By Ayman Belhiyad
By Ayman Belhiyad
Morocco World News
Tetouan, Morocco, August 21, 2012
While I was skimming through my favorite weekly newspaper, Al Ayam (August 2012, issue 535, p13), I came across a very interesting article titled: Al Wafa’s Dreams for a New School, written by Ahmed Zemmouri. In this article, the writer reported some of the measures that Mr. Mohamed Al Wafa, the Moroccan minister of education, stated and which are to be implemented by the beginning of the new academic year (2012/2013). What interested me the most in this article is what Al Wafa has stated about private tutoring in Morocco and his determination to eliminate this prevailing phenomenon because of its negative consequences on the Moroccan educational system.
My personal concern about private tutoring stems from two main reasons: firstly, I taught some private lessons when I was a university student, during the formation period at the ENS (Ecole Normale Supérieure) and after starting my profession as an EFL teacher. Secondly, the fact that I conducted a decent research about the same topic (Private Tutoring in Moroccan High Schools) when I was a student at the FSE (Faculty of Education) has wet my appetite to deal with and reflect on the aforesaid article.
Before embarking on the line of thoughts which this article is going to follow, let us, first of all, quote Zemmouri’s paragraph in which Al Wafa’s opinion and view of private tutoring are expressed. In the fifth paragraph, the journalist writes:
“As for extra hours, the minister believes that they are illicit. Those who resort to extra hours should be sentenced to local disciplinary councils headed by school directors because of the problems these extra hours have been creating ……” (My translation)
To deal with the quote above and express my opinion about the knotty problem of private tutoring, this essay starts with a simple definition of private tutoring, a brief summary of the main causes that push teachers and students to resort to private tutoring, some solutions to control it and, finally, my reflection on the phenomenon of private tutoring as well as the minister’s measures to deal with it.
It is not easy to have a clear and direct definition of private tutoring as a collective compound noun in that to define it, the term is to be deconstructed into its two main constituents: private and tutoring. According to the Online Oxford Dictionary (2012), the word “private” means: “(of a service or industry) provided or owned by an individual or an independent, commercial company rather than the state.” On the other hand, the word “tutoring” is derived from the verb “to tutor” which, according to the same dictionary, means: “to act as a tutor (private teacher) to a single pupil or a very small group.” If the two definitions are combined, private tutoring would mean the act of tutoring to a single pupil or a very small group, considered to be owned by the individual, independent tutor rather than the state.
It is very rare to have a comprehensive definition to the term either in the Internet or other academic resources in that just some related terms are found but not the term private tutoring. These terms include private tutor, in-home tutoring, online tutoring and so forth. My simple definition of private tutoring would be the activity in which some forms of teaching/tutoring is taking place between teachers or other knowledgeable persons (university students) on the one hand and students who are compelled to receive such lessons, on the other hand, for the sake of learning and advancing in a specific program to overcome any problems and shortcomings. Both the teachers and the students agree on the place, the time and the cost of the private lessons.
According to the research conducted about private tutoring in Morocco, the main causes which drives Moroccan students to receive private tutoring are the students’ will to fill in gaps in their knowledge and, thus, become competent for examinations. This means that high school students have many problems in their learning process, which results in knowledge gaps. These gaps make students incompetent and afraid of examinations inside and outside the school, hence, eager to receive private tutoring. Besides, some respondents contended that the students’ level is low in comparison with the school program level. Consequently, it becomes very necessary for students to receive extra private lessons to catch up and become well prepared for tests and exams.
Concerning the main reasons that push teachers to teach private lessons, I believe, according to my personal experience and direct contact with teachers who teach private lessons, the reasons can be grouped into three key types, thus, creating three major categories of teachers. There are some teachers who teach private lessons not for the sake of money but for satisfying the demands of some students or parents who are eager to do so. This is why these teachers, though they are just a few, ask for no payment and if they receive any, the payment is symbolic. To this category of teachers I pay great respect. There are other teachers who resort to teaching private lessons because they are in need of money and because their expenses are more that their monthly income.
This category of teachers, to which I am neutral, considers private tutoring a second job and an additional source of income. Sometimes, this additional source of income is more than the teachers’ salary, especially teachers of scientific subjects. There are also other types of teachers who resort to private tutoring because they have become “addicted” to such lessons. These teachers, though wealthy are they and better conditions they live in, can’t help stopping teaching private lessons. In being so, they resemble the many cases of beggars who, whenever caught by the police, are found to possess thousands of dirhams. What makes the matter worse is when these teachers start negotiating giving high marks to their students against receiving extra private lessons. To this category, I feel pity.
According to the research conducted and basically as the respondents in the study believe, there are many measures if taken into consideration seriously may control this phenomenon of private tutoring. Firstly, a student should not have more than 10 supplementary classes a week.
Secondly, students should have at least a two-hour break between the formal classes and private tutoring. Thirdly, private tutoring should not have any negative impact on the quality of formal classes: No contradictions between private tutoring and public educational classes. Fourthly, students who cannot pay for private tutoring should receive it for free. Fifthly, the Moroccan ministry of education should regulate the work of private tutors who are unemployed in the formal educational process. Sixthly, the Moroccan ministry of education should regulate the contents of supplementary classes as well as the methods and the techniques. Seventhly, the government should improve the quality of formal educational process. Eighthly, the government should consider ways of motivating teachers such as increasing their salaries. Last but not least, the ministry of education should promote, monitor and organize supplementary classes for students with difficulties in mastering school subjects and who cannot afford private tutoring.
Let us return to Zemmouri’s quote and see what the points of strength and weakness are in Al Wafa’s will to get rid of private tutoring. I think what is positive in the minister’s will to deal with private tutoring, in addition to his open criticism of this phenomenon, is his strong determination to face it. In real fact, private tutoring can be very detrimental if not controlled by the state, especially when it becomes a means of richness at the expense of students and here I am alluding to the third category of teachers mentioned earlier.
Private tutoring can create inequality among students, in which students who can afford the price of private lessons benefit immensely from such lessons while those who cannot afford the price may remain helpless, with gaps in knowledge and understanding. What I did not like about the minister’s will is the fact that he stresses the idea of punishment when he says “teachers should be sentenced to local disciplinary councils,” which will penalize the teachers who gives private lessons because punishment may be counterproductive.
Anyways, the minister cannot activate his so-called “local disciplinary councils” because there are some private lessons that are taught at home, either the teacher’s or the student’s home and because teachers will not approve of his measure. What I did not like most is when Al Wafa says that these councils will be headed by directors to “punish” or “deter” teachers who resort to private lessons. I strongly believe that directors do not have -and should not have- any authority on teachers, especially in Morocco where most directors, characterized with the old mentality, like to be authoritarian and bureaucratic. Both teachers and directors are equal under the auspices of the regulatory law. Therefore, the minister should think of other effective measures to control the phenomenon of private tutoring for the benefit of students, teachers and the educational system at large.
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