Muscat: Residents in Oman continue to employ private tutors, despite the practice being illegal in the Sultanate.
“The ministry is against private tuitions. Home has to complement school. But parents remain busy at work and depend
on schools for everything,” an official at Oman’s Ministry of Education said.
“But a child is at school for only a few hours and then goes home. Parents send their children to private tutors because they don’t have time. This is more common among children in higher grades, but the ministry is against taking private lessons,” he added.
Although private tutors see this as necessary for some students, academics in Oman are split about whether the practice is beneficial for children. Several tutors in Muscat, the capital, and other cities of Oman charge fees as high as OMR35-40 a month, with as many as 40-50 students or even more being taught in one room.
P. Prabhakar, Principal of Indian School Al Mabella, expressed a strong opinion in favour of clamping down on private tutors.
“When children go to private tutors, they often learn one lesson in school and another at the tutor’s house. Tutors don’t necessarily follow the same syllabus pattern as schools do, and this only confuses students. I know there are parents and teachers who say that tuitions help some weak students, but we have already made arrangements for them in our school,” he said.
“We have extra classes for children, who we think are weak in particular subjects, at no extra cost. Teachers and students stay behind after the regular school day for these classes because we realise that education is important for all students,”
Dr. Furqan Ahmed, an administrator in the Pakistan School System in Oman, said changes to the system would help children learn better.
“Most South Asian nations that have schools in Oman follow the British system, which sees children coming to school in the morning and leaving around two in the afternoon,” he said.
“This is unlike the American system, wherein children remain in school till 5pm and they do everything in school, including homework, group study sessions, and interactions with teachers. So, there is more emphasis on natural learning,” he said.
“Tuitions are organised because that sort of natural environment to study along with the peers may sometimes not be available at home. Also, the motivation to do well is not there,” Ahmed added.
Eliot Wright, Pathways Programme Director at Muscat University, also spoke in favour of tuitions. “I previously worked in China and I needed to learn Chinese to interact with the people there,” Eliot recalled. “Sometimes, you need a private tutor because you might want to learn something in depth, and that is not available in a school. The sort of one-on-one attention that is given to students during private tuitions cannot be reproduced in a classroom,” he added.
“Private tutors are flexible, which means either you or they can adjust schedules accordingly but a school may have regular working hours that may not be compatible with your plans,” he said. Meanwhile, private tutors in Oman are now advocating a system to regulate their activities instead of the outright ban.
“The best children in a school don’t need attention because they have the intelligence to do well, but what about the others?” asked an expat English tutor in Oman. “Many children struggle at school and need the attention of private tutors. I have seen many children do well in school after going to tutors. So, this must not be stopped,” he said.
“You cannot deny education to children because that is what they require to excel in life. I have a mix of both foreign and Omani students because they are weak in English and they don’t get the same kind of education in school. If they do well in school, their confidence increases and they want to study further,” he remarked.
An Omani Math tutor in the country had a similar opinion. “If private tutors are not being allowed to teach, teachers and students need to know what is being brought in to replace this. You cannot simply remove a system that helps so many and hope that people will be able to cope, because many students rely on private tutors to do well,” he said.
“I would advise a system of regulations, wherein private tutors are asked to take tests to prove their skills and given a teaching licence for a few years,” he added.
Besides Oman, private tutors are illegal in other GCC nations as well, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar.