“ADB Study Highlights Dark Side of ‘Shadow Education'”


It sounds ominous and is certainly an issue worth delving into but there are much “darker sides” related to corruption in education in Vietnam and other countries.  Put colloquially, there are much bigger fish to fry than private tutoring.  Let’s take a look at the main conclusion and key points of this Asian Development Bank report.  My responses are in italics

“Shadow education” is less about remedial help for students and much more about competition and creation of differentials

It may:

  • dominate the lives of young people and their families: There is a cause-and-effect relationship here.  In Vietnam and other Asian countries the educational systems are exam-driven.  Those who teach privately are simply responding to demand on the part of students and their parents. 
  • maintain and exacerbate social inequalities: Yes, because these services are based on the ability to pay.  They are a negligible part of larger picture of factors that “maintain and exacerbate social inequalities.” 
  • divert needed household income into an unregulated industry:  For most families this is yet another example of disposable income.  The industry may be unregulated but the consumers (parents/students) are well-aware aware of who the best teachers/tutors are.  They, in turn, command higher fees, which provide an important supplement to their meager public school salaries.   
  • and create inefficiencies in education systems.  Private tutoring serves two main purposes:  1) to supplement what students are learning in school; and, yes, 2) to give them a them a competitive edge on exams. 

One additional point:

Demand for private tutoring is partly driven by negative perceptions of traditional schooling and the belief that extra lessons are essential for academic success.   True!  The negative perceptions are based on reality. 

Like many things in life, there is something to be said for moderation in the use of private tutors.   There is a tendency among many parents in Vietnam to over-program their children in the hopes that they will have better opportunities, educational and otherwise.  The end result is that many are overscheduled and stressed out.

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