A forum letter in The Straits Times argued for a solution in response to a recent premium article about why banning tuition in Singapore will only make things worse.
This is the entirety of the forum letter:
Extend school hours instead of banning tuition
National University of Singapore lecturer Kelvin Seah Kah Cheng pointed out that banning tuition will only make things worse (Why banning tuition will only make things worse; May 10).
Rather than banning tuition, the principle of competitive exclusion could be borrowed from ecology to curb the popularity of tuition.
For that, primary and secondary school hours should be extended to a full-day session.
This will lessen the time that students can spend at tuition.
The extended hours can be used to help weaker students with extra lessons, provide enrichment programmes in sports, conduct cultural events or encourage active participation in co-curricular activities.
By channelling more time towards non-academic pursuits across the whole cohort, parents should feel more at ease with less tuition.
Students also benefit by having a more meaningful childhood that is not overly tilted towards academic achievements.
Of course, schools should first equip students to be proficient in the knowledge required at their level. But, having sufficiently attained the required knowledge, students should be allowed to develop skills in other areas.
There are other benefits from having longer school hours too.
Schools will have to increase their employee headcount, and can thus hire those leaving the shrinking tuition sector.
Longer school hours will also give caregivers more free time and allow them to take up full-time employment.
School canteens, having to cater more meals, can also be revamped into central kitchens leading to higher productivity.
Parents might also consider having more children if they feel less stressed with an education system that emphasises holistic development over academic results.
Koh Yeow Koon
School might actually be the problem
The intention of the letter isn't inherently bad -- it was trying to suggest a cure for the tuition crutch problem.
Indeed, it's a problem that has been going strong for many years now, no thanks to academic expectations,
a certain inspirational speaker and the general Singaporean kiasuness that propels parents to depend on tuition for that extra academic push they think their kids require.
However, without understanding the realities of current school hours, activities, culture, and expectations, the forum letter's suggestion about extending school hours is an overly-simplistic one in the face of a deep-rooted problem.
Long hours at school already
As highlighted by several responses to the letter, such as this one that pointed out that longer school hours would not enable teachers and students to catch a mental and physical break, much less catch up on homework and other duties:
Not to mention, school hours are already rather long, compared to average adults' work day:
And even if these longer hours were put into place, tuition centers might get around this by introducing night classes:
Although no one likes enrichment or remedial classes, it is one of the ways that allow teachers to help weaker students and is a reason for school hours to be kept the way they are now:
Perhaps then change should begin from the classroom itself and how Singaporeans perceive teachers, for any real change in our dependence on tuition to occur.
Tuition or no tuition, one thing's for sure: No one likes to stay beyond that last bell.
Top image via Ministry of Education's Facebook