x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Let's find a way to improve tutoring

Using private tutors is illegal, but many parents are turning to them in a bid to increase their children's grades.

Students come home from school - and meet their tutors for more lessons. This increasingly common phenomenon across the UAE is a worrying one, as it raises questions about the quality of classroom education.

The use of private tutors is officially banned, but many teachers break the law to earn extra income. As The National reported yesterday, a survey conducted this year for the Abu Dhabi Education Council found that 47 per cent of Abu Dhabi parents use private tutors in Arabic, English, mathematics and science.

There are many possible reasons behind this trend. The number of students per classrooms is increasing, which makes it hard for teachers to spend enough time with each student. Meanwhile, parents are pushing their children to achieve better results and so they encourage them to take private lessons.

Private tutoring can cost Dh100 to Dh200 per hour. The laws governing residence visas say that residents may work only for their sponsors, so private tutoring by expatriates is illegal. But where parents want to pay and tutors want to earn, the law is ignored.

Whatever the reason, when almost half of parents see fit to break a law, it is time to look again at the law, and the whole situation.

The Adec questionnaire results suggest that more work is needed on the quality of education in classrooms, including the performance of teachers. Many parents suspect that some teachers do not work hard, or push their children hard enough in the classroom, simply to increase the demand for lucrative tutoring.

There are, to be sure, licensed tutoring centres that offer legal after-school coaching for pupils in different subjects.

But now it may be time to try another approach. At a recent Dubai School of Government forum, education experts suggested that what tutoring needs, instead of a blanket ban, is regulation.

We suggest investigating the idea of formalising private tutoring, by having it administered by the schools. The best teachers could be preferred for these assignments, students and tutors could be well-matched, and the system could be regulated in the best interest of all. There would certainly by complications and problems, but the issue demands attention and some new approaches.