I had the most amusing conversation with #2’s classmate, C. She has been asking #2 to enrol in her Math tuition but #2 told her that I’m not allowing it at the moment, but will consider it next year when they are in Secondary 4.
C called me to try and convince me herself. She spoke with such urgency and couldn’t believe how a parent would not immediately sign their child up for tuition if they could afford it.
These were her arguments:
- CA2 is coming up very soon. She is only scoring around 50-60 marks. What are we waiting for?
- Another classmate who just joined managed to pull up her grade from C to B. The tutor is very good and we will definitely see improvement.
- She needs to get her foundation strong if not it will be very difficult next year to catch up and get an A.
- They have 8 subjects to concentrate on next year, and it would be too stressful if many subjects are weak.
I found the conversation highly amusing because the roles were reversed! A child was trying to convince a classmate’s mother of the necessity of tuition.
Beyond that, I was struck by C’s genuine concern for my daughter. What a good friend she was! I told #2 that it is hard to find such caring friends these days as kids seem to have a ‘better for you, worse for me’ mentality.
However, I was somewhat perturbed that tuition was seen by most children in Singapore as a norm, an expected part of school life, the right of a student.
I replied that I whole-heartedly agreed with all her points. However, I explained that tuition should not be seen as an easy way out.
Not doing well? Tuition!
Tuition is a privilege, not a given.
The given is that the child puts in her best effort to listen in class, finish all the requisite homework, approach the teacher for help if she doesn’t understand, and keep practicing.
And if after all these, she is still not performing, then, and only then, should tuition be considered.
Knowing her, #2 must have been either daydreaming, or was not motivated to put in enough effort for her Math. If she was able to score A* for Math in PSLE without any tuition, I am sure she is capable of achieving better results, and should not be allowed to be spoon-fed by tuition at this stage.
I also explained to C that there are sacrifices and priorities that go behind a decision to allow for tuition, especially in a big family like ours.
As the location is rather inconvenient, I have to send her, wait around for 2 hours, and pick her back. That means I will not be able to spend the time doing something more productive with Kate or the other kids, not to mention the stress of driving in peak hour traffic.
I quipped that since the tutor was so amazing, I’m sure #2 would be able to score an A if I signed her up 6 months prior to the O levels. They felt I was pushing it, but I recounted the story of how I went from an F9 to an A1 for my O level Math with 5 days of tuition. Yes, I had a pretty astounding tutor. Who happened to be my best friend’s mum. Who offered me the tuition free because she felt sorry for me.
Besides time and effort, there is also the financial consideration. Could the money spent be put to better use? #2 really wants to go to Canada to visit her good friend and I told her that if she achieves the goal I set for her, I would take her there.
I would much rather use the money for a nice trip together than spend it on tuition, as I want the children to learn that money is finite and the way we spend it should reflect our beliefs and priorities.
There was a pause on the other end. C was dumbfounded. It never occurred to her what went behind parents providing tuition for their children.
In secondary school, before throwing them the life-line of tutors, I encourage them to study with their classmates and help one another to revise, so that those strong in certain subjects can teach the others and vice versa.
Our home is always open to them, and they have learnt that cooperation is better and way more fun than competition. Besides, by teaching their peers, it helps to reinforce what they have learnt. It really is a win-win situation. The kids also learn that everyone is gifted differently and no one should feel inferior or superior to others.
Besides, I don’t want them to be reliant on tuition because when they enter polytechnic or university, no one is going to sit by their side and spoon feed them.
The big question remains: Is 1 year enough to chase up? Well, maybe not. But I have to draw the line somewhere.
If I was wiling to pump money, time and effort to send her all over the place for tuition from the time she was in Sec 1, I would definitely expect her to churn out the As. The expectations would escalate, and so would the stress.
I have accepted that reality and factored it into my overall strategy.
I am not willing to let tuition run amok in our lives because it is all too easy to be sucked in to this whole ‘better not lose out’ mentality and be blinded to the opportunity cost and toil it will take on the children and our family.