Tutoring: at what cost?

This week it was revealed that the tutoring industry is worth a whopping $6 billion.  We’ve seen an exponential growth of the tutoring industry within the past five years but what impact is it having on the quality of our education system, our teachers and most importantly student learning?

The tutoring industry has certainly thrived in an age where there is an ever growing importance  placed on external exams such as the HSC, School Certificate, Naplan and , most significantly, the entrance test for selective schools.  Unfortunately, we tend to define quality education through narrow measures such as these.

If you can’t afford the tutor, just drop into your local post office and pick up off the shelf the latest quick fix books for improving grammar, mastering numbers and so on.

Esther Han, an Australian educated student originally from Korea wrote in the SMH this week about the need for all students to have a broad, comprehensive education.  Han argues that success should be multi-faceted and not limited to academic success.  Although she praises aspects of the Korean education system, she criticises it’s one dimensional focus on academic excellence and the detrimental affect on a students’ overall well being.

I believe the tutoring industry weakens the profession because it creates hot-houses of specialist learning.  The role of good teachers is to identify and respond to the needs of every student whether ‘gifted’ or with additional needs.  The fact that parents are prepared to pay in excess of $120 an hour for specialist tutors is a wake up call for the education system.

We need to be investing more in our teachers; developing their pedagogical skills and expertise to provide quality learning and teaching for our children, rather than increasingly outsourcing to tutors.

Professor Linda Darling-Hammond in the June edition of Professional Educator says it’s about shifting the focus from quantity to quality in education, about teaching better, engaging students and preparing them for life, rather than teaching for tests and examinations.

Every child deserves a quality education delivered by highly competent teachers.  Parents expect and today’s world demands it but tutoring cannot be not a substitute for good schooling.

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