Thursday, 8 September 2016


There has been a recent article in the Guardian, in the UK, about the number of children receiving extra tuition outside school hours. As the pressure on young people wishing to enter quality tertiary education grows, providing extra help for your child before public examinations may seem like a good idea. As far as I'm concerned, this is, at best, questionable.

Some years ago, I was Vice Principal of a military college in the Middle East. A new Commandant was appointed whose career up till then had been as a fighter pilot. I mention this only insofar as he had no experience whatsoever of education, yet had trenchant views on how best to teach people. Regular readers of this blog will know that the problems of working under such individuals is a particularly irritating bee in my Headmaster's bonnet!  Anyway, he had looked at our timetable and decided that five days a week could be replaced by six. We would be able to cut our tuition time by 20% and therefore be able to get a quicker throughput of students. I strongly advised him against this move. I reminded him that young people are not cars and that educational knowledge is not gasoline. I told him that students would hate the idea of a whole extra day's tuition and that teachers would soon become exhausted with only one day off a week. Results in our examinations would fall, perhaps dramatically. My words fell on deaf ears and the new policy was implemented. Six months later it was abandoned. Teachers had resigned; exam success had fallen by over 30% and students were behaving more like zombies than human beings.

This is an extreme example, perhaps, but it serves as a reminder that students are not machines. The importance of leisure activities and of simply just having fun cannot be underestimated when it comes to the success of holistic education. I often say to parents at the end of a semester when they come to see teachers and pick up the reports for their sons and daughters that now they should allow their children some time to relax. They have worked hard all semester: it's only fair they should be granted some time when they can stay up until the small hours, get out of bed later in the day and generally chill out.

We are all, I'm sure, familiar with the old adage: all work and no play makes Jack/Jill a dull boy/girl. There's a lot of truth in it. Everyone needs some "me" time, regardless of the situation in which s/he operates. I am ever mindful of the stress placed on KYUEM students by the need for them to do well in CIE examinations. Placing extra stress on them often does more harm than good.

There is only one situation where I can make the case for extra study. This is when a student is genuinely struggling with a given subject and needs remedial help. Extra work in this case becomes a specific and focused activity. It happens at KYUEM when some of our teachers offer extra classes to such students prior to external examinations. Looking back to my own schooldays (and that is a long way back, these days!) I recall that my father paid for me to have a few weeks' extra lessons from a retired Mathematics teacher in order for me to pass the hurdle of Maths O Level (a subject that was, in those far-off days, a mandatory requirement for UK University entrance, along with English, a science and a foreign language).

So, if you are thinking of hiring an expensive tutor for your son or daughter as s/he approaches AS or A2 exams, please ask yourself if it is really needed. You may, in fact, be depriving him/her of some much needed time to recharge the batteries and get ready for the task ahead.

And please, with regard to this or any other aspect of your sons' and daughters' education, feel free to consult with me or one of the KYUEM team at any mutually agreeable time. We are all in pursuit of the same goal. Let us do our best to achieve it together.

Meanwhile, let me conclude by wishing you all a pleasant time with your children next week during our mid-semester break.


  1. Totally agree with you about the remedial classes, when needed, but it has become sort of fashion in the last couple of decades (in my country at least) to send those poor kids to just about every single subject in order for them to pass. It has exhausted the students and bankrupted the parents. So, my answer is 'NO!'

  2. Tuition class can have smaller group, tutor can assist poor student and more focus. In Msia, the fee still cheaper atleast for SPM preparation.

  3. Yes, maybe so, but that still doesn't alter the fact that too much tuition can be as bad as too little. Also, we don't have "poor" students at KYUEM thanks to the high standard of entry requirements. We are a profoundly selective institution. If students need extra help, remedial programmes are on offer as and when required.

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