In this world, there has been a new trend in the world of education and parenting – tutors. We’re going tutor mad in an effort to supplement our kids learning! This isn’t just on weekends or evenings either, some parents are even getting tutors in during the school day!
Tutors come into their own when children are approaching exams. There are areas of Britain, especially those with selective education, where a tutor is de rigueur if your child has any chance of passing. It’s not just the skills involved, it’s the technique, the knack: and that’s what they deliver. There are tutors out there with lengthy waiting lists, and when the chairman of the newly formed Tutors’ Association, Thomas Maher, says his members have to pledge to be candid with parents about their child’s ability or potential, you bet they’ll do that: why wouldn’t they? They want results, and for every no-hoper they kick off the 11-plus course, there are another 10 kids eager to get a look in. They certainly are not going to be short of work anytime soon.
Tutoring isn’t just a UK trend either, it’s happening all over the world. Given the preponderance of ambitious middle-class parents across the world, that doesn’t surprise me. Nothing is as contagious as parental anxiety: where one mother or father is worrying about his or her child, you can bet there will be others doing just the same. If a child in your offspring’s class gets a tutor, suddenly everyone is at it. It spreads around like a viral email advertising all sorts of junk nobody wants. Nothing eats away at any of us like the possibility that our child isn’t getting every possible opportunity – and that’s not cultural, it’s human instinct. If a tutor can advantage your child, and you can afford it, you would be willing to pay for it. It’s that emotion and instinct that gives these tutors the work and opportunity to make money out of us.
The downside, of course, is that not everyone can afford it. And there’s the rub: because education is already far from equitable, and the metaphoric rise of tutors is only going to put the cause back. Being able to pay a tutor means parents can advantage their state school-educated children; what’s more, their investment improves the exam results of the children’s school, further muddying the waters. Tutoring heaps inequality on inequality; it adds an invisible advantage that skews the genuine quality of a school’s teaching and gives some children chances others don’t get. We live in a market economy, so as with private schools, private tutors are part of our economic landscape. But whatever their merits for an individual child, we need to be aware of their effect across an entire population. While it is not something I’m in favour of, tutors are here to stay while parents continue to believe in them and the success that they can bring. It’s part of culture now.