Monday, 30 September 2013

Mad About Tuition: The Singapore Dilemma

540 tuition centres in Singapore - and growing


Parents and students are spoilt for choice when it comes to tuition in Singapore.

According to a Shin Min Daily News report, a search through the Yellow Pages yielded about 540 different tuition agencies. 38 of them are situation in the Marine Parade area alone. That works out to be about three to four tuition centres for every 30 blocks of residential flats.

However, the proliferation of tuition centres has not made classes any cheaper. In fact, tuition classes have gotten more expensive, as demand is still high. Tuition fees for a primary one student these days can come up to $16 to $44 per hour.

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Childcare places in 'hot estates' to grow by 40%


Madam Ong Shi Yee with her son Quek Kai Teng, three, at Star Learners centre. She had to wait two years to get him a place near her home. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

The number of childcare places in housing estates where there is a high demand for pre-school is set to grow by 40 per cent over the next four years. 

This works out to about 8,000 additional places which will be made available in Punggol, Jurong West, Woodlands, Bukit Panjang and Tampines, said the Early Childhood Development Agency, which oversees the pre-school sector. 

There are currently 20,000 childcare places in these five estates, with about 88 per cent of them filled as of July. Other high-demand areas include Sengkang and Marine Parade. These estates, which have new housing projects sprouting up, tend to draw young couples starting families.

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Private tuition not necessary in S'pore: Indranee Rajah


Senior Minister of State for Education, Indranee Rajah said private tuition is not necessary in Singapore's education system.

Ms Indranee said many parents believe having tuition will give their children that additional edge but she added tuition can be counter-productive for students who are doing reasonably well in school, creating unnecessary stress. Ms Indranee said: "The key to that is the parents' mindset and belief. We hope the message will get out to parents, not to pile on unnecessary tuition onto their students."

For those who need additional support, she said there are comprehensive levelling-up programmes.

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Tuition too prevalent to ignore

There was widespread incredulity last week when Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah declared that tuition is unnecessary.

Responding to a question in Parliament on the "shadow education system" and its impact, she said: "Our education system is run on the basis that tuition is not necessary. Some parents believe they can give their children an added advantage by sending them to tuition classes, even though their children are doing reasonably well. We cannot stop them from doing so."

The parents who spend US$680 million (S$848 million) each year (according to a 2012 Asian Development Bank report on tuition) on private tuition for their children here clearly think that tuition isn't unnecessary. 

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Tuition and the MOE

SMOS Indranee Rajah’s statement in Parliament that “our education system is run on the basis that tuition is not necessary” has been criticised in both the mainstream media and online space. I think much of it is misplaced because it fails to first address a more fundamental issue - what is the government’s role in education and more importantly, what are the limits of government schools? 

The issue of the government’s role is a difficult one. Unfortunately, most of the discussion is reduced to motherhood statements ("we want a holistic education"; "emphasis on real learning" etc).   However, when we drill down to the details, the differences in views appear. This is where the OSC sessions have proved revealing. A case in point - most OSC participants agreed to keep the PSLE despite the many criticisms it has received. Why? Because the alternatives have flaws too, and no one could come up with a more acceptable system. 

I say acceptable because there is another important factor at play – people will act in their own self interests.   A good example of this was in September last year, when the MOE announced that the English Language syllabus for upper primary pupils would be revised to incorporate  ‘a sharper focus on 21st century competencies to enable our students to communicate effectively and confidently in the globalised world’. Sounds logical. However, the reaction of parents, as reported in the newspapers, was interesting. They were in favour of or against the change based on how they perceived it would affect their child’s position relative to others in exams. There was little discussion as to whether the change would be good for the child’s English.

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Mad About Tuition

Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah failed to understand what is happening on the ground when she said private tuition is not necessary in Singapore's education system. She was responding to MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC Denise Phua's question about the issue of teachers resigning from the Education Ministry to join the lucrative tuition industry.

A Norwegian friend reading for her doctorate in Singapore had sent her two daughters to a neighborhood school and made the observation that all the material in the syllabus is not covered in school; teachers expect tutors to make up the shortfall. Back in Norway, her kids never had homework, everything is taught in class

Then there are the teachers who come up with "tricky" questions that "would set the A* students apart from the A students."  You can argue till the cow comes home about what happens when electric current passes through the tungsten element of a light bulb

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Topsy-turvy tuition

Things have gone a little topsy-turvy when you have university students “taking’’ private tuition – not “giving’’ private tuition.

But it seems that some undergrads are on the receiving end of private tuition, according to a Straits Times (ST) article today. The ST article didn’t give numbers of tertiary students needing private help and managed to quote just one university student. Maybe it’s more an exception than the norm or the matter is overblown.

But seriously, an undergraduate who needs private tuition? At that level of education, you would expect that students will be able to turn to other “free’’ resources for help or have enough brain matter to find ways to improve their work on their own steam, like turning to their “real’’ tutor in university, or their network of classmates, or use the library for goodness sake! Has throwing money at private services become an easy option?

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The Tuition Crutch
IMG 0651

I read, with an equal sense of horror and fascination, the article in the Straits Times on Monday about top students having tuition, some of them for all their subjects. There were a few things that troubled me greatly.

1 That the good students felt that they needed tuition in order to maintain their grades. 
This, no doubt, is the reason why tuition/enrichment is a nearly $1 billion dollar industry, with more than 90% of school-going students apparently having some form of tuition. I can understand needing tuition to get some extra help where the student is struggling and would benefit from some extra coaching, but tuition for students who are already doing well? To me it shows that our students have developed a form of crutch mentality, where they feel like they need the tuition in order to do well when in actual fact, they should be perfectly capable of managing on their own. Aside from being a waste on resources, I think it's very unhealthy. Apart from acquiring actual knowledge, the process of learning should enable one to, well, learn how to learn. To gather information, read it, process it, distill out the necessary, and apply it. Tuition is a shortcut, and I don't think it is helpful in the long run because the students then don't develop the necessary skills. Which leads to the next point.

2 That even tertiary students are getting tuition. Even in University? Seriously? When does the tuition crutch end? Would they need a tutor to help them with their work when they start work too to show them the ropes?

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The Great Singapore 'Tuition' Dilemma



So instead of beating them, I send my two kids to tuition classes. I’m not sure if tuition does them any good, but it makes me feel as a parent that at least I’m doing something, no matter how futile it may seem sometimes.

And even if my kids’ grades don’t improve, I’m afraid to stop the tuition for fear that without tuition, their results would be even worse. And that’s how the great tuition industrial complex sucks you in.

Beating my kids would’ve been cheaper. I’m spending a small fortune on these tuition classes.

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On our tuition culture


For the last fortnight, there have been much discussions about the local tuition scene. Many opinions have surfaced. Some feel that it’s a necessary evil, some think otherwise. In our current competitive chase for academic excellence, this issue is here to stay, whether we like it or not. Some thoughts:

1 Tuition used to be thought of as addition coaching meant for academically very poor students and whose parents can afford to spent money on hiring tutors for what schools are supposed to have already covered. Over time, as the income level of households rise, most are able to fork out the money for such private teachings. And today, it has evolved to become a million dollars industry that if your child is not having tuition, you belong to the rare minority.

2 Are we raising children with the right learning mindset? I read about straight As students clamouring for tuitions. It good to want to learn more, to want to improve but are we feeding young kids with the wrong messages that academic achievements are the be-all and end-all. It’s pathetic, if that’s the case. 

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Tuition Business: Adapt or Die



The education game here is going to change but not in a hurry. If you are in the tuition business this is the risk of a being a frog in slowly warming water. It could kill you unaware.

Much of the tuition industry is about helping parents and their kids game the system. Out with education and in with competitions. Exams has become an euphemism for sporting competitions but done mostly with pen and paper. My kids could never get the grades they got without tuition unless they also took the attitude that exams is a game to be won competitively.

What the minister proposed to achieve before the decade is a courageous initiative to reinvent education here. I welcome this. Today we are severely short of people who can handle much less coach others in thriving in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment. I have asked for this like twenty to thirty years ago, i.e., more or less when I started work and saw at first hand what school had failed to equip us with.

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The need for tuition

This is going to be the hot topic for a while. It is the concern of every parent and their children. To have tuition or not to have. For those children who are better endowed, tuition may be just a little additive like chicken essence, a little booster to get that extra few marks. To some it is not really necessary. How fortunate for these parents and children.

As not every child is gifted the same way, some would really need that little help. Some are slower or develop a bit later. Some are just afraid to ask in class or not getting the attention of the teachers in a class of 40 children. Then there will be the teacher that may go too fast or just not getting the message across.

For the slower students or late developers, tuition helps a lot. Tuition becomes personalized and tailored to their individual needs and pace. Caveat, a good tutor is needed. A tuition teacher could give the personal attention to find out what really was needed to help a child to improve. The proviso here is that the child is willing to learn

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Outrage over kindergarten's 'tuition' classes


When Madam Rohani Sa'adon read the letter from her six-year-old son's kindergarten in Ang Mo Kio about tuition classes, she was taken aback.

The letter seemed to say that the extra lessons would be compulsory. Tuition for her kid would be something new, and it would have put a strain on her family finances.

Speaking in Malay, the 30-year-old widow and mother of four kids aged between six and 13, said: "I'm not working. I have to think of the other kids too."

Parent pays nearly $6,000 a month in tuition fees
Parents hire tutors to do kids' school and tuition assignments
Kids take test to qualify for top tuition centres

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The tuition woe or tuition blur

Parliament is debating seriously about the impact of tuition for school children and how tuition could create an uneven playing field with some getting a leg up in their academic pursuits. This is definitely unfair. Why should some students with parents having so much money be allowed to have the best tuition to score straight As and some got to struggle without tuition to just get by? Cannot right? Wrong?

 And there is also a problem of good teachers quitting teaching to be tuition teachers for the monetary rewards. Like that also no good as the schools will be deprived of having good teachers. And parents are also spending too much money on tuition, another NG.

So, what is the problem? Dunno. So? Commission a study lah, or at least conduct a survey to know what is wrong and what are the implications then something can be done.

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Pre-schoolers? Even teens need Internet education

So PAP Community Foundation (PCF) pre-schoolers are going to get a lesson on how to use smart phones and tablets “responsibly”. ST reported today that the Inter-Ministry Cyber Wellness Steering Committee is funding non-profit group Touch Cyber Wellness to run such a programme. The programme touches on the dangers of excessive gaming, as well as “good online etiquette”.

It’s a good start, and an early one for the kids who get to be in the programme. But is that enough? Maybe not. A few pages after, ST carried a piece on teen cyber-scam victims. Teenagers are being tricked into becoming loan shark runners, getting raped, or molested – numbers all on the rise. Clearly, even the older kids need some guidance on more discerning use of online media.

Of course the needs of the different age groups are different. But, it seems more needs to be done to bridge this gap between education, and the technologies we use every day (the internet, smart phones, etc)

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Parent pays nearly $6,000 a month in tuition fees


Her son is a straight A student in a top boys' school here yet this mother spends $5,800 a month on his tuition.

Her son, who is in Secondary 3, attends classes for English and mathematics at a premier tuition centre in Thomson once a week - two hours per session. He also takes a 21/2 hour weekly Chinese class in a popular language school.

And he gets one-on-one tuition - each for about two hours - for physics, chemistry and biology with a private tutor.

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Put student before profit, Indranee urges private schools



Complaints against private schools here have fallen, going by the latest government figures. 

Still, such schools need to put educational responsibilities, such as the interest of their students, before other goals, said Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah yesterday.

"Institutions that are not student-centric will lose out in the longer term to those that are," said Ms Indranee, who was speaking at the first Private Education Conference at Biopolis.

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No PSLE = no pressure? No, says Indranee


Scrapping the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) might not be the best idea to help reduce the stress that the pupils face, according to Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah.

She made the statement at the National University of Singapore Policy Studies Seminar & Debate Series on Wednesday night while discussing how students would be posted to secondary schools, assuming the PSLE was abolished.

She also said that the Ministry of Education is making available more resources to level the playing fields between the students who come from various income backgrounds. She said that in an ideal situation children should be able to pass their exams without tuition. However, many parents feel that tuition will help their children to do better.

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MOE's all round education means more pressure

I am not convinced that the latest MOE move will mean a better life for students. Using the past to judge, it can be safely said that when MOE wants to have all round students, it would be worse. Rather than seeing students doing well beyond exams, we will instead see students having to do well in exams as well as in new areas, over and above what they are expected to be good at now.

At this moment, they are supposed to be good in English, plus one other language, be efficient both in hard and soft subjects, be good in CCA, projects, and a whole lot of other fields. This "all round" stuff means having ot be good in all the above, plus whatever "new things" MOE has in mind.

Hence, it won't mean moving away from exams, it means being good in exams plus whatever they are already are expected to be good in now, as well as the "new stuff" that's coming the way.

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Wanted by Nicole Seah: More volunteers to give free tuition


National Solidarity Party (NSP) member Nicole Seah sent out an appeal through Facebook on Nov 5, calling for more volunteers to provide tuition to needy students.

According to Ms Seah, the scheme was set up in May this year, for needy students living in the Macpherson area. The session is held every Saturday, for two hours, reported the Shin Min Daily News.

Students, ranging from those studying in primary to secondary schools, have to pay a $30 fee, which is used to purchase teaching materials.

Parents call for more manageable workload for children
Tuition agencies largely unregulated
Top students want tuition

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Of Singapore, Private Tuition, and Aung San Suu Kyi



It was a leading question posed by a journalist to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her first visit to Singapore: what aspects of the Lion City might “The Lady” like to recreate in Myanmar? The question seemed fairly innocuous, albeit arguably loaded. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate dodged the bullet and fired a salvo of her own.

“I don’t think ‘recreate’ is the word, ‘learn’ yes,” said Ms Suu Kyi.

Singapore’s “work-oriented” education system, for example, leaves something to be desired.

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The Education Conundrum

psle-cert

Many are of the view in Singapore that the people are her only resource. There has been much emphasis on education and some would say not always with best results. There is a feeling that the tinkering with the education system is unhelpful. Others believe the system encourages rote learning and should be abandoned in favour of a more creative one to teach the children to be articulate and think for themselves.

Amidst this education conundrum, PM Lee Hsien Loong, speaking at the National Day Rally, announced what many hailed as welcome changes.

We need more changes in our country – that is for sure. Still, PM Lee should be commended for taking new initiatives and moving in the right direction. These are measures which should have been taken years ago, sparing generations of students the agony of the stressful Singapore education system. But the burden is somewhat being eased at last. And perhaps, I can leave the readers with a food for thought – why not scrap the PSLE altogether?

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NTUC's My First Skool childcare centre to increase fees by about 5 percent in 2014



Related:
Parents enraged over My First Skool child abuse - The Real Singapore
Did NTUC's First Skool Childcare Centre tried to cover up toddler abuse?
More parents are coming forward with possible abuse of their children at NTUC's My First Skool childcare centre in Toa Payoh
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Educate Our Youth
– Breakfast Network: Topsy-turvy tuition
– PetuniaLee™: Thank You Chua Mui Hoong!
– Singapore Notes: Mad About Tuition
– My Singapore News: Raising the quality of private tutors
– flâneurose: Diversity in the Top Echelons of the Public Sector
– The Real Singapore: RI Student: Ugly Truth About Neighbourhood Schools

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related:
Every school is a good school
Our SG education
Tweaks in Our SG education
Mad About Tuition: The Singapore Dilemma
Too many graduates in Singapore
Educate Our Youth
– Breakfast Network: Topsy-turvy tuition
– PetuniaLee™: Thank You Chua Mui Hoong!
– Singapore Notes: Mad About Tuition
– My Singapore News: Raising the quality of private tutors
– flâneurose: Diversity in the Top Echelons of the Public Sector
– The Real Singapore: RI Student: The Ugly Truth About Neighbourhood Schools
- See more at: http://singaporedaily.net/2013/09/23/daily-sg-23-sep-2013/#sthash.NnQiyMUC.dpuf