Too much to cover, too little time

I share readers' concerns on the rising trend of "super tutors" and our nation's unhealthy over-reliance on tuition ("Time for conversation on broader role of tuition" by Mr Dhevarajan Devadas, and "What makes a 'super tutor' super?" by Mr Kevin Lim Fung Ming; both published on May 26).

As a parent of two primary school children, with one sitting the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) this year, I believe one of the reasons for this burgeoning industry is the curriculum.

In most areas, too much has to be covered in too little time - teachers often lack sufficient time to fully teach a topic; students move on to a new topic even before the previous one has been fully digested. Hence, the quick-fix solution - tuition.

Just to cite a few of the competencies required of a pupil in preparation for the PSLE:

  • Comprehension of fairly challenging narratives or informational texts that require the pupil to not only understand the text but make inferences as well
  • Ability to write an English composition that addresses a theme, involves a reasonable plot and uses appropriate vocabulary, within an hour
  • Mastery of challenging maths concepts such as heuristics and the model method, and tackling tricky problem sums
  • Tackling science problems that require application of concepts in five themes - diversity, cycles, systems, interactions and energy - with each theme having several sub-themes

This is only the PSLE syllabus. It is little wonder why there is an increasing reliance on tuition in all levels of our education system.

Having to cover a heavily packed syllabus in too little time robs teachers of the opportunity to develop effective and engaging classroom lessons. So, parents and students turn to tuition and enrichment centres to plug the gap.

It is necessary to review and trim the syllabus, so that sufficient time is given to ensure mastery of each subject in school.

Unnecessary work has to be offloaded from teachers, so that they can better focus on teaching well and cultivating passion in learning.

More students will then see less need for tuition.

Tan Geok Kim (Ms)