Education Minister John Phiri recently announced that Government has banned paid-for public tuitions in all the schools. No school shall be permitted to hold tuitions during holidays or weekends unless such tuitions are paid for by the school and involve all the schools.
No school, government, private or voluntary organisation will host learners from other schools to provide extra tuitions unless that particular school organizes its own pupils using the school money. Internally arranged tuitions which attract no cost at all to the pupil are allowed. The Government rationale for the ban is that paid-for public tuitions in schools disadvantage pupils from poor families.
The rationale is very poor. The ban does not really address inequality in access to extra tuition. People who can afford it will still get tuition. It simply loses schools money since it is not making use of spare capacity. Indeed, by shifting premises tuition may even become more expensive for poor students. Also it is the case that not all students that attend the holiday tuitions are from government schools. So it's a poor decision on efficiency and equality grounds.
John Phiri should have justified his policy posture in terms of PF's underlying ideology - namely the PF believes education is a right and therefore should always be free. There's nothing wrong with that belief. It has obvious weaknesses but is a reasonable belief that can be defended. But for John Phiri to argue based on "inequality" is inept. He needs to think much better than that!
Of course there's the serious problem that allowing teachers to offer tuition lessons to slow learners may have the perverse incentive of encouraging teachers to offer poor quality teaching in order to maximise their out of normal hours income. Those few teachers areeffectively exploiting the system. But the answer to that problem is not banning tuition. It simply requires effective monitoring and enforcement of expected teaching standards!
Good policies tackle the problems at the root of the distortion. This new policy is dull, disproportionate, ineffective and ultimately counterproductive in reducing inequality in education. It needs to be scrapped.
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Chola Mukanga | Economist | Writer
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