Is Tuition Turning Out to Be A Status Symbol?
Is Tuition Turning Out to Be A Status Symbol?
During the 1970s, Malaysia had very few tuition centres. The number of students who enrolled for lessons in these centres was also very small and very few parents would hire private tutors to provide extra lessons to their children from the comfort of their homes. But even then, these numbers remained comparatively. However, private tutors and tuition centres were still available and would cater for the relatively low demand that was there at the time. But still, the numbers available were still low and were mostly located in major towns and cities across the country. In fact, it was hard to find these services in the urban areas and even those who attended are those from rich and middle class families that were considered to be able to afford such a “luxury” at the time.
Tuition As a treatment centre for The Academically Weak
During those years, tuition was being treated like a remedial opportunity that was only chosen after everything else had failed. At the time, the programme was never a lifestyle and those who resorted to it only did so as a matter of choice. Parents opted to send their children to the tuition centres after realizing that they were struggling in their academic life. Those who attended tuition were actually in genuine need of the supplementary coaching by the teachers who offered tuition services. Before attending the tuition programme, the students were either performing dismally in their exams or hard a difficult time keeping up with the pace with the syllabus during the normal class hours. Whichever the case, attending tuition was a valid thing that was necessitated by the students’ needs. Attending tuition had nothing pleasurable in it but instead exposed a genuine need in the student’s life.
The Increase in Tuition
By 1980s, everything about tuition had started changing from how we knew it. Owing to the growth of the Malaysian economy in the 80s, the country recorded a dramatic increase in tuition centres that were started especially in the big towns and cities. Enabled by the higher spending capacity, a large number of parents started considering tuition as an important part of their children’s academic life and changed their perspective towards the same. From this time, people stopped considering tuition centres as a mere clinic where weak students were sent, but as a place where students were provided with an extra competitive advantage to help them excel. Passing an exam was no longer enough anymore and both parents and students were looking for something more. To succeed in school became the highest goal for all the involved parties. A good academic achievement was viewed as important and parents did everything possible to provide their children with every possible advantage in school. Confronted by the growing demand, businessmen were happily grateful and took the opportunity with open arms. With this, tuition centres grew rapidly and with time they were all over the country.
At this time, the phenomenon of private tuition received a lot of public attention and the media went out of the way to scrutinize the trend. Students who had no access to tuition started asking their parents for it and this was largely driven by the feeling of being disadvantaged and enthusiasm. Some of these students were compelled to look for tuition out of peer pressure while others turned to it simply because they needed it. Parents who were financially off and could not afford to pay for tuition complain about the extra cost that they needed to incur for the tuition programme. This drove some to even try and marshal for support from the media. Making calls to draw government’s attention to the tuition centres with the hope that this increasing tendency will be curbed. What was being fronted as a solution to the students’ academic struggles quickly turned into a problem in itself among many parents but basically those who felt the financial weight upon their shoulders. By simply being in existence, tuition centres increased unfairness in the classrooms and this was a big problem in our education system. The new tendency created two sets of students, those without tuition and those who had access to it. at one point, the government of Malaysia even went ahead and launched a few tuition centres that could be accessed by the students for free or on subsidized cost. These were meant to help students from needy families, who could not afford the ordinary tuition rates and yet were willing to enjoy private tuition. At the same time, there was an increase in the number of those who were attending tuition and with time tuition became part and parcel of Malaysian culture.
A Status Symbol for The Middle Class
Attending tuition lessons in any of the tuition centres has turned out to be, more or less important for all students belonging to the middle class families in the urban areas. Many no longer consider it to be a privilege just for the rich to attend tuition classes. To the contrary, it is considered to be an important component for all students in Malaysia. Today, students who do not attend tuition from urban areas are now the minority. Believe it or not, private tuition has turned into a significant representation and an integral way of life for middle class population in the urban areas together with swimming and music lessons. Parents are proud about themselves especially when they are able to pay for their children to attend these lessons. Most of them even consider tuition to be important and are even more than willing to sacrifice other expenses in the homes in order to pay tuition fees for their children.
Considering what has been happening in the past, it is clear that the view of private tuition as being a status representation will wear out with time. Once something has become as common as private tuition has, with time it loses its unique attraction. As an observation, tuition should not have achieved this false reputation to begin with. After all, it was just meant to provide a supplementary learning service to our school children. Although it is hard to deny that its supposed status symbol has been a factor to the quick spreading out of the industry especially in the 1980s.
The Emerging Status Symbol
With this in mind, what is likely to emerge as the next status symbol after these tuition centres? The possible guess is likely to be home tuition or private tutoring. Rather than attend tuition in a place away from home, students will be waiting for tuition to come their way right in the comfort of their homes. In actual fact, the feature that distinguishes between private tuition and tuition centres is the individual attention accorded to the students by their tutors. This is done under different formats based on the situation. For example, private tuition can be provided at the private tutor’s home, at the student’s residential home, or even in rented premises. However, this kind of tuition has many advantages that are not available to those who attend extra lessons in a tuition centre. For one, one of the biggest advantages of private tuition is the size of the classes, which are normally leaner and include less than 5 students in normal cases. In other cases, private tuitions are conducted on a single student by a single teacher in a format normally referred to as one-on-one private tuition. The assertion behind this format is that these smaller classes normally achieves superior results since students can interact with their teachers closely and ask questions freely whenever they are faced with any challenges. However, this format of tuition is normally costlier that enrolling in a tuition centre.
At the moment, private tuition has not grown in popularity or gained momentum as enrolling for extra classes in tuition centres. This can primarily be attributed to the high fees that students/parents have to pay in order to access the private services. Private tuition remains as a privilege of those who are relatively well off financially and has turned out to be one of the newest status symbols in our society. Well, we cannot deny that this kind of tuition has many advantages despite the fact that it is costlier. However, the commercialisation of the tuition casts a dark cloud and keeps of many who are unable to pay the required fee and these have to flock into the tuition centres in a bid to enjoy extra lessons. This in return has been turning tuition centres into crowded places and a replica of school classes can now be witnessed thus beating the logic of taking our children to these crowded places where they cannot enjoy personalized attention from their tutors. At the end of the day one may have to ask, ‘what is the need for taking a child for lessons in tuition centres where they cannot interact freely with their teachers?’ With this in mind, one-on-one tuition and private tuition will quickly grow in popularity thus becoming our next status symbol in Malaysia.