Some correspondents have written to these columns expressing their concern over tutorial colleges. While I agree that the tutorial-school culture is prevalent among teenagers, I think it is not necessarily detrimental to students.
One criticism is that some students opt for these colleges because of peer pressure. As a student, I don't think this is true in all cases. In fact, many of my friends attend tutorial classes not because they are lazy, but because they are not capable of understanding what they have been taught in class at school. Tutors very often use interesting and interactive ways to teach and, more importantly, they teach thoroughly. Tutorial schools can help students acquire knowledge in a comprehensive way.
It has also been suggested that the tutorial-school culture may make teachers lose confidence in their ability. This may have some truth to it, but I also think the presence of these tutors can motivate teachers to reflect on their own capabilities and improve the way they plan and conduct their lessons. Regular school teachers can also find it easier to look after their classes as a whole if their low-achieving students have improved their performance after attending tutorial courses.
Another criticism of tutorial colleges is their focus on cracking examination questions. In this case I believe the exam-oriented education system is to blame. For instance, students' results for the diploma of secondary education (HKDSE) determine whether they can go to university or not. Students are worried about their public exam results.
Tutorial schools take advantage of this by offering lessons dedicated to passing exams. They understand the anxiety of students and realise such lessons can alleviate their fears. No doubt the tutorial schools turn a good profit from this. However, from a student's point of view, these courses can improve the precision of their writing.
According to my teacher, the Examinations and Assessment Authority plans to trim more school-based assessments. If this is true, then the education system will become even more exam-oriented. Other learning experiences should carry greater weight in assessments so students learn that simply being good at passing exams is not enough to succeed in the real world. This is the intention of the concept of 'whole-person development'.
Tutorial courses no doubt have their role, but I hope students will learn more spontaneously in the future.
Roger Lau, Lam Tin