Monday, July 22, 2013

Private tuition in public schools
By Editor
Wed 10 July 2013, 14:00 CAT

LAST week education minister Dr John Phiri banned private tuitions in public schools. This practice had gotten out of control and was starting to affect the normal school work of teachers.

Private tuition is a practice where teachers teach their pupils after the normal school hours and get paid for that. This practice has become common in many schools in our country.

And teachers put in their best in these private tuitions than they do in their normal school working hours. They have to put in their best in private tuition because they have to be accountable to their customers who happen to be their pupils and their parents. The pupils are paying the teachers directly. In this way, the pupils have become the direct employers of their teachers as opposed to the normal working hours under which the teachers are answerable to someone very far away in the government.

If our teachers were putting in a similar quality of work in their normal working hours, no child under normal circumstances would need extra tuition. Somehow, the teachers don't seem to be giving their pupils their best during the normal teaching hours. Otherwise, there would be no need for extra private tuition. What is happening now is that the teachers are being rewarded with extra income from private tuition necessitated by their own inefficiency. It is not fair for anyone to be paid extra money for doing what appears to be extra work when in fact it is work that should have been done during the normal or scheduled working hours.

This is not different from the over-time that people create for themselves through inefficiency. Many organisations have stopped allowing over-time because people stopped working efficiently during the normal working hours, leaving a lot of work to be done under over-time. Teachers are creating over-time for themselves through inefficiency. The pupils who can afford to pay for this extra tuition enjoy it because they get better attention and it helps them improve their performance in examinations. But is this the way teachers should teach?

We are encouraging wrong practices by tolerating inefficiency during normal teaching hours. Private tuition should be made unnecessary. But we don't believe banning it is a solution. No matter how much the authorities outlaw private tuition, this practice will continue everywhere as long as there is demand for it. The best way to deal with private tuition is to attack it at its source. What is it that is causing the need or the demand for private tuition? If that is identified and eliminated, the need or demand for extra tuition will also disappear. Banning extra tuition does not automatically end demand for it. Ways will be found to continue this extra tuition in one way or another as long as there is demand for it.

In our view, improving efficiency in the classroom is the only sure way of eradicating the need or demand for extra tuition. And this starts with the sizes of classes. We shouldn't have classes that are too big. A teacher can only teach a certain number of pupils in a class and beyond that things start to fall apart, creating the need or demand for extra private tuition.

There will also be need to improve the supervision of teachers. In many schools, there is no supervision, no inspection of how the teacher is teaching and so on and so forth.

Of course, there is need to look at the remuneration of teachers. But when it comes to matters of money, we must be very careful because money is never enough. And sometimes no matter how much one is paid, the thirsty for more and more money is never quenched - the more they get, the more they want.

But we appreciate the government's desperation in the face of the injustice being done to pupils from poor households that cannot afford to pay for extra tuition. They are being disadvantaged in the competition for the limited school places in the upward movement. They are also being disadvantaged in class because they are made to feel they are very much behind. And this can have a devastating effect on their levels of confidence. So, the banning order on private tuition is a welcome move, but things shouldn't be left at that. This is so because banning private tuition, on its own, will not improve things because it will not on its own eradicate the deficiencies in our school system that gave rise to the demand for private tuition in our public schools.

In fact, a teacher whose pupils are not doing well should be made to give them extra tuition for free. And where the authorities feel there is a legitimate need for extra tuition, this should be extended to all pupils and paid for, in the normal way, by the school authorities. In this way, no one will be left behind, no one will be disadvantaged and everyone will benefit.

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