Another dot in the blogosphere?

Tuition article misses the point

Posted on: March 31, 2020

I stand by what I tweeted yesterday about this newspaper article.

The article on the impact of COVID-19 on the local tuition industry focused on revenue and preparedness. What it missed was how context for learning and practice is key.

The writer had a very small sample of mathematics and economics centres that were doing well. This was in contrast with how a studio-based chain for music, art, drama, and dance lost clientele. How logical is such a comparison?

First, there are different types of “tuition” here — remedial tuition for kids falling behind; enrichment classes for those who want to (or are pushed) to go far ahead in curricula, or to go beyond prescribed curricula.

Remedial tuition might be more of a necessity than enrichment now that we need to restrict our socialisation. The WHAT of tuition (content or skills) is not as important as the WHY of tuition (remediation vs enrichment).

Next, performative tasks and skills are best taught and learnt in person. These rely not just on practice and repetition, but particularly on modelling, observing, coaching, and remediating.

If that is hard to understand, consider learning to ride a bicycle or to swim by watching videos. You could learnt these skills this way, but that ignores the social strategy and context, e.g., close coaching and positive peer pressure.

Academic pursuits like learning mathematics concepts and practising problems do not absolutely require such a strategy and context. You need only recall what Khan Academy is able to do with video-based tutorials.

This is not to say that academic subjects do not require social learning strategies. They do. My point is that the article was making illogical comparisons by highlighting how some agencies were doing well while others were not.

The article also did not pursue an underlying problem. Either the parents were not entirely honest or the journalist did not include this thought: Tuition is a form of child care.

Some parents would rather pay for their kids to be taken care of by someone else and some place else during the work day. They do not want to pay (or pay full price) if their kids get tuition via a computing device while at home.

This would require us to take an ugly look at ourselves in the mirror. But as long as journalists or their editors shift our gaze, we will not reflect on what matters.

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