Education Malaysia recently published some articles related to tuition in Malaysia – how an average of RM4 billion per year is spent on tuition, and the general trend of tuition in Malaysia.
Definition: “Tuition” in Malaysia refers to extra classes taken after school for various subjects, usually those tested in major national exams. This can vary from one-on-one tutoring to actual tuition schools. It’s pronounced as “tuyshen” here (even if the correct pronounciation is closer to “tu-i-tion”) and is optional (but common) in most places.
Often, instead of going over the material thoroughly in class, things get taught very quickly and the students are told to attend extra tuition after school for more information. (In my school these classes were made compulsory for the most part.) Sometimes students are put down for not attending tuition (whether they wanted to or not). As a personal example:
In Forms 4 & 5 I was in the Literature class – the last class. I went there by choice; most of my classmates went there because their PMR grades were apparently not up to par. Before the SPM (O-Levels), they made after-school tuition classes compulsory for Bumiputeras (plus me). I came for a few classes, saw nothing happening, and stopped going. A few months later, one of the administrators came to our class and tried to compare our tuition attendence to our mid-year grades. Grades were pretty similar (low) for everyone else though she picked on those who, like me, skipped the tuition classes. She then got to me and noticed that I was top of the class and had better grades then everyone. She looked at me and said that my grades would be so much higher – if I came to those tuition classes.
That just reinforced my beliefs that the classes were pretty much useless. They weren’t interested in how you were learning the material; you don’t come to class, you are stupid.
When I was at school, I did take some tuition classes – a couple of months’ Bahasa Melayu (Malay Language) tutored by a friend of my father’s in primary school, as well as various extra classes provided by my secondary school – compulsory to “Bumiputeras” and unaccessible to the rest. (as explained above)
(Technically I’m not a Bumiputera since I’m not Malay and not a citizen, but being legally Muslim I got slotted in anyway. And our Maths teacher wanted it to be open to all, so she didn’t really care who registered as long as they showed up.)
I’ve never been to an actual tuition centre, and whenever I got the chance to skip out of those “compulsory” classes at school, I did. I still did pretty decently. (And my SPM grades never did matter anyway, so it’s a moot point.) I learnt things on my own; reading, going online, watching TV, talking to people. I didn’t need tuition classes; I had a world of information around me.
There is some value in tuition classes – if you’re really interested in learning the material, or if you’re genuinely struggling and would like some help. However, the current approach to tuition is fundamentally flawed.
- As mentioned earlier, teachers would opt not to teach the material in class properly because they expect everyone to come to the tuition class anyway. This is deliberately witholding information and knowledge for some other purpose (usually money) and is unfair for those who can’t afford, or don’t want to go to tuition.
- Current tuition classes are less about learning the subject and more about “how to butter up the examiners by answering questions in such a way that they will give you higher marks”. Students get sent to tuition to find out exam “tips”, figure out what chapters to read, ignore the rest. Surely if you’ve properly learnt and understood the material, you don’t need to rely on tips and will be able to answer anyhow?
- Related to tips – tuition classes emphasize memorizing random information, instead of thinking critically and working out answers and solutions. No one’s really learning things; they’re just being spoonfed informationt that will be forgotten after the paper is handed in. Wht’s being learnt here?
- Most tuition centres/classes focus on subjects such as Maths and Science, with very few for Art and Literature. Sure, there are plenty of creative classes around (yay for them!) but they’re rarely taken as seriously (except, perhaps, for Music). If it doesn’t make a big difference to your exam grades, it doesn’t matter. (Heck, try finding a tuition centre that teaches something not in the examination!)
In the mad rush for grades and scores and tips, people – students, teachers, parents, whoever – forget what school is there for: LEARNING. Now it’s become a cattle race, with everyone trying to outdo each other on who has the most As – without ever really thinking about whether anyone’s really truly learning anything. So what if you won’t ever understand the basics of thermodynamics because it’s never completely explained in class, or won’t appreciate the philosophy of Socrates and Plato because there’s no school or class that teaches it? As long as you get straight As in the exam, that’s all that matters, right?
This response by one person that wrote in to the NST regarding tuition (letter link doesn’t work now) sums up my quibble with tuition (and with the general Malaysian education system) very nicely:
Knowledge by itself is of no use, unless that knowledge can be applied to answering exam questions. You cannot compare the quality and level of school exams to public exams. School exams are full-dress rehearsals. A lot of teachers don’t understand that. They set questions that do not resemble the real thing.
To echo Tony P, truly “a sad view of education”.
Links in Post:
- Education Malaysia
- Education Malaysia: 4 Billion Tuition Fees
- Education Malaysia: More Tuition Tales