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Why do middle-class parents who did not go to
tuition during their own school years now overload their children with
tuitions, giving them undue pressures?
Chong Sheau Ching wonders where
do the pressures come from -- our increasingly competitive society, our
kiasu attitude, the education system, materialism or teachers?
Too much pressure?
On the fourth day of PMR this year, a
friend called me, “Do you know there are already 60 cases of suicide among PMR
students by today? Don’t pressure your
daughter to study too much for her SPM!”
The number was shocking, and the
information was passed quietly among the parents who have children who will be
sitting for SPM in December. Even if this is a rumor, we all know that the
truth is not far behind. In the past few months, two top students I know
committed suicide, one passed away.
Everyone who knew them was shocked over the incidences. They couldn’t
deal with parental pressures to achieve “A’ in all exams, and they were told
that they would have no future if they didn’t get scholarship to universities.
So when school exams came, one panicked and did very badly while the other one
was so worried about the government exams that he preferred to ‘finish’ his
life before exams came.
There were also a few whom I knew over the
last two years, who broke down crying in school, shivering in front of their
classmates because they were so worried about facing their parents with their
school results. And these were children who were bright and hardworking. All of
them have to go to daily tuitions! One tuition class for one subject in the KL
area for one month is about Rm200. If
one goes to five tuitions for 5 subjects, it is already Rm1000! No wonder
parents complain that they need to work harder to earn more for their
children’s future and they have no time to talk to their children!
I remember at my daughter’s Standard One
PTA ( Parents Teachers Association) meeting in a Chinese primary school, I was
surprised to find that only a handful of parents did not want more homework for
their children while majority of the parents wanted the teachers to give more
homework. “This school has low standard cos’ there is not enough homework, “a
mother dismissed the principal’s suggestion of giving ‘moderate amount’ of
I was even more surprised to find that my
child was one of very few who did not have
tuition! The other children had been working on private tutors’ writing
assignments and rote memorizing vocabulary daily. Only then I realized why the
unofficial passing mark in my daughter’s class was ‘75’ instead of ‘50’! I was advised to send my daughter for tuition
because she did not pass the ‘75’ mark, she ‘failed’ all her subjects. I argued that a child must be given time to
grow at her own pace, not force into a mould.
This is what I learnt at the end of the meeting, “Conform to the system
or you are a loser.”
A small talk with some of the parents after the PTA
revealed that they themselves did not do well during their own school days.
They pressure their children to do well because they believe that high academic
performance is the only way to get good–paying jobs, and a good life. “My
children know that if they want money when they grow up, they better study very
hard,’ declared a mother.
I went home feeling like a square peg in a round
Many parents have spoken to me over the past few
weeks about the increasing pressure to send children for tuition. They felt
that the academic pressure in our educational system is not working out as it
is not able to build good characters, instead it churns out children who are
followers. “I send my children for tuition so that they are not the last ones
in class” was the most cited reason.
Florence T, like most parents, didn't go for any
tuition until she was in Form 3, and that was only for BM subject. She
believes that art and music tuitions are alright because schools do not provide
enough classes on these subjects. “When
parents send their children for tuition in almost every subject, the children have
no life. They should be playing in the park and running around like what I
used to do for fun!”
Some parents believed that they are
successful in their careers despite the fact that they did not have tuitions
during their school days. Reader Pauline wrote, “I did not go to any tuition
until Form 5 as my parents thought that it would help me to get the paper qualification.
I was not an A student. I
graduated from university in a field I love (initially with much objection from
my parents) and not the one chosen by my parents.”
Another parent proudly declared, “I did not go to university
but I am doing very well! I never had a
tuition class until my STPM years and even then, I had basketball games during
my SPM exams. But I got 5A's in my Form 5 exams.”
MC’s parents emphasized the importance of good
education to their children but they did not pressure them to excel. Nevertheless, MC had performed well
academically, fuelled by her ambition to be famous someday. “I now
realise that it is abnormal to have a string of As in my report card
or examination certificates, nor does it make me a better person. Even though I am a qualified
professional, I do not consider myself as successful as entrepeneurs who have
made it through sweat and tears without university degrees or
“These are the people who should be admired for
their perseverance, discipline and hard work. These are qualities in a
person that parents should inculcate first and foremost in their children
instead of sending them for more academic tuitions.
“Perhaps our "educated" peers should take
a second look at the standards they have set for their children. Does a doctor
warrant a higher social status and more respect than a hawker even if the
doctor is not competent?
“Wouldn't time spend at the tuition centres be
better spent at home where parents
cultivate social values and character in their children? Is it
right for parents to pass on parental responsibilities to teachers in
school? We can’t expect tuition teachers to teach values and build
Desmond from Kedah believes that parental kiasu attitude
contributes to tuition pressures. He sees children getting back from afternoon
school at 7.15, then rushing for dinner and bathing before they are packed off
to tuition at 7.45. He doesn’t think that such exhausted mind will learn any
“What about exercise and health?
Perhaps parents hope that by the time their children become doctors or
rocket scientists, the world would have invented a way to keep the brain
working without the need of cumbersome exercises.
“My wife has been conducting martial arts classes in our neighborhood
community center for over 10 years. She gets more and more frustrated with
‘crazy’ parents. Recently, a parent drew a timetable for her son to get a
black-belt as he must excel in everything. Even the martial art classes were to
be cramped between tuition classes. The
Standard 3 student had slacked slightly in his results so he is given more
tuitions. When the child couldn’t cope, the parent asked for a few months off
from the martial art classes in order to get his
Lum knew many friends who set
gruelling schedules for their children that include endless tuitions, piano
lessons, ballet classes, drawing classes, mental arithmatic, computer lessons
and martial art. These children do not have a break during
weekends. “Whether the child is genuinely keen on learning so much is a
different matter as most parents send their children to these classes so they
are not seen as ‘out-dated’ and they don’t want to lose face. Pathetic it may
seem, but a lot of parents use their children's academic performance as a
conversation topic. They actually hide behind their children's back -
pushing them hard for their own fulfillment.”
Is this tuition mania the fault of parents?
Several parents who wrote in also complained that
tuition classes are gimmicks for teachers to earn extra money. Children who do
not go to some teachers’ private tuitions do badly in exams because the exam
content are not in the textbooks, instead the teachers teach the content only
in their tuitions. And these content are
harder than those in the textbook!
I am reminded of young family members did not do
well in their primary school exams until the parents sent them to teachers’
private tuitions to ‘learn the exam questions.’
Children whose parents complained about the tuitions were punished or
purposely neglected in class until all the parents learnt this hard fact --
Don’t you dare to complain.
My parents who are retired teachers feel that some
young teachers are different from those in the old days. Making more money is
more important to them than enjoying the satisfaction of seeing children
learning and growing with values.
A story from the Internet
goes like this, “Children are like kites. You spend years trying to get them
off the ground….. Finally, they are airborne. They need more string and you
keep letting it out…..The kite becomes more distant, and you know it won’t be
long before that beautiful creature will snap the lifeline that binds you
together and will soar as meant to soar…free and alone.
Only then do you know that
you have done your job.”
Have we- parents and
teachers - done our best when we burden children with tuitions instead of
grooming them to fly like kites?
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