Last Friday, my languid dog’s insane barking purported that either there was a break–in or an earthquake had hit Dubai. His voice had reached a crescendo, when equipped with a tennis racquet in one hand and a groggy husband in the other, I reached the gate where he stood tall in his miniature frame, anxious to pounce on his adversaries.
I saw them too. A pack of enthused cyclists – all aged around 10 years, violating the sacrosanct doctrine of a ‘serene’ weekend morning. These toothless daredevils, geared up in neon colored helmets and knee caps were whizzing past the tiny by-lanes of my community that was still in a comatose state, sending shockwaves up the spine of every sleeping body.
Although they were racing at Armstrong speed, there was something unusual about their motion. It wasn’t just forward; they were swaying from side to side landing on their training wheels secured close to the pedals. Circumspect, I stopped a feisty swashbuckler and humbly asked “You are a confident rider, why don’t you take the training wheels off?”
“Cause I can go fast on this”
“But you need to take them off sometime”
“ I don’t HAVE to!” he proclaimed and flew away on his oscillating four-wheeled two-wheeler. I wondered about the efficacy of this strange innovation – the training wheel.
Secured so close to the pedals are the training wheel; an aid or an impediment in life’s lesson on balance?
These training wheels are an allegorical satire on our modern day parenting. Do we, the overinvolved parents fix these training wheels so close to our children’s pedals for everything in life that these kids have never really fallen?
Are we raising a generation where the training wheels never go off?
Look at the tutoring industry; the biggest example of the training wheel.
Market research firm Global Industry Analysts, Inc had estimated that the global private tutoring market is projected to surpass $102.8 billion by 2018.
In my capacity as an Education consultant, I see a lot of students with straight “A’s” working with private tutors for years. Earlier, parents provided tutorial assistance to students when they fell through the cracks, mostly in the overcrowded classes of public schools, but nowadays, a private tutor is provided anticipating the slack in performance and sometimes, out of fear that their child will be left behind.
A tutor is hired before the students even try to tackle the new concepts on their own. It is exactly like the training wheel; the student is afraid to perform without the tutor. Ask the child if you can withdraw support and most will say ‘No’.
The fact that we live in a time where everything must look picture perfect and Facebook worthy has exacerbated the problem. All assistance must be solicited so that a peachy mark sheet arrives home in full splendor each semester.
Private tutoring, in most cases, does help avoid the cursed “C” or a blemished “B”, but if not deployed for the right reasons can backfire. Indefinite private tutoring undermines the students belief in themselves, makes them dependent learners and leaves them with no real self assessment of who they are.
LISTED BELOW ARE CERTAIN POINTS TO CONSIDER BEFORE HIRING THE SERVICES OF A PRIVATE TUTOR
Tutoring should have a clear objective:
What are we looking to fix? Gaps in understanding core concepts? New concepts? Speed? Silly mistakes? They problems may sound similar, but they need different solutions.
Teacher before the tutor:
Every parent’s goal is to make his or her child independent. The culture of tutoring breeds dependency and complacency. Knowing that a tutor is waiting at home, most students don’t seek the assistance of their class teacher. This dependency launches an apathetic approach to self-learning.
Children should be encouraged to seek the assistance from their subject teacher in school. It makes them more proactive than reactive towards their own education.
Tutoring should be definite: A tutor should be used as a medicine to tackle the ailments in learning. Like in an illness, a remedy is dispensed for a short period of time till the body’s own defense mechanism kicks in. So for the learning, a tutor should be provided till such a time that the brain has a good handle on the problem.
Focus on understanding, good grades will follow: Give the tutor a free hand to tackle the problems at the grass root level. Most tutors are judged on their ability to produce “A’s” and that sometimes forces the tutor to only focus on patchy surface repair work.
Don’t go ballistic if the student is still getting a “C”, as long as deep repair work is ongoing. Help the tutor take the focus away from the grades and reinstate the joy of learning.
Keep the training wheels high up: A good tutor is someone who keeps his/her students hungry. He/she should not be doing or even checking the student’s homework (it is surprising how many are made to do that). Spoonfeeding is a barrier in the learning process.
Finally, it is not about the speed at which you cycle or the number of times you fall, it is about getting back on the bike and enjoying the ride -without the training wheel.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”
— J.K. Rowling
Niti Kewalramani is the Founder and CEO of The Education Advisory – a premium boutique education advisory offering strategic advice and assistance to students exploring higher education options.
You can contact Niti on firstname.lastname@example.org