A peek inside tuition centres

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Liverpool were playing Manchester United in the English Football Premier League at 8.30pm on Friday. But Jerry Koh, a primary six student, knew he would have to forego that live game on TV because it clashed with his tuition class.

Exasperated as he was, Jerry at least had the consolation of knowing that his mum would be recording it for him to watch —  after class. But, at the back of his mind, he also knew it would never be the same as watching it live, with all his friends around him, screaming themselves hoarse!

Nonetheless, even at tuition class, Jerry simply couldn’t get his mind off the game. So, after  hurriedly finishing his work, he walked up to his tutor and sheepishly asked if he could watch the game — on the internet – in class!

You see, most of the tuition centres today are fully equipped with air-conditioning, visualisers, projectors, PCs or laptops, complete with internet network and many other latest technological marvels.

A far cry from the spartan set-ups of the Fifties and Sixties, when hard wooden benches,  desks and chalkboards were the order of the day. And in most cases today, these centres are actually complementing the work done in schools.

Many are even designed and built more thoughtfully and reassuringly for students – and their parents – with their own libraries and reading section, along with hot-and-cold water dispensers and attached toilets fragrantly disinfected and clean. Indeed, some even come equipped with antiseptic hand sanitisers.

It certainly makes a big impact in learning, which is probably one of the biggest reasons why Jerry’s parents are not too concerned about his hygiene , safety and security. Some centres even have closed-circuit cameras in classrooms. Or they use thumbprinting for students and tutors clocking in and out.

Even government schools don’t make use of such CSI-type devices. Yet, despite its cumbersome nature, some centres have made it a mandatory tool to monitor the movements of their staff and students.

Still, you haven’t heard anything yet! The PC Electronic Tablet is the New Kid On The Block. As you know, the global technology revolution has already caught on in our secondary schools, with Apple’s iPad and Nintendo’s Wii gaming console being introduced into the  curricula.

But for a tuition centre to make use of the PC Tablet for its students must be quite an accomplishment, not to mention its high cost. The tutor can assign classwork on the Tablet itself in the class for the students, whose job is to answer the questions on their tablets before submitting the answers electronically to the tutor for marking.

The tutor will then be able to mark the students’ work individually and point out their mistakes — all electronically done via the tablet. The submitted work can also be stored and retrieved, as and when required.

Can you imagine the tons of back-breaking, mind-busting hours of marking the conventional way being awesomely lifted off the tutor’s shoulders? You can be sure the student, too, would be slurping his lips just to lay his hands on this toy – even if it’s just for a while.

Still, there are those who think that tuition centres are just too superfluous – more commercialised and not result-oriented. Who best to know than the teacher herself, in school! Can she honestly say she is able to get all her 40-plus pupils to follow – and digest — her teaching, with or without an Assistant or Allied Educator to help?

A veteran NIE graduate teacher and MOE video-editing specialist who now owns a private school, said: “Tuition centres are today definitely complementing the schools, no doubt about it. But we mustn’t forget that our ultimate goal should be to fully equip the schools to provide a holistic education for the students. Which means ultimately eliminating the need for tuition.”

But is that ever possible? The short answer: No. Until and unless the government overhauls the education system and, with the schools, provide a well-rounded programme that covers up all the cracks prevailing today.

So, until then, Jerry Koh will just have to bite the bullet and resign himself to watching only recorded EPL matches if they clash with his tuition class…