ADB Study Highlights Dark Side of 'Shadow Education'

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The booming private tutoring industry, known as “shadow education,” is less about remedial help for students and much more about competition and creation of differentials, according to a new report produced by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Comparative Education Research Centre (CERC) at the University of Hong Kong.

In Asia, it may also dominate the lives of young people and their families, maintain and exacerbate social inequalities, divert needed household income into an unregulated industry, and create inefficiencies in education systems.

“Shadow education is expanding at an alarming rate. It is already most extensive in the Asian region, and increasing proportions of household income are being spent on private tutoring,” said Jouko Sarvi, Practice Leader for Education in ADB’s Regional and Sustainable Development Department.

“Policy makers would be wise to look at why parents feel they need to engage private tutors, and think about ways to ensure shadow education works with – rather than against – the mainstream system,” said CERD Director, Professor Mark Bray, who co-authored the report with Chad Lykins.

Costs associated with “shadow education” are staggering. In Pakistan, expenditures on tutoring per child averaged the equivalent of $3.40 a month in 2011, a significant amount considering 60% of Pakistan’s population reportedly lives on less than $2 per day. In Hong Kong, China, the business of providing private tutoring to secondary schools reached $255 million in 2011. In Japan, families spent a whopping $12 billion in 2010 on private tutoring.

The demand for private tutoring is partly driven by negative perceptions of traditional schooling and the belief that extra lessons are essential for academic success. However, private tutoring is not always effective in raising academic achievement; and in some schools students commonly skip classes or sleep through lessons because they are tired after excessive external study. This means that the shadow system can make regular schooling less efficient.

Some teachers are also focusing more on private lessons than regular classes, leading to another cause of inefficiency. Especially problematic are situations in which teachers provide extra private lessons for pupils for whom they are already responsible in the public system. This can lead to corruption when teachers deliberately teach less in their regular classes in order to promote the market for private lessons.

The report says policymakers across the region need to take a closer look at how shadow education affects family budgets, children’s time, and national education systems. Policymakers should then design regulations to protect consumers while focusing on improvement in mainstream schools in order to reduce the need for private lessons.

For a copy of the report, please visit: http://bit.ly/KNhk65.