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Mark Bray & Ora Kwo (eds.) (2014). Regulating Private Tutoring for Public Good: Policy Options for Supplementary Education in Asia. Hong Kong: The Central Printing Press Ltd.
Ida Somolanji Tokic[1]
Regulating Private Tutoring for Public Good: Policy Options for Supplementary Education in Asia is the 10th book in the series of books called CERC Monograph Series in Comparative and International Education and Development. It is authored and edited by Mark Bray and Ora Kwo, teachers at the University of Hong Kong; Mark Bray as UNESCO Chair Professor in Comparative Education and Director of the Comparative Education Research Centre, and Ora Kwo as an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education.
The main thesis of the book is that private supplementary tutoring alongside regular schooling has great implications on the system of values of new generations, on their social development, and on the development of educational systems. The authors felt the need to address the problem of private supplementary tutoring as it is growing into a problematic educational area especially in the recent years. Private supplementary tutoring is in an educational area that is not regulated or controlled which gives space for growing social inequalities and raises a large number of questions about quality of mainstream educational. Authors’ goal is not to put private supplementary tutoring under the spotlight as a negative phenomenon, but to make it easier to monitor and regulate.
The book is comprised of 6 chapters roughly the same size (around 10 pages per chapter). The remaining pages are Appendix, References and Notes on the Authors.
The first chapter introduces the reader with the main differences between formal (mainstream) and private tutoring, also referred as shadow schooling. It also shows differences between private tutoring as it has different tutor organization. For example, some tutoring is provided as one-to-one tutoring, small groups, and some are large scale classes. There are also different curricular interests in private tutoring. This book is mainly centered on subjects that are covered by mainstream school and it is focused on academics like mathematics, languages and science. It raises questions about educational quality and overwhelming need for private tutoring in the last few years. The authors stated that private supplementary tutoring is on rise because it is driven by the increase of examinations in the educational system. From pedagogical perspective, there are also issues concerning pedagogical approach. In search for regulatory frame, the authors suggest that more comparative analysis is needed to identify good and bad aspects of private supplementary tutoring. From policy analysis, it can be seen that private supplementary tutoring is well recognized as a potential problem if not regulated and different authors are mentioned as scientific authorities in Asia. The book puts private supplementary tutoring in Asia in a specific regulatory context due to differences in size of an individual country (centralized and decentralized countries), public attitudes towards private supplementary tutoring and its providers, cultural context, and corporate structures (tutoring provided by companies, students, or teachers).
The second chapter elaborates the scale and spread of private supplementary tutoring as it varies between different countries, rural and urban centers. Variations are found mainly in intensity of private tutoring and ways of examination. Authors present table of cross-national indicators of private supplementary tutoring for 32 countries in Asia. It shows the percentage of students receiving tutoring during primary schooling. It is also presented that private tutoring is mainly focused on core examination subjects and that gives more opportunities for families that can afford private supplementary tutoring to choose the type, duration and its intensity (which is not available in mainstream schooling).
In the third chapter, the authors explain why private supplementary tutoring should be regulated. First and foremost, they state that lack of regulation promotes social inequalities that have further social implication (socio-economic, gender, racial/ethnic, rural/urban inequalities). The second reason why regulation is necessary is the fact that private supplementary tutoring is focusing its attention on primary school children as their final consumer. The state needs to protect the child’s best interest. Furthermore, ethical questions are also important as it is possible that teacher providing lessons in mainstream school at the same time is being a private tutor to the same students. Overall acknowledgement of existence of private supplementary tutoring also has implication on educational quality. It has been known that teachers intentionally dismiss certain curricular lessons because of the high rate of private tutoring of the same lesson. Authors state that it is not only quality issue, but a form of corruption – teacher deliberately reducing effectiveness to stimulate private tutoring. That affects, in long-term, students and their sense of value. The last reason is taxation. Private supplementary tutoring is mainly non-registered commercial activity. As it is considered a category of non-formal education, taxes are usually limited on selling books and other material services, excluding intellectual services. That leaves open space for inadequate educational tutoring with no consequences.
Authors suggest different regulation for different actors in private supplementary tutoring system which is discussed in the fourth chapter. Focus is on tutoring companies, but teachers providing tutoring, internet tutoring and students and other self-employed persons providing tutoring are also briefly mentioned. They state that companies providing tutoring (in some countries even called franchise operations) that have more than 8 students per lesion and less than 20 students per day (depending on the state; i.e. Macao has threshold from 7 to 21 students, India has threshold of 10 students and so on) need to obtain certain licenses to operate in private supplementary tutoring sector. The authors presented series of registration requirements (everything from tutors, class size, basic information for clients, management, financial framework, fees, building and facilities to curriculum) as well as monitoring requirements.
Implementation of mentioned regulatory frame is discussed in fifth chapter. Authors suggest a form of partnership between private supplementary tutoring actors and mainstream schools, teachers’ unions, other government offices and public bodies of various kinds. Main objective is to improve practice through evaluation, self-evaluation and sharing of information. Certified personnel that manages registration and supervision already do exist in some countries (i.e. Republic of Korea). Still, implementation of regulatory framework must include different stakeholders as it is not solely the task of ministries of education. Recommendations are that the above mentioned implementation of the regulatory framework include registration of enterprises and tutors, inspecting premises, advising entrepreneurs, parents and general public, maintaining websites and other means of advertisement, maintaining records, responding to complaints and following up on infractions and breaches.
In sixth chapter the authors present their conclusions through future directions for Asia and other countries and regions. They call upon the efforts under UNESCO coordination regarding Education for All (EFA) movement and guidelines on main aims of education. Those efforts are seen as the reasons why shadow education (private supplementary tutoring) was not timely recognized. On one side focus was on providing education for all children and prolonging their education to secondary school and further, and on the other side the focus was on educational system that promotes almost exclusively learning to know educational pillar and examination of core subjects. That resulted in expansion of private supplementary tutoring in the last decade and deepened the social inequalities. Regulating rather than prohibiting private tutoring sector might give certain balance in the overall educational system (mainstream and shadow schooling). Authors state that further comparative studies need to be done keeping in mind the context as an important variable.
As an interesting reading material, this title makes fairly easy reading. Writing style is simple and accessible to wide audience. Due to specific topics of interest, I recommend this book to a large number of readers – from students of various educational profiles, educational experts, headmasters of educational organizations and to all educational policy makers. The book is also available online which makes it very accessible to readers worldwide.
[1] J. J. Strossmayer University in Osijek (Croatia), Email address: