What you need to know
In a country of 1.3 billion people, there is, unsurprisingly, a lot of competition. Due to this, there is a lot of significance given to how much one scores in high school or an entrance exam and because of the exceptionally high student-teacher ratios in most schools, classrooms (much like anything else) are not enough to fulfill society’s academic expectations. So most students end up opting for private tuitions.
The problem today is not the fact that these tuitions exist but the fact that they are a norm. What is our education system doing so terribly that students needs to go to two institutions for hours everyday to learn the EXACT same concepts?
Wait, but what are private tuitions?
Feel free to skip this if you know what private tuitions are
Private tuitions are extra classes that are financially independent from one’s schooling. They prepare a student for the school exams or, in some cases, university-level entrace exams. Different tutors specialize in different subjects and have different systems and metholodigies.
How many people take these tuitions?
Different papers give different numbers, but as someone who lives in India, and has been part of the Indian education system, I would say that more than 3/4ths of my previous high school attended some form of coaching and a lot of students who attend these classes often signed up for more than one subject, so it’s possible for one student to be enrolled in tuitions for 3 different subjects
Interestingly, a UNESCO study correlated tuitions with low classroom engagement, low attendance, fatigue in both students and teachers, an academically competitive environment, and an increase in social inequalities.
A Game Theory approach
This semester, I took a game theory course and focused on this issue. This is what I found.
But before we get to the good stuff,
DISCLAIMER (I think)
I’d just like to point out that this is an OVERSIMPLIFICATION of the problem at hand. This is a very complex and multi-faceted issue that cannot be fully explained via the lens of a course that I’ve just spent 14 weeks on, so you might or might not agree/disagree with some of the things here. Also, I’ve only covered school teachers and students as the two “players” in this “game,” there are more players and strategies that I’m not accounting for.
Note - When I write "teachers," that means school teachers. I'll be using the term "tutors" to refer to tuition teachers. This will be important later on.
A – Support the tuition culture (i.e. go for extra classes. Be dependent on another individual for one’s learning)
B – Take their learning in their own hands (i.e. Start self-studying if need be, helping out friends who’re shy, asking questions in the classroom.)
A – Support the tuition culture (Join tuition centers or open their own; not working on everyday lessons. Be impatient and extremely strict with students)
B – Take responsibility for their students’ learning (Answer questions patiently. Be willing to explain something over and over again. Join an established institution. Actively dissuade tuitions)
Payoffs range from -2 to 2
There are pros and cons to the tuition culture and it’s IMPOSSIBLE to assign a number that accurately depicts how all students/teachers feel but this is my opinion. Also, some of these are hypotheticals and so a lot of things could happen but we’re only going to focus on the most likely scenario.
AA (Both supporting the culture)
would look looks like
This is, in my view, what’s happening right now. Students are uninterested – either because they cannot understand a concept (because the teachers assume that students already have or will soon learn it) or because they learned it weeks ago – and so are the teachers because they assume that students who want to learn have tuitions.
This leaves barely any time in a student’s life and has a lot of other disadvantages, it is not a very good situation for a student to be in.
Teachers are disrespected because they don’t work on their lessons, and so why would you respect your teacher if she’s not teaching you properly?
AB (Teachers want to teach but students are … not as curious?)
What it would look like
I strongly believe that a subject is only as interesting as a teacher makes it. If we had passionate teachers, then students would get tired of learning the same things twice every year – in tuitions and in school. All of us know the impact a good teacher has on our learning.
Students would be more satisfied than they are today and those who attend tuitions would get another perspective on the same topic, but some students might get bored because they might view it as the exact same thing being repeated twice.
This would definitely increase the respect teens have for their teachers. Over time, students would stop signing up for private tuitions if they’re receiving all they need to in school and this means that this slowly moves to BB, but that would take time and I don’t see teachers taking such a hard road anytime soon.
BA (The teacher doesn’t share the same interest the student does)
What it would look like
Students would try to help each other out. But they couldn’t do that in school since teachers wouldn’t support classroom interaction. If the students are restrained and the teachers are not good at teaching then it’s safe to assume that the results will go down and so the govt. will have to change the faculty of different educational institutions or maybe the system itself (or maybe they wouldn’t care lol) if the overall grades start dropping. Tutors who had their own centers would not have a choice now – they’d have to go to some school or another which would also slowly lead to BB
A growth mindset would help them learn but will they be able to understand concepts and learn that if a poor teacher does not allow them to communicate? Some certainly will because once a learner is interested, they realize that a teacher is not the only source of information. They maybe start utilizing online tools or start texting their friends about academics if they’re truly interested in what they’re learning. Again, this plays out differently for different types of students.
Teachers might either feel threatened as if they’re losing their jobs or they might feel happy because now the students are passionate about what they’re learning and so they’re asking questions and coming up with all these ideas but in this scenario, the teachers are still not hard-working so it could be very overwhelming for them.
BB (Everyone shares the same interests)
What it would look like
If we have passionate students and passionate teachers then everyone would be doing something that interests them. I feel like there are still some things that would be an obstacle in learning, and so this would bring out the flaws in the education system.
E.g. students don’t get a twenty-minute in six-seven hours of schooling - no matter how interested one is, one cannot keep challenging their minds for 7 hours straight for 6 days a week for 14 years. It’s impossible for any human.
The students would be interested in what they’re learning. Students would try and fail because that’s how humans learn. Students would engage in discussions and conversations about the subject matter that could be facilitated by the educator, and would truly understand concepts. They’d also save hours at home.
Teachers would be happier because explaining something to someone who’s interested in learning is much more fun than force-feeding a concept to someone. They’d also get the results they want because students would understand ideas in the classroom. They would still have to do a lot of formalities that the system requires them to do but I believe that they’d find a realistic way around it.
Solution via Game Theory
The Nash equilibrium and Pareto optimal are at BB, but it doesn’t take a game theorist to see which scenario is beneficial for all. But then why does it not play out?
Because if both sides don’t choose to work against the culture, then it’s a long road and change won’t happen overnight. In AB or BA, change would take time – LOTS AND LOTS OF TIME – and no student, teacher or organization could live with a full year of terrible results. One alphabet/number at the end of the year matters too much – thousands of hours too much.
But what can I do?
You can do anything you want to~Bob Ross
Although I agree with Bob there, I’m sure that was not what you were looking for. You can help differently depending on your role – as a student – help your friends, help your teachers understand what your friends lack, ask questions again and again and again and again, even if it makes you look like a fool, as a teacher – answer questions, be patient, talk to your students, and as a parent – try and learn with your child, encourage them to pursue what they’re passionate about.
I WANNA HELP YOU!
Oh! Well, thank you, kind person. If you really wanna help me then fill out this feedback form just so I can get to know your take on this. Sharing this would also go a long way with helping me – this is something that people have accepted and don’t view it as a problem because who cares what a teenager has to say.
Sources cited and consulted
Bray, Mark. “Adverse Effects of Private Supplementary Tutoring: Dimensions, Implications, and Government Responses.” Unesdoc.unesco.org, UNESCO. IIEP, 2003, unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000133039.