Leveling the playing field?

The same old issue of teachers offering tuition to students has emerged once again with Education Minister Jai Bir Rai clarifying that the ministry will not allow teachers to provide private tuitions to students.

Despite the policy guidelines in place since 2012 that prohibit tuition, we know that tuitions are happening, especially in urban areas. Despite the guidelines in place, it has not deterred teachers from engaging in such practice. If the numbers of such practices have spiraled today, we could only blame it to the failed implementation and monitoring from the implementing agencies.

Additionally, the education minister says the directive applies to teachers of both private and government schools. The minister reasoned that one of the highest pay raise was given to teachers and that the ministry cannot allow such practices to continue. While it’s reasonable that teachers of government schools can be mandated to this directive, what about teachers in the private schools? Have they seen a similar raise in their salary as their government colleagues?

The ministry’s justifications that giving tuitions would affect the daily routine of teachers and make them do half-hearted job while in the classrooms are ill founded. If such cases were to be true, then we must start contemplating that even doctors deployed at the off-hour clinics must be using a similar tactic to get more patients to see him/her for more extra cash.

The above justification is also an indication perhaps of the absence of monitoring a teacher’s performance and works when he becomes a teacher of a government school. We can take examples and learn from some private colleges and universities where teachers’ works and performances are evaluated on a timely basis not just by their superiors, but students too.

While it has been stated that the ministry will have the schools provide tuition for free in the form of remedial classes, it must also be looked at whether our teachers in the government schools can. Many of our remote schools don’t have adequate teachers. Besides teacher shortage in many schools, there are teachers leaving their profession for greener pasture. Some teachers in many schools are in a rush to cover syllabus. Is there time for tuition classes?

It’s also worthwhile contemplating how doing away with the tuition is in sync with the government’s vision to narrow the gap. The minister justified that rich parents can afford to provide tuition, while it may not be the case so with poor parents. But then again, it may also be worthwhile asking why private licenses have been issued to operate training, tuition and coaching classes in the first place?

It’s important that we level the playing field outside of the classroom too, where schools must ensure that they are adequately resourced to provide a quality education to all pupils regardless of students’ background, capabilities and disadvantages.