Private Tuition Essay


1In India, like most developing countries, there exists a system of “private tuition”1 parallel to the formal system of education to supplement academic support and to overcome school inadequacies. In recent years private tutoring emerged as major force as a result of both demand and market mechanisms. In fact, in terms of its nature, extent and importance it is comparable to the formal system or, it is like a shadow of the formal system (Bray, 1999). In other words, private tutoring acts as surrogate mother as schools became ineffective. The system of private tuition has been in existence in India for a long time but in recent times it has grown manifold affecting the very core of educational system. Though private tutoring is prevalent at all levels of education it is preponderant in secondary education mainly because performance in public examinations is an important aspect to meet increased competition for entering into desired academic streams and thereby to higher, technical, and professional education, etc.

2Research studies on private tuition are few and far between, even if the phenomena of private tuition are widespread and predominant. Further, studies in the Indian context are fewer. Biswal (1999), in his paper on “Private Tutoring and Public Corruption: The Cost-Effective Education System for Developing Countries”, examines the issue of private tutoring with an assumption that teachers in developing countries are poorly paid despite their status in society and also despite the fact that up to 80% of public expenditure on education goes on their salaries. He considers that private tuition is a result of poor teaching, low monitoring at the workplace, and conscious efforts to create a market for private tutoring or coaching. This he considers a corruption in the education delivery system. In India, dependency on private tuition to improve performance was found common even at the lower levels of education (Aggarwal, 1998). In the context of school-level analysis by Pratichii (Sen, 2001), it was observed that a wide practice of private tuition in primary schools reinforces the inefficiency of the education system at the primary level. The biggest sufferers of the system are children from economically and socially disadvantaged and backward classes. The study suggests a ban on private tutoring and the need for the well-off to join government schools to create pressure on schools to perform better (Sen, 2001). However, none of these studies focused on secondary education, in which a maximum number of students seek private tuition, although the issue has sometimes attracted media attention or been discussed anecdotally.

3The present paper is based on empirical data collected during 2005–2006 as a part of larger research study on secondary education. The paper examines the nature, extent and trends of private tutoring in secondary education in India and also discusses reasons and some policy issues. The data with regard to private tuition was collected from a random sample of 4,031 students studying in Grade IX–X in 49 schools from Thiruvananthpuram, Pune, Nalgonda and Varanasi districts in four states: Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pardesh, and Uttar Pradesh respectively. The schools chosen represent rural and urban locations; exclusive girls, boys and mixed schools; different management types; and good and poor performance in public examinations. The four sampled states contrast in their socioeconomic development. The four states contrast in education and economic development as well as in their varied cultural and political context. The four states together cover around 30% of total schools and 40% of total enrolment at secondary level in India.

4The next part of the paper briefly presents the nature and forms of private tuition in India and the subsequent section examines trends of private tutoring. The third section examines the intensity and source of private tuition. The final part discusses reasons for private tuition followed by some issues and policy implications.

5As the activity of private tutoring finds new means and territories, classes and sites, its nature and type also change in accordance with demand, groups and locations. Private tuition can be divided broadly into three types namely: home tuition arranged by individuals or by tuition bureaus; group tuition by school teachers, or by unemployed, retired and other types of teachers; and tutorial/coaching centers run by individuals or a group of people.

Trends of private tuition

6Out of the total number of students covered in the study (4,031),2 44.7% were seeking private tutoring for one or more subjects at secondary level (Grade IX–X). The extent of private tuition varies among four sampled states, ranging from 55% to 32.26%. Out of four sampled states, Kerala, an educationally progressive state, has the highest percentage of students going for private tuition at secondary level (55%), followed by Maharashtra (49.35%), which is both industrially and educationally developed. In Andhra Pradesh, the percentage of students taking private tuition is the lowest (32.26%), while Uttar Pradesh (46.67%) is just behind Maharashtra.

7The extent of private tutoring is significantly higher in Grade X compared in Grade IX. The average percentage of students seeking private tuition is 58.8% as against 32% in Grade IX. Since the results of public examination in Grade X determines admission into higher secondary as well as choice of subjects and streams, a higher percentage of students in Grade X obviously prefer to go for private tutoring compared to Grade IX.

Table 1: Students receiving tuition in different classes (%)

State No.






Andhra Pradesh















Uttar Pradesh








N = ( IX–X) = 4,031

8Among the four sampled states, in Kerala a high majority of students seek private tuition (71.58%) in Grade X; the lowest percentage is found in Andhra Pradesh (52.7%). Interestingly, Uttar Pradesh shows a lower level of propensity towards private tuition compared to Kerala and Maharashtra, but in Grade X a high majority of students attend private tutoring.

9The differential trends in private tuition phenomena in sampled states can be attributed to the social, economic, educational and political characteristics of the states, even if quality of secondary education is a common issue in all the states. In Kerala, higher literacy and successful universalization of elementary education have ensured a higher base and the state also has a higher transition rate at all levels, especially at secondary level. This means higher competition for higher-secondary education, especially in quality institutions where places are limited. Slow industrialization and high unemployment among secondary graduates in the state has probably also led to high pressure at higher-secondary level. The social obsession for higher education in Kerala also makes parents put pressure on children to perform better at all levels of education providing private-tuition support. More importantly, despite success in achieving universal access and participation, the state of Kerala has serious problem in terms of quality of secondary education (Sujatha and Geeta Rani, 2006). All this culminates in private tutoring, which is considered as a panacea. Consequently, a high percentage of students rush for private tutoring. The educationally and economically backward state of Uttar Pradesh has witnessed a dramatic increase in enrolment and the proportion of private unaided schools at lower-secondary level in the last few years (Sujatha and Geeta Rani, 2006). The state has almost withdrawn from funding for the expansion of secondary education. Of late this state also is characterized by increased social obsession towards secondary education (Chopra and Jeffery, 2004). Also, since this state has a poor and fluctuating performance at public examination, it is only natural that students go for private tuition during the final year of the terminal examination.

10Contrary to the other three states, in Andhra Pradesh the demand for private tuition is relatively low. This interesting trend can be explained in terms of a decline in both the demand as well as the supply of private tuition. The declining demand has come about as the indirect effect of administrative intervention through disincentives to teachers and head teachers for poor performance in public examination at lower-secondary level. At the supply side the transformation of most private tutorial and coaching centers into private unaided schools, and keen competition among private schools to meet the demand for quality of education, has led to combining tutoring into extra coaching in the school schedule before and after school hours.

Rural-urban differences

11The extent of private tutoring varies among localities. It is usually higher in urban areas than in rural areas (Bray, 1999). The present study confirms a similar pattern in India, with more students from urban areas going for private tuition than their rural counterparts. The extent of private tuition in rural areas is much lower at secondary level (29.03%) compared to urban areas (64%). A similar trend is found in all the sampled states, with the exception of Kerala, where the rural-urban difference is marginal.

Table 2: Private tuition in rural/urban areas (%)





Andhra Pradesh









Uttar Pradesh






Secondary N = Rural = 1,492; Urban = 2,539

12Surprisingly, the industrially and educationally advanced state of Maharashtra showed higher rural-urban difference in the extent of private tutoring, followed by Uttar Pradesh. The state of Andhra Pradesh has the lowest proportion of private tutoring in rural areas compared to the other three states, with an 18 percentile difference. This trend clearly indicates inequity in educational inputs not only in terms of schooling facilities but also in terms of private tutoring between rural and urban areas. In other words, government policies welcome rural and disadvantaged students into the system but, with compromised quality provisions, the students lack resources to supplement learning through private tuition. While urban and well-off students pursue additional learning opportunities through private tutoring, rural students lack additional academic support to overcome school and home-level inadequacies. Private tuition thus becomes an instrument to perpetuate the locational disparities in educational attainment.

13There are several reasons behind the higher prevalence of private tuition in urban areas compared to rural areas in most states. Firstly, parents in urban areas are relatively better off educationally and economically and are in a position to afford the cost of private tuition. Secondly, there is more competition in urban areas, of which the parents are aware. There are also tremendous peer-group pressures and a sense of guilt among middle-class parents in terms of neglecting their children, besides issues of social obsession and prestige. Parents also feel safe leaving their children in private tuition centers, where they will not waste their time watching television and idling at home. The phenomenon of the nuclear family and double incomes has given couples the requisite money to spare in sending their children to tuition centers. Further, in urban areas there is a greater supply of private tuition, which creates a demand. It also raises an important question about quality of education even in urban schools. In rural areas lack of economic ability, low levels of parental education and aspirations ,and limited supply of private tuition can be some of the reasons for the low proportion of private tuition in such areas. Kerala, where rural and urban areas are in continuum and have similar levels of social development, shows no geographical disparities in obtaining private tutoring.

Private tuition in different management-type schools

14There are different management-type schools in India. On the basis of administration, finance and overall control, schools are divided into three types namely government, private aided (privately managed but government-funded), and private unaided. There is a perceptible difference between schools regarding quality, efficiency, and clientele. This variation is also reflected in the percentage of students from different management-type schools seeking private tuition at secondary level. Surprisingly, the highest percentage of students attending private tuition was found in private unaided schools, compared to government and private aided schools (Table 3). At secondary level 65.72% of students in private unaided schools go for private tuition as against 55.06% in private aided and 41.47% in government schools.

Table 3: Extent of private tutoring among different management-type schools (%)




Private aided

Private unaided

Andhra Pradesh












Uttar Pradesh








15A similar pattern was found among all four sampled states. The percentage of students going for private tuition was the lowest among government schools, though this varies among the sampled states. While in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh there is marginal difference between government and private aided schools in the extent of private tuition, its quantum is much higher in private unaided schools. In Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh the extent of private tuition is lowest in government schools compared to the other two management categories of schools. Among the four sampled states, at secondary level the percentage of students going for private tutoring from private unaided schools ranges from a high of 93.5% to a low of 50%, in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh respectively. Among the government schools Andhra Pradesh has the lowest percentage of students seeking private tuition.

16The reason behind the higher percentage of students seeking private tuition from private unaided schools, including high-performing schools, could be for achieving higher scores in public examinations and to maintain the cutting edge. On the other hand, in the case of government schools, most students obtain tutoring to pass public examinations. Some of the private unaided schools encourage private tuition to ensure that students achieve good ranks to maintain the school’s reputation and withstand competition from other private schools. Parents of students at private schools also encourage their wards to receive private tuition in order to obtain a better ranking, largely due to their own insecurity despite the schools providing quality services.

17This trend indicates that irrespective of school quality parents are still not gratified with learning in schools and want more individual attention and tutoring for higher performance.

Gender difference

18When we examine the gender perspective in private tuition, which involves additional expenditure for household, this reveals an interesting scenario. Combined in all the four sampled states, a higher percentage of boys are attending private tutoring than girls, as only 39.58% of girls attend private tuition in comparison to 54.86% of boys, with a 15.28 percentile gender difference.

Table 4: Gender and extent of private tutoring (%)





Percentile difference

Andhra Pradesh












Uttar Pradesh








19Among all the sampled states except Kerala, the percentage of boys was found to be higher than that of girls seeking private tutoring at secondary level. In Kerala girls are in a more advantageous position compared to boys as a higher percentage of girls seek private tutoring. Among the other three states the percentile difference between boys and girls varies from 36.69% in the most backward state of Uttar Pradesh to 11.67% in Maharashtra. Further, when we look at gender and location, it was found that girls in rural areas have less access to private tuition, Helen2014-05-26T15:02:00not only compared to boys but also to urban girls. This trend existed in all states except Kerala. Uttar Pradesh has the lowest percentage of girls attending private tutoring in rural areas, closely followed by Andhra Pradesh. In other words, gender inequity in accessing education is reproduced in private tuition, especially in rural areas and more so in underdeveloped states. Firstly, girls have a disadvantage in reaching the secondary level of education, especially in rural areas, and even if they could reach this level they lack equal opportunity in obtaining additional resources in the form of supplementary tutoring. This shows that despite the increased participation of girls in secondary education in backward states, girls are still discriminated against in terms of educational inputs and investment, viz. private tuition, thus restricting their choices and opportunities.

Intensity and source of private tuition

20Among students availing themselves of private tuition, most receive tutoring in one or more subjects. The intensity of private tuition varies among the four states, as there is variation in the number of students seeking private tuition in terms of the number of subjects (Table 5). More than one third (39%) of secondary students go for private tuition in three subjects; at the same level, more than one fourth of students receive tutoring in all subjects. However, one fifth of students receive tuition for two subjects and only 13.30% of students opt for private tutoring in one subject. In all the states most students go for private tutoring in more than one subject, though the intensity of private tutoring varies among the sampled states.

Table 5: Intensity of private tuition (%)



One subject





All subjects

Andhra Pradesh















Uttar Pradesh










21The state of Kerala, the with highest frequency of private tutoring, also shows a very high intensity. A majority of students (67%) in this state receive private tuition in all subjects. Similarly, in Maharashtra, a high percentage of students (55.30%) go for private tuition in three subjects. However, even in the educationally and economically backward state of Uttar Pradesh, a majority of students go for private tuition in more than three subjects.

22When we examined private tuition in different subjects in rural and urban areas, it was found that 94.8% of students go for mathematics tutoring in rural areas as against 88.8% in urban areas. In Uttar Pradesh and Kerala a higher percentage of students seek private tuition in English in rural areas whereas the opposite is true for Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. A higher percentage of students receive private tuition in English in rural India, which can be explained in terms of the high failure rate in English and a lack of subject teachers in rural areas to teach English, coupled with poor standards at lower levels of school education, thereby creating the need for private tutoring to secure pass marks in public examinations.

Time spent on private tuition

23The duration of private tuition reflects the extent of investment by households and the perceived need and importance attached to the intensity of private tuition. Students can either choose private tuition for a full academic session, i.e. teaching for a full academic year, or take short-term tuition from the middle or end sessions (before the examinations).

Table 6: Duration of tuition (%)

Tuition session

Academic session

Andhra Pradesh



Uttar Pradesh


Beginning(full academic year)












Before exam






24A high majority of students (74%) joined private tuition from the beginning of the academic session for the whole academic year, while a little over one fifth joined in the middle of the academic session and a small percentage of students joined before the public examinations, with quite a small difference among the sampled states. However, both Maharashtra and Kerala show a higher similarity as most students pursue private tuition from the beginning of the academic session. In Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, a little less than one third of students attend private tuition from the middle of academic year. In Uttar Pradesh nearly 10% of students rush to private tuition just before annual examinations.

Source of private tuition

25A majority of students go to private tutorial/coaching centers, which organize tutoring for public examination. Interestingly, nearly one fifth of students obtain private tuition from the same teacher who teaches in their school, despite this being banned in many states.

Table 7: Students seeking private tuition from different sources (%)


Tutorial/coaching centers

Same school teacher

Home tuition













Uttar Pradesh








26More than three quarters of students obtained private tuition from coaching/ tutorial centers and about one fifth were receiving private tuition from the same schoolteachers. However, in Andhra Pradesh a majority of students (58.1%) were provided private tutoring by the same schoolteachers. The pattern is different in the other three states, where tutorial/coaching centers dominate in providing private tutoring as they cover more than three quarters of tutees. The foregone analysis and trends in private tuition demonstrate the pervasive spread of private tutoring at secondary level in India.

Reasons for attending private tuition

27Based on the perspective of students seeking private tuition, the reasons could be classified into three categories namely, academic, personal, and social. Academic reasons include the inability to understand classroom instructions, poor teaching, and to pass examinations. Personal reasons include desire to score a higher percentage of marks, and social reasons comprise parental decision, peer-group pressure, etc. But there is a difference in perspective, as students from government schools seek private tuition mostly to qualify in public examinations, while for most private unaided students it is to score high percentage marks and have the edge over others.

Table 8: Students’ reasons for attending tuition (%)


Government and government-aided schools*

Private unaided schools

Do not understand teaching at school



Teachers do not teach well in school



To pass examinations



To prepare and get higher marks in examinations



Parents’ decision



Because friends also go for tuition






*Includes government-funded private schools.

28Peer pressure and parental decision also play an important role in students’ attending private tutoring, though these reasons are more prevalent among students of private unaided schools. More than one tenth of students in government schools stated that they attend private tuition as teachers do not teach wellHelen2014-05-26T15:38:00. Surprisingly, the same reason was mentioned even by some of the students in private unaided schools too. The reasons mentioned by students from private schools also indicate the differential quality of private schools. However, one fifth of students mentioned that they go for private tutoring because of parental decision.

29A large percentage of students, particularly from government schools, mentioned the fact that they could not understand classroom teaching as a reason for seeking private tuition. Also, the largest number of students who attend private tuition are tutored in mathematics, science and English. This explains the poor handling of these important subjects in schools. Crowded classrooms, lack of subject specialists, teachers teaching more than one subject, loss of school working days, authorized and unauthorized teacher absenteeism, not completing syllabus in time, and lack of school monitoring characterize government schools, as education departments fail to implement policies and follow norms (Sujatha et al., 2006).

30As in many developing countries, public examinations occupy center stage in school education in India. A large percentage of students who join private tuition find it useful to prepare for examinations. Students going to private tuition think that private tutoring is very good and very helpful because students are prepared and taught according to the examination pattern; they know the trends and what could be asked in the examination, and how they should answer. The private tuition institutions have the (so-called) right method of preparing students for examinations and, therefore, they suitably put in the efforts needed for a particular subject. They help the students by providing the required materials, conducting frequent tests, giving feedback and suggesting suitable ways of study to optimize performance in different subjects. Above all, students receive individual attention, which is rare in general, particularly in government schools. Since they pay for private tuition both parents and students lay responsibility with and expect accountability from private tutors/centers for performance in examinations. Although the ideal role of the school is not mere preparation for examinations, there is a need to diagnose the gap between the examination system and curricular load, teaching conditions and pedagogical aspects in schools.

Sociocultural aspects

31There are also many social reasons behind the rise and growth of private tuition. Like in many Asian countries, a culture of comparing and competing with peer group, relatives and kin group, and the social obsession with education, are common social features of middle-class Indian society. For many a middle-class parent, association of their wards in reputed private tutorial/coaching centers is a matter of social prestige that confers a feeling of exclusivity. This trend has become more pervasive with the rise of stocks in information technology the great American dream. The norm of the small family with a double income has resulted in households’ capacity and llingness to invest in children’s education. Among parents, a growing feeling of inability to academically guide their children, and lack of access to neighborhood community, have also ensured parental preference to send their wards to private tuition centers. The culmination of all these factors, at the social level, will put a lot of pressure on parents and students and put them on edge. So much social pressure has the potential to destroy the normal emotional relationship and become a bane for the family and society. There are no simple solutions for social issues.

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Should ‘dead’ languages be kept alive in modern day A-level and GCSE curricular?

November 24, 2016

Should ‘dead’ languages be kept alive in modern day A-level and GCSE curricular?

For many, any mention of the classical world triggers the conjuring up of scenes from the current HBO cable network series, ‘Game of Thrones’. However, the fictional world inhabited by John Snow, Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen couldn’t be further from the real ancient world, that boasts its own group of notable individuals, which, although some might argue they do not possess the same modern romantic appeal, certainly have a charm all of their own. Another detail is, of course, the language spoken by the protagonists in such TV programmes. If it were a true representation of the era then the native tongue would not be English of course, a Western Germanic language, but a ‘dead’ language such as Sanskrit, Latin, or Akkadian. However, we can not blame the producers for not achieving this level of authenticity, for who would understand what was being said? Many dead languages, such as Akkadian, are nigh on impossible to learn, let alone draft into a film script.

So are they dead?

Whether or not dead languages have a place in education systems in the 21st century has been hotly debated, with many arguing that they are both irrelevant and a reminder of the class divides that have plagued our social system for more centuries that one might wish. But, of course, there is no excuse why anyone in this day and age should not be able to learn a dead language, even if they are obliged to learn it themselves, from a book.

There are significant advantages of studying a dead language which are often overlooked. The pre-occupation in today’s world is, ‘What can you do with it?’ In other words, can you get a job where it is useful. That may be the level of comprehension for some, but for others it goes deeper than that. For example, by learning a dead language (i.e one no longer spoken), you can learn the roots of many modern languages, therefore making modern languages easier to comprehend. More than 70% of English words have a Latin root. With Latin as a base, this could lead to the acquisition of a number of European languages that came under its influence, such as French, and this could stand a budding employee in good stead when applying for a job in marketing, business or even the Foreign Office.

But learning a language is hard, especially a ‘dead’ one.

The arduous task of learning Akkadian or Sumerian demands the student to learn over a 1000 different signs, with signs often standing for a number of different phonetic sounds or whole words. Not surprisingly, such difficulty is off-putting to all but the most dedicated. It is for this reason that these niche dead languages are only available at the most prestigious UK universities such as London, Cambridge and Oxford. Other dead languages such as Ancient Greek and Latin are more widely available. However, the social stigma that is attached often causes controversy in these politically correct times.

The study of classics was originally reserved for the social elite, therefore isolating any which didn’t fit the necessary requirement of being wealthy. The study of Latin and Greek is still rarely seen in many state schools today because, one imagines, they have little to offer the State, but what about the individual? Public and private schools traditionally hold up the tradition and, no doubt, find much to recommend them.

Another reason for pursuing the study of dead languages is the body of literature that it enables you to connect with the past in an intimate way. There is an indisputable beauty in reading original texts in their native tongue, for it allows for a deeper understanding of the text which is otherwise lost in translation. Looking for similarities, for example, gives a surprisingly humanistic touch. In Akkadian, Sennacherib, writing an account in the 7th century BC, about his campaigns, talks about pitching his camp at ‘the foot of the mountain’ and strange clauses ‘he came into contact with his mountain’ (i.e. he disappeared), add a further depth. More recently, if one wanted to experience such phenomena, then one might turn to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Middle English), Beowulf (Old English), Plato’s Apology (Ancient Greek) or The Vedas (Sanskrit). Additionally, the learning of a language allows for the opportunity to explore an ancient culture, and how the language and philosophy have affected civilization up to the present day. The information gained could be used when studying other subjects such as history or anthropology, giving both a deeper and broader subject knowledge.

Another reason for learning a ‘dead’ language is the many cognitive benefits that it offers, with the practice leading to improved decision making skills, an enhanced memory, and a decreased risk of dementia.  But for the practical reader who thinks dead languages have no value in the modern world, one is reminded of a CEO of a large multi-national company who was once asked why he employed so many Oxbridge Classics graduates, his answer is a gem: ‘Because they sell more oil’.

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