Dubai - Almost every second school student in Dubai goes for an after-school private tutor, either to school teachers who operate from their houses or to ‘professional’ tutors, working from posh-looking offices.
With the growing population of Dubai the number of schools has grown drastically over the past decade and with it the number of tutors as well, some legally licensed by the authorities but most operating illegally.
Though there are no specific regulations governing private tutors in the emirate, school teachers are officially not allowed to offer private tuitions to their own school students.
Legal are not, experts feel, private tutoring also called Shadow Education, despite providing invaluable support to the students is not all good for the community.
Dr. Mark Bray, Director of Comparative Education Research Centre, University of Hong Kong, who has done extensive research on the subject across the world, says that shadow education has more bad implications than good.
“A good thing about tutoring is that if a tutor is good than he can really help a weak student to catch up or a good student to do even better. Some students might have problems understanding a lesson in a classroom of thirty or forty students and need personalized tutoring to do better. This is the only good aspect of shadow education,” he said.
However, he states there are many bad implications of private tutorials like it burdens students with extra academic work, adds pressure on them, as well as creating and widening the social divide, while also giving rise to shady businesses.
“One of the biggest repercussions of unchecked tutoring is that it increases social inequality as quality tutoring can’t be afforded by all, meaning only rich students can access it while poor students loose out. Another negative impact of tutoring is that it consumes a lot of household money, while also leading to the rise of shady businesses,” he added.
Demand and supply
Despite all the perceived negative impact it is having on the society, tutoring is growing in popularity rapidly, with centres mushrooming overnight in many areas.
There is a genuine demand for tutoring in the society with students from all the communities attending different school curriculums seeking tutors.
“Tutorials exist because students and parents need them. Schools are not fulfilling all the needs of the students and there are many students who need personalised coaching. We are trying to cater to the needs of a section of the society,” said Vikram Ghor of Dubai Tuitions, one of the very few licensed tutorials in Knowledge Village.
So where does the problem lie?
Dr. Bray, who is the author of several books and also the Director of Unesco International Institute of Educational Planning, admits that there is a demand for tutoring which is growing every day, but he is insists that the demand itself indicates that there is an underlying problem with the system of education.
Apart from the simple market economics of demand and supply, experts feel there are various reasons behind the flourishing of Shadow Education.
“We are giving out a valued product to the parents with personalised attention, which schools can’t offer. Parents can rely on us in fulfilling their children’s needs while at the same time not boring them out. It is a far cry from somebody who comes to your house and giving an hour of non-stop lessons,” said Clive Power, Managing Director of Power Tutorials, one of the most popular in Knowledge Village.
Power, who is a former school teacher, offers a range of customized programmes from one-on-one to small groups, in a resourceful and fun environment.
Some of the key drivers of tutoring are the cut throat competition to acquire higher grades in order get seats at some of the reputed institutions, status symbol for parents as well as teachers pushing children to supplement their income.
“There are institutions in many countries where the cut off percentages are above 90 or even higher, under such circumstance parents push their children to have more and more coaching to make the cut and that is why these coaching centres are thriving,” added Dr.
As a result, in many such extreme cases students commit suicide or there is a breakdown or disorientation, which is very dangerous and unfortunate for a child.
In most cases as children spend most of the time in academic activities, they don’t pay much attention in schools or they even doze off during classes.
“There are also cases of teachers not giving 100 per cent because they know that most pupils go for tuitions and many teachers themselves provide the services,” he opines
However, poor salary for teachers is also cited as one of the reasons behind the flourishing of tutorials as school teachers offer tuitions to their students to supplement their income.
“There is no way you can survive on the pittance that we are paid in schools. Many students also need personalized attention and coaching so we support them. Where is the problem, it is simple demand and supply,” said Anil Mathur (name changed on request), who is a popular tutor among Indian students in Bur Dubai.
Mathur teaches Math and Physics, charging Dh300 per month for five hours of classes per week.
There are several school teachers in Karama, Bur Dubai and Deira, who operate from their homes, taking batches of 10 or 15 pupils at a time and at least five to six batches a day, operating between 4pm an 10pm.
Most agree that they have no other choice but to do this, while even admitting that most school managements are aware of it.
Though, most parents vouch for tutoring, there are those who say it is having adverse effect on children.
Aginya Sheikh is teacher as well as a parent and says her daughter is suffering from an adverse impact of tutoring.
“As an educationist, I understand that tutoring students privately is very important for those students who are considered weak in studies, and who are not able to get help from their parents but when teachers school teachers leak out exam papers to students at tuition classes it affects those students who are working hard on their own,” said Sheikh, whose daughter is a grade 10 student in an Indian school.
She alleges that many teachers do this to force other students to attend their tuition classes in order to get better grades as her students.
Shadow education is a deep-rooted issue which at once is supporting the students but also on the other hand is weakening the roots of the education system.
A thorough study of the industry is required, which Knowledge and Human Development Authority, as reported by Gulf News on June 21, is currently undertaking, leading to new regulations.