Tuition madness: are schools useless?

I got a spam phone call from a tuition seller, but it is a worrying symptom of the rise of tuition in the UK. He asked whether I had children at school, to which I truthfully, albeit misleadingly, answered “no” because I do not choose to send my daughter to school.

I do not know where they got my number from. Maybe Facebook which keeps showing me tuition related ads – it might be interesting to see where they got it from. Hopefully it will lead to a (misleading!) modification to whatever source they got it from (or at least their own database).

Having lived in Sri Lanka where tuition has long become normal for most children, I find the prospect of the same happening here to be horrifying. In Sri Lanka I felt sorry for all the children I saw going to tuition classes (not even proper one to one tuition, usually), often straight from school. Where is the time to enjoy their childhood? Not only that, spending all day studying is not conducive to good development, and is not even good purely academically – learning needs time to reflect, absorb and internalise. Constant studying promotes learning by rote.

This also encouraged (very badly paid) teachers to neglect teaching in school so they would create demand for their tuition classes. It encouraged studying to the exam rather than learning the subject, as parents paying for tuition want to see high grades. Children ask to know what will come up in the exam, and lose all joy in learning.

When I was a teenager I did have some tuition in my weakest subject, French. Less than once a week. My mother told me never to mention it in school, because they school did not like tuition because they regarded it as a bad reflection on their teaching. They (rightly) thought that good teaching in school should make tuition unnecessary.

I now see tuition becoming normalised in the UK. I know multiple people who have had or have tuition as children. I see ads all over Facebook, even highly expensive TV ads on the rare occasions I watch TV (I possess a No TV), there is even tuition available in a local supermarket (on their premises, but run by an education chain).

The phrase “education chain” should not be something I need to say. It is one of the clearest symptoms of mass produced, learn by rote education.

I think my school was right. Tuition should be unnecessary if schools do their job. The conclusion I draw from the rise of tuition is that schools are not doing their job. There is a widespread serious failure in the system. I do not have a simple solution – it needs complete reform – . At a purely personal level not sending children to school worked well for us, but this is not something most people will do, and certainly does not fix the failure in the system.

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