Parliamentary Replies

October 07, 2019

Tuition

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Seah Kian Peng, Marine Parade GRC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education in view of the $1.4 billion spent on private tuition by Singapore households in 2018 (a) whether the Ministry has concerns about this phenomenon; and (b) whether the Ministry allows current MOE teachers to give private tuition and, if so, what proportion of these teachers give private tuition now.


Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Lim Biow Chuan, Mountbatten

Question

To ask the Minister for Education in view of the massive amount spent on private tuition, whether there have been any studies on why students rely on tuition and whether the Ministry has any plans to reduce students' reliance on tuition.


Response

1. The reasons for taking up tuition are multi-faceted. It is important to be able to distinguish when it is desirable and when it is not. For example, we recognise that tuition can benefit students who are genuinely in need of more dedicated help in coping with their studies. This is why some of our schools have partnerships with volunteers and Self-Help Groups that provide affordable academic support. We also know that, at heart, many parents send their children for tuition out of care and concern for their child. They worry whether their children can cope with their studies, and about examinations.

2. However, if a child is generally coping well academically and understands the fundamentals, tuition may not be necessary and can even be detrimental. Excessive reliance on tuition can diminish the ability for independent learning, deprive students of opportunities to develop self-management skills and promote unhealthy competition. Further, widespread and continuous tuition can lead to a pervasive tuition culture anchored on excessive focus on academic grades, and a mind-set that academic grades is the only way to succeed in life. This runs counter to our philosophy of holistic education, and our goal of nurturing lifelong learners.

3. In response to Mr Lim Biow Chuan’s question on reducing reliance on tuition, we first have to address the excessive focus on academic grades, with the emphasis here being on “excessive”. In order to strike the right balance MOE has, in recent years, introduced several policy changes under our Learn for Life movement. For example, we have expanded the number of Direct School Admission (DSA) places in schools, reduced school-based assessments, and will be implementing changes to the PSLE scoring system in 2021. By 2024, we will roll out Full Subject-Based Banding in all secondary schools. Our curriculum has also evolved to become more inquiry-based, more experiential.

4. We continue to support students who need additional help in schools, through initiatives such as learning support programmes for English and Mathematics. Our schools will continue to provide more resources for students who have learning needs, including having smaller class sizes for these students. Schools will also maintain their partnerships with Self-Help Groups to provide support for our students.

5. Mr Seah Kian Peng has asked what proportion of our teachers are currently giving tuition. Our surveys indicate that it is not a prevalent practice – around 1 in 10 teachers are giving paid tuition. Nevertheless, this is a matter that MOE continues to monitor closely, as we would be concerned if our teachers are distracted from their core responsibility to support their students in our schools, especially those who are in need of more support from our teachers.

6. The public sector has existing guidelines on public servants participating in outside activities that may place them in possible conflict of interest situations, or where we would deem it necessary for approvals to be given to ensure proper conduct and avoid distraction of individual officers from their core duties. MOE will periodically review our guidelines and regulations for our teachers giving paid private tuition to ensure that they remain focused on their core duties.

7. Reducing an over-reliance on tuition is not something that MOE can do alone. It requires the support of parents and the wider community. It also requires a mindset change that shifts away from an excessive focus on academic grades to one of holistic education, and an understanding that there are many different pathways for our children to achieve their full potential and do well in life. To that end, we recently introduced guidelines for School-Home partnerships, to share ways in which parents and schools can work together to help enable children develop self-management skills and take ownership of their learning. Together with parents, we can shift the culture to one where our children have the self-confidence and support from their families, schools and peers to manage their learning, instead of turning to tuition as the default option whenever they feel they need help.