THE UBIQUITOUS TUTOR
In layman’s language a tutor aka private teacher is typically one who teaches a single student or a very small group of students. Private tutors offer their services to school and college students to augment their learning, hone their skills in the subjects of study in order to help them score superior grades. Gone are the days when one going for tuition was labeled a ‘dullard’. Contrarily, today’s students seek extra help and benefit from the support; the significant increase in the number of private tutors, particularly those of Mathematics, Science, Indian and Foreign Languages augments this. Numerous tutors operate from their own homes, at the students’ homes, or at local meeting places such as a learning academy or tuition centre.
By and large, private tutors work with individuals or groups of students not only to enable them to complete their assignments, but also help them enhance their knowledge of a subject. The principal objective, however, is for excellent marks, a prerequisite in today’s context. By identifying individual learning needs, tutors could extend the necessary facilities and learning environment, evaluate students’ progress to reinforce the classroom learning with intermittent testing in an informal atmosphere. At first glance, it appears to be a set of simple tasks – merely tutoring and testing. Unlike in a school environment, where the number of students could be around fifty, a private tutor, by virtue of dealing with a small number would be in a position to give personal care and attention. What then could be the challenges posed?
In this context, I wish to spell out that the private tutors attached to institutes coaching students for the Board examinations and Entrance Examinations are not the subjects being discussed. Firstly, the private tutor has to correct the mistakes made by the student while copying into the notebook. (No offence to teachers! nevertheless, the eye fatigue of the teacher is to be taken into consideration, owing to the number of copies evaluated each day, day after day…) Secondly, under the Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation system, students are required to complete a number of projects and reports, which involve reference from various sites. As a vast majority of parents happen to be employed, the private tutor is the expedient to offer valuable guidance in the project. And this, often takes away the ‘study time’ allotted for the students.
Further, tuition teachers do not enjoy a status better than the domestic help. Their absence makes things harrowing, the presence is often taken for granted, needless to say, without due recognition for the extra special effort put in, in terms of offering holistic education to children under their care. Often, private tutors end up babysitting young children for more than the stipulated time, just because the parent was tied up with some urgent work, hence, could not pick up the child in time. An attitude issue, more often!
Burgeoning tutor population and the commercialization of private tutoring is an observable fact in recent times; the lucrative business opportunities for tutors, partially because of the tax-free income they enjoy, more so owing to the flexible working hours in comparison with the high-flying jobs, that offer little respite. The work-flexibility has been the major cause for luring stay home mothers (SHMs) into the scenario. Not only does it boosts the self-esteem of the SHM, but also brings in ‘pocket money’ for personal needs – a big step towards woman empowerment.
Having said this, it would be worthwhile and rewarding for every private tutor to keep abreast of the changes in learning techniques in order to extend the ‘comfort zone’ to children under their care. Technology has been beneficial and harmful to children in the way they think and act. A sizeable number of children today experience difficulty in learning owing to multi-fold psychological issues. A private tutor who monitors and closely observes the learning curve of students would be able to identify such problems, counsel students if possible, else, advise parents to seek professional advice. As the adage goes, Prevention is better than cure.
Through meticulous working, the private tutor could carve a niche in the informal environment by emerging confidante, mentor and facilitator – all rolled into one. Quoting the words of Alexander the Great, about his teacher, the legendary Aristotle – “I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.”