The classroom shutdown since March 19 owing to Covid-19 has upended the academic calendar, forcing schools and other educational institutions to move all classes online. Parents are concerned over the increased duration of mobile/tablets’ usage by their kids as well as pestered with nearly zero physical interaction of their wards with respective school teachers. In these arduous circumstances, parents are looking for countervailing alternates of class-room teaching and perhaps they find ‘personalized tuition classes following social distancing norms’ an easy and affordable recourse.
I thought this would be an apt time to share my childhood experiences, to warm about the risks and dangers that tuition-seekers face, and about which parents should know too. I do not intend to demonize all tutors and tar them with the same brush because we can still boast of scintillating tutors too. But there are a few intemperate exceptions. My tutors also were, by and large, very gentle and competent, having good command over their respective subjects. The warning is against those who are not. We have to build up a technique to identify those wolves that surround us in a sheep’s clothing. To add grist to the mill, I quote Soldier Educationist – Lt. Gen Zameer Uddin Shah, who also warns parents about this risk in his recent memoir – ‘The Sarkari Musalman’. According to him, parents need to be aware of the dangers that lurk and should educate kids about a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ touch.
Coming back to my tutors, the first one, a Ph.D. research scholar, was giving me tuitions in the 4th or 5th standard. Normally he used to teach me at my home, but one day I had to go to his lodge for something very urgent. I remember, his door had some issues and could not be latched from inside. So I directly got into the room and was shocked to see him almost naked in front of a class 6th male student of my colony. That tutor was dumbstruck on my unexpected entry and out of nowhere, told us that he was teaching human anatomy. In fact, he was a pervert. I had another middle-aged Physics tutor in class 11th. But one of our exquisite batch mates was not comfortable in his classes and was fed up with his predatory smile and conduct. That tutor continued irritating him with his bad-touches. He confided in us his distress and my entire batch decided to discontinue his classes with the help of our guardians.
Once, while travelling in a bus, I also overheard a person telling ( in a hushed-up voice) to another friend that he always preferred girl students up to class 8th for giving tuitions and bragged that he made physical relations with almost all those minor girls.
Now I would like to tell you about one of my friends, who changed my perception about tuition classes. He was the most brilliant student in our class. We studied together from class 6th to 12th. There was a healthy competition between both of us for the top position. For me he was different. He never attended any tuition classes and was a firm believer in self-study, whereas I used to take 3 tuitions for three different subjects in class 9th. Whenever I asked him, how he managed without tuitions, he used to reply, ‘Examples (before any chapter/exercise in out textbooks) are my tutors. Before doing any exercise, I read, try to understand those solved examples, and then proceed for the upcoming exercise. I could solve more than 90% of the sums given in the exercises with the help of these self-explanatory examples, and wherever I was stuck, would mark it and next day request teacher to solve and explain that problem.”
His approach was correct and encouraging. He was more confident than us who were scurrying place to place for tuition classes and losing our valuable time. As a result, he got plenty of time as compared to us even after school. He used to dedicate those hours to practicing maths and learning other subjects. He would finish the syllabus himself much before any term examination and revise the courses at least 2-3 times in advance. The remaining time he would spend in exploring the reference books suggested by his elder brothers, who were serving jobs in other cities.
Realizing the benefits of self-study, I decided never to advocate the cause of tuition classes in the future. Even now when I am a father of two daughters, I invariably encourage my kids to practice self-study. So far, I haven’t felt the need for separate tuition classes for them. For most of the students, the real need is, not tuition, but mentoring by a good teacher or helpful relation (including parents) or acquaintances, who understand their weak spots and may nudge them towards refinement. Alas! Presently, tuition mania has spread among most parents and it seems most of them have joined this bandwagon. The more their child goes for tuition, the more they feel proud irrespective of whether or not the child needs any tuition!
We must acknowledge that there has always been an assortment of children with all calibers. Some children pick up fast, some slow and some do not at all, and tuitions seem inevitable for them. In such cases, we have to be extra cautious, especially in the case of children, in the 5-14 years group, as they face the maximum risk of sexual abuse and exploitation by even their tutors and school teachers. This needs a continuous circumspect check.
(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s own and do not reflect the opinions or views of The Rational Daily.)