Private tuition classes in Malaysia: A necessity?
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Oct. 15 -- Twelve-year-old Lucas Lian enjoys the envious glances cast by his fellow classmates in school. Being in the elite class in his Chinese medium primary school, Lucas is one of the rare students who does not take private tuitions.
In Malaysia and Singapore, the term ‘tuition’ refers to extra classes taken outside of school after school hours. A 2005 study found that two out of three Malaysians send their children to private tuition classes. The number has decreased slightly over the two decades as compared in 1991, when 80 percent of students spent four hours a week attending tuition classes.
Tuition has become a trend in Malaysia. This has been the cause for concern of many parents as long tuition hours and pressure may have negative effects on students. Private tuition centres flourish as a result of the high demand from both students and their parents. Although the number of registered tuition centres may have decreased, the popularity has encouraged other centres to operate illegally, without a license from the government.
S. P. sta Maria, a tuition teacher, said that the education system in Malaysia is probably the cause for this obsession with tuition.
“There is a general consensus that the education system here is not up to standard… there is a lack of quality in school,” he said.
Public schools in Malaysia are frequently blamed for the low standards in teaching, also one of the reasons Martin Lian, Lucas’ father, is considering enrolling Lucas in a private secondary school next year.
Despite the better teaching quality private schools are prided with, students from private schools are still flocking to tuition centres, and the numbers are increasing as observed by J.K. Wong. Wong, a seasoned administration staff in a tuition centre in Cheras, sees this as parents “purchasing insurance policy” on their children’s education, guaranteeing excellent results and a bright future.
Edmund, 20, and Shaun K., 15, attend a prestigious private school in Kuala Lumpur from 8am till 4pm on weekdays, then spend 4 to 6 hours per week in the evening in a tuition centre. “Our parents think it’s good for us to go for tuition,” Edmund simply said.
sta Maria sees tuition as an aid for students who have difficulty coping or keeping up with their studies in schools. However, he does not deny that top scorers also attend tuition classes. Shaun is one of the top students in his school, scoring an impressive average of 89 percent every semester.
Currently a college student and a ‘veteran’ of the tuition scene, Rita Goh, 19, attended tuition classes to “learn how to score in exams”. She pointed out that it is a “Malaysian culture” for students to attend tuition classes not to gain knowledge or learn what they missed out in school, but to learn how to sit for exams.
“The students’ mentality is that we just want to know what kind of questions they ask during major exams, how to write the best answers. It’s a Malaysian thing.”
When asked why her friends with excellent academic performances would attend tuition classes, she said that it is a matter of feeling a sense of security. “It’s just to make sure, you know. To feel secure,” she says.
For some students, tuition is a luxury that puts the service out of reach. “I didn’t attend any tuition class before. This is because the expenses for attending the tuition class is high [sic]. Furthermore, I don’t want to burden my parents,” said W. M. Won, 20, a university student.
Classes can also lead to unnecessary stress and pressure that befall the students in their pursuit of guaranteed excellent results. It is a concern in other Asian countries as well.
A similar trend occurs in Korea as students attend hagwons (after school extra classes) with the aim of achieving excellent exam results. According to some psychologists, the pressure a student faces in having to excel in exams is the root cause for depression and Korea’s high youth suicide rates.
Lucas Lian's mother, Benny Wee, says she does not see the need to give her son unnecessary stress. “He finishes school at 3.45pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. He needs to do his homework too and you know Chinese medium primary schools, they give so much homework!”
Wee said her friends were shocked to know that her son does not attend any tuition classes. “They say, ‘How can your son not attend tuition classes? How will he cope with his studies? How will he score in his exams?’ And I just shrug and say, so what? To me, a child enjoying his or her childhood is more important.”