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Why Do So Many Students Need Tutoring?

Ask yourself a simple question: if today’s education system were effective, how many students would need tutoring?

Your answers will probably vary. Sure, some students have genuine special needs that need to be catered to in a one-on-one situation. But should the scope of tutoring really go beyond that, aside from voluntary tutoring for people who can afford it?

The truth is, there’s far too much homework and far too much tutoring going on in the education system today. All of this extracurricular study is unnecessary; after all, schools have children for six or seven hours a day. That’s more than enough to give them a proper education and help develop them as people; why should tutors, homework, and other extra activities all focused on handling the same problems that were addressed in class even be necessary?

In short, why do so many students need tutoring?

The answer, of course, is that the education system is failing American children on a national level, and that tutors are brought in to not only supplement, but to replace shoddy work of teachers who are not able to instruct their children despite constant access to their attention.

But the problem may go a little deeper than that; the act of homework and extra nightly work in the form of tutoring might themselves be inherently flawed. Let’s take an unconventional look at tutoring and education and figure out what’s really going on here.

First Things First: How Necessary is Homework?

Of course, to suggest that homework and tutoring are the same thing is folly. But the essential idea –the need to be educated (whether by the self or by someone else) outside of the bounds of the classroom –  is that the classroom somehow isn’t enough. Even if tutoring is not a rampant commonality of existence in the modern classroom, homework is. So it’s worth taking a look at.

Looking at the entire picture, it’s first clear that children spend enough time at school to receive an education (despite the ongoing delaying of the completion of education from high school to college to graduate school, and so forth – but that’s a tale for another time). Children go to school early and get home in the afternoon, typically spending some 7 hours daily (or 35 hours a week) at their school.

The question is simple: why isn’t classwork enough? Why is homework required? What is it about certain assignments that could not be handled in the classroom? Surely teachers would benefit if more students were doing their homework while still at school; it would give them more time to respond to questions and more time to plan their curriculum as students are busy reading and writing away. Most jobs don’t require homework; should school?

And if the true learning happens not as students hear a concept, but practice it, should not more emphasis be placed on the practice rather than assigning homework as a kind of “away mission” of sorts? Teachers should be present to correct errors as students try and err; is not homework essentially the main art of education? Why then is it left to the home and not the school? School has less distraction and holds kids in some of the prime hours of their daily alertness.

With this approach to learning, it’s no wonder children need tutoring at home; they need someone present to help them as they do their homework. But formalized education should be schoolwork, not homework. It should be the work students are doing at school. And teachers should be there.

They’re not.

The Rise of the Tutor

The idea of a tutor is nothing new; private education throughout civilization has included one-on-one instruction for the privileged. Today it is often the same: those with the means to afford a tutor are the ones receiving the specialized instruction they so need.

But tutors have become commonplace, as well; they’re frequently needed to address a student’s problems with a particular class, to prepare the underperforming high school athlete for the requirements of the college that is recruiting him.

The simple question is why.

But the answer is simple. Aside from special cases, teachers do simply not execute the art of teaching well enough to prohibit the need of a nightly tutor. A class is full of learning only if the teacher talks at the children long enough to fill the period; why is a class, working in silent, not considered the same? If children were able to do their schoolwork at school and ask questions of their teachers on a daily basis, it would essentially make each teacher a tutor. In every interaction, they’re providing one-on-one feedback.

Teachers are not tutoring at school, so students are forced to find tutors elsewhere. And it’s obvious that tutoring is prevalent nearly everywhere, and at all levels. College students need tutors; high school students, grade school students, all the way down.

Is this an indictment of the entire lecture-based system of education that dominates American culture? Yes. If a teacher’s job is to do just that – teach – no tutors should be required. They should be voluntary and private, of course. Who would deny parents with means the ability to help their child’s education in any way they could? But the tutor should not be necessary, a way of repairing a leaky hole. It should be an addition.

It is not bad teaching alone that is to blame, however. There is also the question of the system itself. Where is the experimentation in education if public schools are required to meet certain standardized test requirements, or expected to conform to a predetermined Way of teaching? There is none. Competition and experimentation – true entrepreneurship – is the real future of education. And if education improves, the need for supplemental one-on-one tutoring should diminish. In fact, the best schools should find ways for students to learn one-on-one and bring homework back to school. That’s the best way to tutor kids.

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