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Archive for November, 2012

Mark Bray’s Book Confronting the Shadow Education System: What Government Policies for What Private Tutoring?

Before reading the book by Mark Bray I mistakenly thought that Armenian parents were the most ambitious, the most attentive and the most caring when the question stood about their children’s education. I had such an opinion, because I had always heard that Armenians would do everything, would invest their whole savings in their children’s education. I mistakenly thought that Armenians could be praised at least for this common characteristic feature. I thought so because information from abroad about this subtle question has always been very limited. The information has been limited because there have never been serious investigations on tutoring and if there were any, the results were never published for ordinary readers. Last year, when our school simulation court was considering this problem, I carried out a brief investigation on the Internet which was published in our school electronic magazine “Dpir” 38. I was mainly interested in such developed countries as Japan, Finland, Germany and Australia. I found out that only in Germany and Finland they don’t have the problem of tutoring the school aged children as in these countries enormous financial investments are performed in the systems of public education. It is enough to mention that the population of Finland is about 5,4 million and they spend nearly 5,9 billion Euros on public education at schools. At the end of my article I came to the conclusion that as long as our government can’t invest enough money in public education to ensure desirable quality for public education, parents have to turn to tutors for help. We can’t blame the chief clients of public education, the parents for their wish to cover the white stains or blank spaces of our public education on their own expenses, neither can we consider tutoring to be “a defective phenomenon”. This phenomenon exists in nearly all the countries beginning from elementary schools continuing in middle schools and ending up in high schools and they do not consider it a weed which should be pulled out with its roots. Just on the contrary, they study the reasons that make parents turn to tutors, more clearly see the drawbacks at public schools, study the individual approach practiced by skilled tutors.

With this respect the book by Mark Bray, Professor of Hong Kong University, Director professor of Comparative Education Research Center of UNESCO, “Confronting the Shadow Education System: What Government Policies for What Private Tutoring?” is an unprecedented event. The presentation of the Armenian translation took place at the French University in Armenia on October 19, 2012.

The most valuable thing in Mark Bray’s book is that the author doesn’t treat tutoring as a weed which is to be pulled out with its roots. According to the information in the book 73,8% of the elementary, 65,6%  of the middle and 53,5% of the high school  learners in China get tutoring. In India 32% of the middle 50% of the high school learners turn to tutors for their service. There is also information about our neighboring countries Georgia and Azerbaijan. In these countries accordingly 81,2% and 95% of the learners tutors’ service.

We have approximately the same picture in other developing and developed countries of Africa and Asia. For example, in Japan shadow educational system has had a long history and has come to a significant amounts.

In this book we can find considerations of merits and demerits, week points and strong points of non formal private education. As the most important strong point of tutoring is that it helps learners to learn and in this way it makes human mental potential more powerful which may in its turn favour the economical growth of the country. To prove this we can bring the example of one of the most developed eastern countries, South Korea, where 88% of the school learners get non formal private education.

The author of the book also points out some serious negative, week points of the shadow education:

·         It preserves and even deepens the social and economical inequalities.

·         Tutoring may become prevailing part in children’s lives limiting their spare time and making their childhood unnecessarily troublesome.

·         In some cases it may be considered a sort of corruption.

Mark Bray has also promulgated different forms of tutoring practiced in different countries:

·         Individual tutoring, learner-tutor

·         Group tutoring, tutor-group of learners

·         Distant tutoring through the Internet (using the skype)

The reasons that cause tutoring in different countries are also interesting. For example, it is stated that the teachers of the former Soviet Republics consider tutoring to be a means of improving their insufficient income. Reading this statement I came to the conclusion that the teachers in Japan and South Korea where their salaries are very high, view tutoring as a means of building the bright future of their younger generation.

This comparison is very much like the well known fable by Aesop: A passer-by asked a workman in a construction site what he was doing. The workman answered that he was carrying heavy stones to earn his daily bread. When the passer-by asked a second workman, who was also carrying a heavy stone, he answered that he was helping to construct a cathedral.

Then the author writes that the governments of different countries have always confronted shadow education by using different strategies. TV lessons are conducted my prominent specialists, specialized classes are opened in public schools but the experience all over the world and already performed investigations show that administrative prohibition of shadow education in its different forms is not perspective. On the contrary, all the attepts of prohibition lead to more intensive tutoring.

During the presentation of Mark Bray’s book different speakers noted that corresponding surveys or investigations on shadow education haven’t been done in Armenia. This problem has been qualified as a “defective phenomenon”, a “remain of the past” which is preserved by inertia. Armenian parents turn to tutors for their service mainly when their children are to take school leaving and university entrance exams. Is the level of our formal public education at schools so high? Is it as high as it is in Germany or Finland? Of course not, but why do Armenian parents worry about their children’s education only in the final year of high school? That’s a question that can’t be answered without proper surveys and investigations.

Yura Ganjalyan

EFL teacher of “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” Educomplex

October 25, 2012

I sent this article to Mark Gray and here is what he answered:


Dear Mr Ganjalyan:

It was a pleasure to meet you at the time of the launch of the book, and I am delighted that you have been inspired by it to write an article.  Thank you so much for even having taken the trouble to write an English version of your article, for my benefit. I greatly appreciate that.

I am uncertain if Arayik Navoyan sent you an electronic version of the book. If it is not yet on a website, it soon will be. Meanwhile, I am attaching a copy which you could distribute to people who would be interested.And meanwhile, I also call to your attention the sequel (in English only) which can be downloaded from:http://www.fe.hku.hk/cerc/Publications/monograph_no_9.htm .

Do please let me know about any further developments from your side on this theme. And meanwhile I send best wishes,

Mark Bray