Shadow Education: Private Supplementary Tutoring and Its Implications for Policy Makers in Asia

Report finds extra tuition doesn’t necessarily raise standards


One of the biggest criticisms levelled at successful Asian education systems, such as Singapore and South Korea, is that they rely heavily on after- school private tuition to raise pupils to the required level to get into universities. Parental and peer pressure   combined with high expectations lead to a pressure cooker environment which isnt good for children’s development  or, frankly, their happiness. And it is not uncommon in Korea, for example, for pupils to sleep in class during normal school hours to ensure they have enough energy to benefit from their after-schools tuition. That’s just silly. Students can work until late evening with these tutors every school day.

The booming private tutoring industry, is known as “shadow education,” and is less about remedial help for students and much more about competition and creation of differentials, according to this report produced by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Comparative Education Research Centre (CERC) at the University of Hong Kong.

In Asia, it may also dominate the lives of young people and their families, maintain and exacerbate social inequalities, divert needed household income into an unregulated industry, and create inefficiencies in education systems. But “Shadow education” is expanding at an alarming rate. It is already most extensive in the Asian region, and increasing proportions of household income are being spent on private tutoring,” said Jouko Sarvi, Practice Leader for Education in ADB’s Regional and Sustainable Development Department.“Policy makers would be wise to look at why parents feel they need to engage private tutors, and think about ways to ensure shadow education works with – rather than against – the mainstream system,” said CERD Director, Professor Mark Bray, who co-authored the report with Chad Lykins.

Costs associated with “shadow education” are also  staggering. In Pakistan, expenditures on tutoring per child averaged the equivalent of $3.40 a month in 2011, a significant amount considering 60% of Pakistan’s population reportedly lives on less than $2 per day. In Hong Kong, China, the business of providing private tutoring to secondary schools reached $255 million in 2011. In Japan, families spent a whopping $12 billion in 2010 on private tutoring.

Asian Development Bank  Author(s):  Mark Bray and Chad Lykins (2012)


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