The demand for tuition in Malaysia has catapulted what was once a cottage industry to a million-dollar business
MALAYSIANS are accustomed to the tuition, especially in urban areas. Many would have either attended tuition classes or at the very least known a classmate that received tutoring in a centre or at home from a private tutor.
It has become the common solution for parents who want their children to excel academically.
In a letter to the editor published in The Star on March 1, 2012, Aida Tan said: “Parents and guardians have lost faith in the teaching methodology that resembles mass production without any quality check.”
She added: “Tuition has become an essential part of learning, owing to the breakdown of the school teaching system.”
Tan is just one of many Malaysians who have openly raised concerns over the rise and rise of tuition centres.
The boom in tuition centres is easily attributed to the perception that the country’s education system is flawed.
“Teachers are overworked, underpaid and they have between 35 to 45 students in each class. They now have certain key performance indicators to be met and they sometimes rush through their lessons,” said one disgruntled parent who declined to be named.
“I have to send my child to a tuition centre so that he can catch up on his lessons and ask any questions that he might have,” the parent added.
An ‘Asian F’
When the character Mike Chang from the television musical Glee received an A- for his chemistry exam the term “An A- is an Asian F” entered popular culture.
Just like Chang’s fictional parents, Malaysian parents also place tremendous pressure on their children to achieve good results in school.
In 2005, it was reported that, Malaysian parents fork out anywhere between RM200 and RM2,000 a month in tuition fees for each child.
According to Datuk Dr. Alagesan Arumugam, founder and managing director of Creative Education Intellect Sdn Bhd, this figure has almost doubled today.
“We have become a nation obsessed with A’s, so much so that most straight-A students now are not of the quality of those from 20 years ago,” said Alagesan, who adds that students should not be blamed for this lack of quality.
“We have good syllabi and policies in place but we lack implementation in public schools,” said Arumugam who has been a tutor since 1982.
“When I first started teaching from my home full-time in 1988, I had parents knocking my door at midnight to enrol their children for classes. So in 1994, when I decided to move into a centre, I had 300 students and it has been steady growth since,” revealed Alagesan, who frowns on the low quality of some educators in the tuition centres that have been mushrooming due to increased demand.
Quantity over quality
According to the Education Ministry, there were 2,967 registered tuition centres with 194,567 students as at Dec 31, 2010.
Meanwhile, tutor-student matchmaking site tuitionplaza.com said the number of tuition centres operating without proper registration is not known exactly, but is estimated to at least match the legally operating ones.
According to industry experts, today, the number of tuition centres is double that reported nine years ago.
Alagesan said with the large number of tuition centres located in the Klang Valley, students have been empowered with the right to choose, thus quality is not top of the list.
“Price is a major factor these days. Even though parents are willing to fork out hundreds of ringgit for tuition, new players are spoiling the market. Fees are reduced and they play the volume game,” said Alagesan.
Currently, Creative Education Intellect charges RM40 per subject. Each subject is taught for 90 minutes per session.
Private vs centre
Private tuition, referred to varyingly as home tuition, personal tuition, one-to-one tuition, individual tuition and small-group tuition, is also gaining popularity in the Klang Valley.
Tuitionplaza.com, on their website, says, “Many feel that a private tutor is capable of providing that extra push when needed because school teachers have too many classes and too little time for individual attention. Especially when it is a year for major examinations. Burdened by large classes, individual attention is an extremely rare commodity in schools.
“Tutors, on the other hand, will be attuned to the learning habits and skills of students that the teaching process is customised for maximum understanding and retention.”
Ahmad Hambal Noorsham, who has been a private tutor for six years, said he can earn between RM40 to RM70 an hour.
“I became a full-time private tutor last year as I enjoy teaching. My mother was a teacher and I have been teaching for so many years now,” he said.
Ahmad explained that tutoring opportunities are always available as there are at least five tutor-student matching websites in Malaysia, each with a very strong database.
He further revealed that a private tutor can earn between RM4, 000 and RM10, 000 a month depending on the number of students the tutor takes on, though it is not an easy ride to earn big bucks.
“When I started private tutoring, it was difficult. I had to build my reputation and now most of my students are through referrals,” said Ahmad.
Both Ahmad and Alagesan believe tuition centres can co-exist alongside private tutors as the market is big enough for both sets of players.
“Different students have different needs. Some require personalised attention and some can excel in a small group,” said Alagesan.