The Private Tuition Business

DEBATE – Swami Paramanda's article

It is with increasing disagreement that I have read Swami Paramananda’s take on private tuitions (Forum – 5th July 2011). There are certain elements that are definitely true about teachers giving private tuitions but there should not be a generalisation. There are undoubtedly teachers out there with a mercenary attitude towards educating young minds through private tuition. At the same time, there are also many teachers out there without that attitude. They do it out of a sheer passion for teaching and helping students in difficulty.

The opening of the text itself asks two interesting questions : “What for do teachers give tuitions ?” and “Why do students take same ?” I am far from being an expert but having had close personal experiences in the world of teaching, I will attempt in my own humble way to answer these questions.

In answer to the first question : some teachers might not necessarily come into the profession with the aim of giving tuitions. However, somewhere along the way, one or two students who find that they can relate to a teacher to give them extra help do approach that person. In such a case, any good teacher faithful to his/her vocation will not refuse. If the students find that they have indeed improved, by way of word to mouth, other students who need help will come along. Now comes the tricky part though. It now becomes the teacher’s responsibility to decide on how many students he can manage to help. There are teachers out there who have a class of 40 in their garages for private tuitions but there are also teachers who will tell you that they have a limit of 10 or 15 and they will not add one more to that regardless of how much begging or sweet talking one does.

Coming to the second question “Why do students take same ?” : there we enter into a murkier territory. In the Mauritian education system, private tuitions have become the norm ; they have existed for ages and will definitely stay in the system for many years to come. My parents whose school days date almost 40-45 years ago, used to take tuitions and it shows no sign of slowing down. It is true that private tuitions have nowadays taken new dimensions. Some parents send their kids to private tuitions after school as it is a place for the kids to be when the parents are at work. Some students want to go for private tuitions because they see their friends doing so. In our competitive system, there are those who do not want to miss out on any opportunity. They might not need the private tuitions, but they will still go for it in case their fellow classmates get some material that they won’t get. Some, in genuine need of help go for private tuitions to do just that : get help.

Concerning the matter of giving private tuitions merely for money, I won’t deny it in any way. Yes, there are teachers, who, come the end of the month, will subtly remind the students that they have to cough up the tuition fees. However, there are also those teachers, who might be few and far apart, who will not charge a penny to a student who cannot afford the fees. Some teachers are very committed to their profession whereby the fees will not give them the same satisfaction as seeing a less than fortunate child succeed. I know of teachers who would tell you that at the end of the day, the blessings and gratitude of these students and their parents are payment enough. Those teachers do exist out there in the Mauritian landscape.

Private tuitions are common in some other countries too, however they do not have the same place as they do in the Mauritian educational system. I will agree with Swami Paramananda that education nowadays is not as broad and encompassing life as it should be. Rather education nowadays has become a mere stepping stone towards a better material life. However, we should not blame teachers for that. There is a society at large that has contributed in making teaching and education the way it is today.