Forum: School teachers, tutors play complementary roles in education

A class of lower primary students at EduFirst Learning Centre. PHOTO: ST FILE

In their Dec 11 letters, both Mr Colin Ong and Ms Giselle Goh extolled the success of tuition based on one single outcome - acing exams (Study what tuition industry is doing right and plug gaps in school; and Tuition makes it hard to tell if school teaching is effective).

Our society would be full of mechanical robotic souls if all our children were going to school just to ace the exams.

All of us who have gone through exams would have realised that studying for exams and studying for the sake of knowledge are two different things.

Tuition typically focuses on the efficiency of solving problems, to the extent of rote memorising without understanding the concepts or principles behind the topics. Most schools would focus on the holistic learning of the subject. For example, in science, acquiring the ability to think scientifically is considered a major life skill which students need after they exit school.

During tuition, this is rarely touched upon. Tutors would typically focus on speed in solving problems, and teach or get students to memorise the right answers. Good tutors may break down problems to help students solve them sequentially.

I am not saying that school teachers are not doing what tutors are doing. Tutors have the time to singularly focus on teaching problem-solving, while school teachers have to handle the holistic education of the students.

The bottom line is, would you like our children to be problem-solving technicians or well-rounded citizens who can think on their own feet?

In fact, school teachers and tutors can play complementary roles for our children to survive in our educational system. The key is: anything excessive is not good, but the best tuition can help.

Kenneth Lee

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2019, with the headline Forum: School teachers, tutors play complementary roles in education. Subscribe