Tutors! Are you fed up of not having the celebrity status you deserve? Or are you a parent, sick of seeing Justin Bieber’s face plastered on your daughter’s ring-binders and pencil cases and long for a more worthy role model? Well, perhaps a move to Hong Kong is for you, where tutors’ faces peer down at passers-by from billboards and buses and where students idolise their tutors as if they were rock stars.
Yes, move over Super Tutors – these are the ‘tutor kings’ and ‘tutor queens’ that have whipped Hong Kong’s students into a frenzy. With their good looks and designer clothes, these tutors are considered akin to movie stars and often have wages and slots on television shows to match. Students able to afford a space will flock to these tutors’ lectures and tutorials whilst less well-off students compulsively stream or download their seminars online.
Many believe that this phenomenon is fuelled by high pressure exams and ambitious parents eager to get their children into the top schools and universities. Hong Kong has also recently moved towards a system very similar to the British GCSE and A-Level examinations and according to Kelly Mok, one of Hong Kong’s ‘tutor queens’, “there is greater pressure on students because there is only one examination that determines whether you get into university”.
This phenomenon is not isolated to Hong Kong since a similar enthusiasm has spread across Asia. In South Korea, 90% of primary school students are said to be attending similar tutorial classes and ‘superstar tutors’ are reported to be enjoying comparable success in India and China.
However, tuition has not always been well received in some Asian countries. The South Korean government tried to place an outright ban on it in the 1980s (this conjures up images of trenchcoat-clad, spy-esque tutors teaching students in abandoned warehouses…), but it could not be enforced. Since then, South Korea has deemed it necessary to legally limit the number of hours children spend in tutorial colleges. Although this may seem extreme, the argument is that students who spend their days at school topped up with evenings at tutorial colleges are often completely exhausted; it is not uncommon for pupils to fall asleep in class.
It has recently been stated that 43% of students in London are being privately tutored. We are, however, a long way from having our faces on London buses.
What do you think? Is this commercial success of private tutoring a positive thing or has this got a little out of hand?
Photo: Cary Hooper