“The purpose of education is to ensure the ‘goodness’ of character and ‘goodness’ of intellect,” said Aristotle. Unfortunately, character building has taken a back seat. Opportunities for college admissions, fierce competition and shrinking job opportunities have left little room for students to explore their passion and pursue their interest.
The fact that life skills, critical thinking, the ability to take risk and to work in a multicultural environment are among the top hiring characteristics, has not deterred the race for high academic score.
India has grown economically and education has played a key role. When we talk of education, we tend to think about only the mainstream such as schools, colleges, universities, vocational and other professional institutions. However, there is a significant contribution by the private supplementary tutoring system called shadow education (Bray and Lykins, 2012). Shadow education is a flourishing industry not only in India but in the public of Korea, Hong-Kong, China, Kazakhstan and many other countries as well.
According to a recent report, more than 80% of the school-going children receive some private tutoring support in these countries. The latest findings of the Cambridge International Global Report suggest that 74% of the Indian students receive extra tutorial classes in Mathematics. The private tutoring began with the individual teacher giving private tuition to the children who needed to supplement their learning. It is now a full-fledged industry of private tutoring institutions offering to coach as if they run a parallel school. In recent years online coaching, free application-based tutoring and personalised self-paced learning have gained traction.
There is a lack of data and research on the phenomenon of private tuitions. Children, as young as five years, walking up to the tutor or waiting for the tutor to arrive are the typical scenes. These young children are engaging in private tuition at the cost of their play, family interaction and exploration. One prompt argument advanced in favour of shadow schooling is the lack of adequate experience in mainstream education. It is an unfortunate proposition, if true. The other reasons for the flourishing of parallel tutoring are the inadequacy of schools to prepare the children for competitive examinations.
A reconstruction of the curriculum, pedagogy, assessment of school subjects and competitive examinations is required. The mainstream schooling should take it as a challenge that no child feels the compulsion for private tuition because of the inadequacies of the institutions
Parents think that it is crucial to determine the child’s future. A small segment of the parents send their children for private coaching in the hope that they will engage in the practical usage of time which they would otherwise while away, mainly when parents are busy with their jobs.
An analysis of the scenario suggests an urgent need to bring the children back to school. The ‘goodness’ of character will flow only from the passionate, problem-based, peer-engaging activities in the school. The tutoring industry is not interested in this. A reconstruction of the curriculum, pedagogy, assessment of school subjects and competitive examinations is required. The mainstream schooling should take it as a challenge that no child feels the compulsion for private tuition because of the inadequacies of the institutions. In any case, all children cannot afford private education as it involves additional cost and investment. Formal schooling should take it upon them to offer full-time teaching, further remediation to those at the lower rung of the learning queue. The surveys have suggested that the number of boys receiving additional help is far more than the girls in the same age group. That is another area of concern.
Sadly, the teachers cannot manage and pay individualised attention in the overpopulated classrooms. While it is true, the integration of technology can help the situation in intelligently predicting the needs of the children and effectively addressing them.
While the affluent will find a reason and the wherewithal to provide additional support to their wards, the less privileged will be the sufferers from the inadequacy of the mainstream and deprivation of the shadow tutoring. It would be prudent to take a leaf out the letters the children of Barbiana wrote to their teacher to ensure that the equality and social justice does not remain a dream. Published in “Social Class, language and Power: ‘Letter to a Teacher’: Lorenzo Milani and the school of Barbiana by Borg, Carmel et al., 2013(p.92), their agenda of reform demands, (i) Do not fail, (II) to those who seem to be cretins, offer them full-time schooling, (III) To the unwilling it is enough to give them a goal.
-Dr. Ashok Kumar Pandey,
Principal, Ahlcon International School, Delhi