Mehek Malik, 11, would rather play than attend tuitions. Every day. After school. For all subjects- English included, which she feels she can cope with unaided. This, despite the no-fail policy that dictates no student can be made to repeat a year up to Class 8.
Her mother Zarna, a senior officer at a city-based bank says, "My daughter is lax when it comes to homework and revision and has an attention-span problem. I used to take up her studies till Class 5, but my work timings and the commute have made it impossible to continue. In such a situation, I have no choice but to send her for tuitions."
Both daughter and mother are not alone in their respective laments. With double-income households on the rise and various changes in the syllabus over time, have tuition classes- even at the primary school level, and fuelled chiefly by parental anxiety-become a necessary evil?
The working parent syndrome
Lynette Vaz, a secretary with a financial services company, says she prefers to send her six-year-old daughter Scarlet for tuitions because she only gets time to monitor the Class 1 child's studies over the weekend.
"I would not think twice before sending Scarlet for tuitions even at this age but my mother-in-law takes her studies for now," says Lynette. "Tuitions help because children need to revise what they learn in school. If both parents are working, and it were up to the children, they would not even do homework. When I do not monitor Scarlet's studies for a few weeks, this instantly reflects on her evaluation papers. As a parent, it hurts to see my child's appraisal sheet inked in red."
Why Class 1 students need evaluation sheets at all is another issue. Now that the no-fail policy is in place, many schools do not conduct end-of-year exams. The class teacher monitors each child's progress to notify the subject teachers and parents whether or not that child has grasped the concepts before s/he moves to the next standard.
Divya Kulshrestha, primary section headmistress at Children's Academy Malad, refuses to support the working-parent excuse. "Claiming not to have time to take up the child's studies is disturbing on two levels. One, because even working parents should pay attention to a child's studies. And two, such parents should spend time addressing non-academic issues as well, because if the child feels the parent is not interested, this will adversely affect their academic life anyway."
Working mother Meena DCosta agrees. A public relations administrator, DCosta refuses to enroll her son Myron, a Class 3 student, in tuitions. "I take up his lessons every evening after work. It's something parents should incorporate as a regular and important part of their routine. When I am educated, why waste time and money on tuitions? Children don't get time to play or watch their favourite cartoons at an age when that's an important part of their lives."
Some parents fall prey to the tuition culture because they claim not to understand the way subjects are taught these days. Parents are especially phobic when it comes to maths and the languages.
Chartered Accountant Bhavesh Gandhi and his wife Seema, a playschool teacher, are ill at ease with the Hindi language, so they send their son Dhruvil, who is in Class 3, for tuitions twice a week for one hour. "This is a new subject for him and it's not a language that is widely spoken at home, so we feel he needs extra assistance to cope with the grammar and vocabulary of the subject."
According to Anita Pandey, an English teacher for Class 1 and 2 at Gundecha Academy, Kandivili, "Students attend tuitions for two reasons. One, because the parents are not literate or updated enough to handle post-school studies. And, two, because concepts may not be clear in the classroom. As teachers, we try our best but with 45 to 46 students per class, individual attention is not always possible."
Melanie Chandrashekhar, principal of Bombay Scottish, Mahim, offers a different point of view. "I did my ICSE in 1972, and what we teach students these days is a watered-down version, so there is no question of parents not being able to understand the syllabus. In fact, I don't think parents need to sit with the child every day. Children should proactively finish their homework, pay attention in class and revise the concepts-that is all that parents should look into-how proactive their child is."