If you ever get into conversation with mothers of children in Dubai, the topic of “tutors” and “which is the best?” soon rears its ugly head. Children all over Dubai are tutored at vast cost to the parents. This is true of all children, regardless of the type of school or curriculum they are following. What is going on here?
The pressure on children to do well, coupled with the drive to get into what are perceived to be the “best schools,” has created a demand. Children of all ages, but especially those in the higher years of primary, are being driven from one tutor to the next, often going to two or three different tutors within a week.
Are schools in Dubai delivering such poor education that parents are forced to educate their children in alternative ways? We know this is not true. The KHDA, as well as public opinion, is able to confirm the opposite. The majority of schools in Dubai deliver their curriculum to a very high standard indeed. Then why is this happening?
The reasons for this may well be varied and slightly more sinister.
Many parents work incredibly hard, putting in considerably more working hours than ever before. An increasing number of women are forced to go out to work with the rising cost of living and education in the world, including in Dubai. Children, who were previously looked after by their mothers, are now left at home solely in the charge of nannies. Parents feel guilty. They came to Dubai to provide the best for their off-spring and the daily reality of their children’s life is not necessarily rosy. This may well be why, the reassurance that their child is spending at least one hour constructively, is such an attractive proposition.
This guilt, however, comes in other forms too. As soon as mothers hear that several children are being tutored in their child’s class, they start wondering. This “wondering” works itself into a frenzy as they ponder the fact that the kids being tutored are therefore getting an advantage over their children - thanks to this additional “work”. Eventually guilt comes into play. Their child deserves to have the same advantages as all the others; a vicious circle has been created.
Should parents manage to stay outside all this, but their child then does not succeed at school, or get into the school of their choice, guilt comes round again: this time in the “if only” form.
This is not to say that tutoring a child is not the correct step to take in some cases. There are many instances where children may need just a little more “work” on a subject – let’s say fractions – to become confident in their use.
There might be topics children had missed out on – through illness for example - or simply through not having “got it”; further explanation, or a chance to learn it, from a qualified professional other than mum or dad is the best way forward.
Many parents who are are able to make time to work with their children, are not particularly able at teaching the topic in question. Others may simply not have the time. Others still, may have tried, but ended up in a battle, so rather than have a fight on their hands they get a tutor to work with their child. Some children take longer to grasp certain things and a weekly consolidation gives them the deeper understanding to work better in class.
The multicultural setting of Dubai is increasingly leading to children being “second language learners.” This may lead to a temporary disadvantage at school, necessitating a little additional boost from a tutor. (Any such disadvantage will soon be outweighed by the enormous and incomparable advantage that these children gain, of course, by being able to communicate in several languages.)
All of these are very valid reasons. Unfortunately, although the majority of the children getting additional tutoring do fall into the above categories, many do not.
In some cases it is merely a question of ambition, parental rather than the child’s, that makes these sessions necessary. Children, who are top of their forms, often get tutoring “just to keep up.” If they get a poorer grade, they get tutoring to “improve”; if they are weaker in one subject than the other – which, let’s face it, the majority of successful individuals are – they get tutoring to “catch up” in that subject, and so it goes on.
When considering tutoring for your child, do weigh up as objectively as you can, the true need for him or her to spend yet another hour pouring over worksheets rather than running around and being – well – a child. Should you nevertheless decide on the tutoring – do not let it become a habit. Limit the duration for a term or two. In that way the child will truly perceive it as a “boost” rather than a “necessity.”
Consider the effect on these children, unless of course they specifically ask for help, which, admittedly, does happen.
For many of these children, the costly additional tutoring becomes a tool actively undermining their self-esteem. They feel that despite doing well enough in class, their parents are not satisfied. They want them to be better, sharper, quicker. The pressure is on.
This article was written by a UAE-based professional educator, and parent, who has extensive experience as a tutor.