Is Economics Tuition Necessary In Singapore?

According to a 2008 survey, 97 per cent of students in Singapore had tuition and the tuition industry was worth a whopping amount of S$820 000 000. This figure is likely to have exceeded S$1 000 000 000 by now.

The question on whether tuition is necessary in Singapore, including economics tuition Singapore, has been a hot topic recently. Indeed, this issue was raised in the Parliament by some of the members in September 2013. In my view, the responses given by our Senior Minister of State for Education, Indranee Rajah, were pretty good.

The following are some of the common arguments why tuition can be counter-productive.

  1. It may cause undue stress to the students.
  2. The students may not have sufficient time for school work.
  3. It is possible to pass without tuition.

I do not dispute the element of truth in these arguments. That said, given that this is a multi-faceted issue, there are counter-arguments for these arguments which we should not overlook.

More Personal Attention

Although school teachers in Singapore are generally good, they may not be able to give sufficient attention to every student. This is something that every teacher wants to avoid but no teacher can avoid. As an ex-school teacher, I was guilty of that myself. As a result, some students may be neglected to some extent and hence be struggling with their school work. Without tuition, these students may begin to be fearful of not being able to pass and this can cause a great deal of stress for them. This is particularly true for junior college subjects such as economics. Therefore, many junior college students have economics tuition Singapore. Having an economics tutor is likely to be very beneficial to these students.

High Level Of Difficulty Of The Subject

Although students will have more time for school work if they do not have tuition, this does not necessary mean that they will be able to get the school work done. This is again true for economics to a large extent. Economics deals with abstract concepts which many students find it difficult to grasp. Indeed, many economics teachers have not fully understood some economic concepts. An example is the Marshall-Lerner condition. Even though some students are able to understand well the concepts explained in their economics lecture notes, many of them have difficulty in applying the concepts to answer essay questions. Economics tuition Singapore can be very beneficial to these students. This is particularly true if the economics tutor is good and experienced.

Competitive Education landscape

Yes, it is possible to pass without tuition. The real question is whether their grades will put them in the top 1%, 10% or the rest. The objective of tuition is not about passing. Rather, it is about excelling in examinations. This is not to say that students do not have tuition will not do well in examinations. Indeed, I know of people who did well in school without any external help. However, the question is whether these students are the majority or the minor few. Further, doing well in the examinations is more of a relative concept. For instance, the grade of ‘A2’ is considered a good grade by most people. However, would that still be true if everyone else scored the grade of ‘A1’? From my experience, most of the students who obtained a distinction in economics had economics tuition Singapore and most who did not have an economics tutor failed to achieve a distinction.

In my view, the tuition trend in Singapore is inexorable and this does not only happen in Singapore, it is also true in many fast growing regions such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, South Korea and Malaysia. In theory, one way to stop the tuition trend is to get all the parents and students to consent to a no-tuition agreement. However, such an agreement will involve a co-ordination problem that is insurmountable. Further, it is subject to the Prisoner’s Dilemma. If you have economics tuition Singapore, I will get a worse grade if I do not. If you do not have economics tuition Singapore, I will get a better grade if I do. Therefore, my dominant strategy is to get economics tuition Singapore.

That said, I am aware of some of the costs that tuition may bring about, although I believe that the benefits are likely to outweigh the costs.

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