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Absolutely FASCINATING EU report about shadow education (private tutoring)

(106 Posts)
Bonsoir Thu 20-Oct-11 10:26:02

I cannot recommend this report more highly to anyone interested in the shadow education industry, from whatever perspective:

Happy half-term reading smile

AKMD Thu 20-Oct-11 11:39:10

Thanks for pointing this one out. I've just read the foreword - it looks like the author isn't a fan of tutoring?

AKMD Thu 20-Oct-11 11:42:48

Point 11 on the 'At a glance' list could be about teaching at A-Level. Most of our lesson time for some subjects was spent on going through past exam papers and learning to be concise enough to meet the time constraints.

AKMD Thu 20-Oct-11 11:50:58

This is the argument that I hate: "...critics claim that it adds considerably to existing social and economic inequalities [and] that it is a mechanism for the already relatively privileged to extend their privilege..."

While there is any social and economic inequality in society, people will always look to extend the effects of their privileges. Trying to force everyone to go at the speed of the lowest common denominator is an economically bankrupt policy. Gah!

Ok, will stop jumping in now smile

Blueberties Thu 20-Oct-11 11:56:18

I love tutoring. I hope as many people as possible do it because we need the knowledge economy to be as active and energetic and robust as possible. Bring on elitism. It's educated people who build and design trains, rockets, planes, bridges, iphones, railway carriages: who write and perform and interpret and paint : who understand relationships and progress. Bring it on.

CrossEyed Thu 20-Oct-11 12:51:42

Very interesting. Thank you Bonsoir.

Bonsoir Thu 20-Oct-11 13:00:11

I don't think the author has a viewpoint: this is supposed to be a data-gathering exercise for policy makers.

AKMD Thu 20-Oct-11 13:15:15

The whole paper comes put quite negatively on tutoring though. As someone who hasn't really the subject much thought, I would definitely say that the paper implies that it's a Bad Thing and that governments should be looking at how to tackle it e.g. 'even Scandinavian countries should be aware...' is used several times through the text, as though tutoring is an invasive force that the lovely Nordic countries need to protect their pure education systems from.

As DS is 20mo I haven't really thought about it either way. If he is especially bright, especially slow or needs a boost to get a C rather than a D at GCSE then I would have no hesitation in getting him a tutor to address his individual need. Classes of 30+ children of mixed ability and interest do nothing for someone falling into any of those groups, except the last.

Bonsoir Thu 20-Oct-11 13:18:52

Since the paper is looking at tutoring from a policy perspective, I am not surprised that the paper identifies a lot of the issues that tutoring throws up about growing social inequality.

As a parent, I am a brazen and unashamed user and abuser of anything that can give my children competitive advantage and we have a very significant shadow education budget (not just for tutors) in this household. Were I an official in the EU, I might think that families like my own were an indicator that something is deeply wrong with state education systems (among other things).

gramercy Thu 20-Oct-11 13:19:47

The question is, what is tutoring?

If I find pertinent books and engage my dcs in discussion about various topics of interest, am I tutoring them? I am potentially conferring on my dcs a privilege that other parents may not have the time/inclination/ability to perform.

Also I pay for my ds to have lessons in a subject that is not taught at his school. To finance this I cut back in other areas. So I have not been to the hairdresser for over a year (incidentally my own haircuts don't look too bad!) and that is my choice. We could not afford private education so I can't see why someone like me is presenting such a "challenge" for trying to mop up around the edges of what is provided as standard.

CrossEyed Thu 20-Oct-11 13:19:57

Agree with Bonsoir.

He states clearly what both sides of the argument say. FOR: Great for kids, boosts results, etc
AGAINST: Brings inequality

I feel sorry for researchers sometimes. Stating results is not stating opinion.

And yes, policy makers should be aware that it could potentially create inequality because it might mean they explore free provision (such as there is in Malta), improving schools, or whatever.

Interesting that in Scandinavia where schools are seen as better able to meet individual needs that there is less tutoring. Wouldn't we all be better off with that model?

AKMD Thu 20-Oct-11 13:25:15

Yes, if it's used to highlight failures in the state education system then it's a good thing, however as a hand-wringing exercise over how tutoring gives greater advantage to the already-privileged classes, it makes me cross. Every economy needs its superstars, just as it needs its manual labourers, and with the up-and-coming BRIC countries' labour costs shifting low-skilled work abroad the EU needs all the people capable of highly-skilled, specialised work it can get. Saying that everyoe must plod through a substandard state education system that provides 'equal educational opportunity' is suicidal. If well-off parents want to pay for their children to become the brightest and the best, that's a free benefit to society.

So, I agree with you Bonsoir, just not the gist I got from reading this paper smile

Bonsoir Thu 20-Oct-11 13:29:07

"Interesting that in Scandinavia where schools are seen as better able to meet individual needs that there is less tutoring. Wouldn't we all be better off with that model?"

Yes, I think we would. And the very first thing to do is to recruit more able candidates into teaching training, with requisite adjustments to salary scales.

There was an interview with Bill Clinton in last weekend's FT in which he pointed out that the segment of the population that used to be drawn to teaching (intelligent dedicated women) is now employed and making a lot more money in careers such as medicine, law and business that were formerly inaccessible to them. And it got me thinking: when I was a child, I was taught by clever and dedicated female teachers, many of them spinsters who were entirely devoted to the children in their classrooms, and, like most of my friends, I had an equally dedicated and intelligent SAH mother. If I compare the adults who educated me with the adults who are educating many of my DD's contemporaries (much less intelligent and far less devoted teachers than I knew, and home life with a Filipina or Camerounian nanny), I wonder whether a great deal of the tutoring industry isn't just compensating for the drop in quality of education and childcare in a generation.

gramercy Thu 20-Oct-11 13:32:42

It's also tantamount to saying that if you can afford £50K (insert stratospheric figure of choice) a year for private schooling, that's ok, but if you're in the state system and pay for additional help, that's not on.

Bonsoir Thu 20-Oct-11 13:32:44

AKMD - I don't think your crossness is justified vis-à-vis the report or the author. Don't shoot the messenger!

Bonsoir Thu 20-Oct-11 13:33:27

gramercy - have you actually read the report? You really cannot reasonably draw that conclusion if you have!

AKMD Thu 20-Oct-11 13:35:38

I wonder whether a great deal of the tutoring industry isn't just compensating for the drop in quality of education and childcare in a generation.

Absolutely. My SIL was originally training to be a English teacher for secondary-school aged children before she decided to be an all-round junior school teacher. I used to proof-read her essays for her before she handed them back in and rewrote huge swathes that were so poorly structured that they didn't make sense. Her spelling and grammar are both appalling. Her grasp of literary devices is non-existent. The fact that she would have qualified without difficulty as a specialist English teacher if she hadn't changed her mind is absolutely shocking. There are lots of dedicated, gifted teachers in the state school systems but the fact that people like my SIL can get through is appalling.

AKMD Thu 20-Oct-11 13:37:16

I read the report and found it interesting but leaning to a hostile approach to tutoring. I'm sure other people would read it differently smile

AKMD Thu 20-Oct-11 13:37:57

Your DH or someone didn't write it did they?!

Bonsoir Thu 20-Oct-11 13:40:18

I have no relationship to or knowledge of the author whatsoever! I am not defending the author (who is a nobody - this report was commissioned by the EU as a fact-finding mission), I am just saying that there is no point getting cross when there is no opinion (to my mind).

AKMD Thu 20-Oct-11 13:41:27

Ok, just checking.

Bonsoir Thu 20-Oct-11 13:45:04

Shadow education is not just tutoring and I find in France that it has reached horrible proportions that I would qualify as "third world" style practices were I not here in a country where the standard of living is so high.

For example, it is now almost impossible to pass the first year of medicine at university in France without enrolling in parallel in a private école préparatoire (a crammer) to get through the exams. The crammer costs many thousands of euros, whereas university costs a few hundred euros. Is it right that only the children of wealthy families should become doctors?

chrchrch Thu 20-Oct-11 13:52:19

Perhaps in some EU countries, there is a policy implication because education is of more variable standard, and not merely thought to be variable by parents who would have liked to obtain competitive advantage at pre-womb stage... This is true in some non-EU countries, where tutoring is a practical and not ideological option. If a child is bright/interested enough, within a short time say two years after leaving any UK/similar school, tutoring won't have done any good and may possibly have damaged their confidence.

That said, I can't help thinking people should generally spend their effort and money how they want. After all we don't mind if their shoes and clothes fall apart in a few years, why mind about tutoring?

Personally I've never seen the attraction of wasting what little time children have in their lives on tutoring. Mixed ability teaching may be a struggle, but such classes are rife in plenty of super-competitive schools, they manage decent enough results. It's actually quite hard to get a D at GCSE in something you like/have engaged with, if you recall that old style O level pass grades (1-6) only went down to C equivalent, and that was before grade inflation and the really really obvious syllabuses and examination material we have these days. But that's another subject altogether. As for post 16, mixed ability teaching is even more common, if you think about the gap between year 11 and 13. After year 13, ranges of ability being taught together increase further. Etc.

Children make the effort if they enjoy something. If they don't, and you can't ignite that interest, after you've had your way with them for the first eight or more years of their lives, in a stable and relatively well-educated country, how do you think a paid stranger can?

AKMD Thu 20-Oct-11 13:56:53

If DS was predicted a D in GCSE maths or English, I would get a tutor in even if he hated the subject because so many A-levels, degree courses and jobs require at least a C in those subjects. He could drop the subjects after GCSE but I would consider a good pass in them vital to his future.

Bonsoir Thu 20-Oct-11 14:14:21

AKMD - indeed, and that is how very many parents feel. As the report points out, some examinations have exceedingly high stakes attached to them. What price a bit of extra work and a bit of extra £ if swathes of doors will close if you don't get a certain grade?

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