Peshawar: Waseem Ahmad, a father of two children studying in a private school in Peshawar, has been sending them to an academy for private tutoring in the evenings. The children, he says, do not learn enough at school to pass exams with good marks.
“Having arranged private tutoring for my son Ahmad who couldn’t score high in studies, I had to do it for my daughter Laraib as well so she wouldn’t lag behind in class due to poor quality of teaching at school,” said Ahmad.
Private tutoring has become quite the norm in Pakistan with parents paying extra money for their children’s coaching when they already bear the expense of their education in schools. Parents like Ahmad are resigned to arrange private tuition for their children because, he says, he had to “avert” what happened to his son from happening to his daughter.
“I didn’t have enough time to coach the children and my wife couldn’t do it because the subjects are too complicated for her to follow,” Ahmad told News Lens.
While the existence of what is known as “shadow education” or what some academics regard as the “third sector of education” – apart from private and government sector education – is widespread in South Asian countries, there has been little research on its impact.
“The relationship between private tutoring and student achievement is also increasingly gaining policy attention as it calls into question the quality of schooling during school hours,” says the research study The Private Tuition Industry in Pakistan: An Alarming Trend by Dr Monazza Aslam, a Rhodes scholar. “It also raises questions about the ability to pay and ability to thus access this extra help. These questions become even more important given the fundamental Right to Education as provided for in Article 25 A (of the Constitution.”
A World Bank study – “The Growing Phenomenon of Private Tutoring” – says that tutoring is now widespread in many parts of the world, including developing countries. “Japan has been a pioneer in the provision of this type of supplementary education. Private tutoring has long been a huge commercial industry in Japan, with annual revenues reaching an estimated $14 billion by the mid-1990s. To stimulate school spirit, several private tutoring schools (juku) have had their students wear white headbands similar to those once worn in battle by samurai warriors.”
While recent data on the trend in Pakistan is not available, a 2011 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) policy brief on private tutoring reveals that some 11 percent children between 3-16 years of age took private tuition and paid Rs293 per month in rural Pakistan. “This amount spent on children’s tuitions equates to $3.4 per month. It is not an insubstantial given that 60 percent of Pakistan’s population reportedly lives on under $2 per day.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity because he didn’t feel comfortable sharing his name, a teacher at a private school in Peshawar told News Lens Pakistan that schools were responsible for rise in the trend of private tutoring since “it is their prime duty to make sure teachers help students with their studies.”
“When I started teaching i used to try my best to give individual student the attention they deserved, which was obviously a time-consuming task,” he said. “A few weeks later, the school administration told me that I was lagging behind while my fellow teachers teaching the same subject to other sections of same grade had already finished the course.”
He said that he was told to follow the way others teach or leave the job.
Qasim who runs a private tuition academy in Peshawar said his coaching centre was meant for students between grades 1 to 12 but he had more students from grade 9 to 12 who needed tuition in science subject such as physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics.
The academy charges Rs 2000 per student for teaching all subjects till grade 7. However for higher grades from 8 to 12, the fee per subject is Rs 1000 suggesting that tutoring in science subjects is expensive in relation to high demand.
“Nowadays parents are too busy to give time to their children and so more and more parents are sending them to academies,” said Qasim. “Academies help students who are weak in their studies but they also create an opportunity gap because most parents cannot afford them.”
Nawaz Afridi, a school teacher, said that students needed individual attention in the class which was nearly impossible for teachers because the large size of the class. He said they get this attention in private tuition academies and therefore learn better. He however denied the assumption that teachers in school intentionally teach in a way to force students to seek their help through private tutoring.
The 2011 ASER survey conducted in three major cities of Pakistan reveals that 62 percent students in Lahore, 54 percent in Karachi and 34 percent students of Peshawar are enrolled in academies or having a home tuition.
Parents in Pakistan tend to enroll their children in private schools despite financial constraints thinking private schools provide quality education. But ASER’s report reveals that the percentage of students from private schools in Punjab is higher (30 percent) than those from government-run schools (16 percent).
Zainab, a principal at a private school in Peshawar, says it is true that more students from private schools are enrolled in academies but it does not mean that private schools lack quality education.
“The parents of students studying in private schools are more aware and economically strong compared to parents of students studying in government schools,” says Zainab. “That is why the number of students from private schools receiving private tutoring is high.”
Shabana, a school teacher, says the declining quality of education in schools, both private and government, was the reason why students attended tuition academies.
“Schools have become money-minting and degree-awarding institutions due to which private tutoring had become an industry,” she said. “This industry will die its own death if schools and teachers start acting responsibly.”