is no evil. The core principle of tuition is to lift up the bottom—help those who struggle, give them the extra boost they need. The problem arises, Mr Ong notes, when tuition becomes “obsessive”. Importantly, we need to remember tuition is not a ‘just in case’. It is not a safety net that will keep your child from hitting rock bottom—neither is it a miracle tool that will secure straight As.
Instead, think of it as a crutch. In the event of a broken leg, it will aid you to walk in spite of your injury. It will support you as you heal. But once your leg is okay, you let it go. Tuition is not a long-term solution. It is a support—not a staple.
So, the next time you are considering tuition for your child, think about how much of it is a want or a need. Think about what your child wants or needs. Together, the best choices are made.
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