Students in Tunisia are turning to private tutoring out of disappointment at the school system.
by Xinhua writers Xu Supei, Ayten Laamar, Huang Ling
TUNIS, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- In recent years, private tutoring has become a cause of growing concern in Tunisia, as it starts earlier and earlier among students, with quite a few first-graders taking private lessons after school.
Imen Ben Khelifa, a mother of three, told Xinhua that many students in Tunisia take private lessons from the first year of primary school in order to "lay a solid foundation for future studies."
For Jouhaina Amri, a 12-year-old girl in the seventh grade, private tutoring has long been a "nightmare" to her.
"I don't have a day off to rest even on the weekend, which makes me stressed and unhappy," Amri complained, adding that her mother always pushed her to become a top student in the class.
"The phenomenon (of private tutoring) continues throughout a (Tunisian) student's schooling and reaches its peak before getting the baccalaureate," Raouf Laroussi, researcher and teacher at the National Engineering School of Tunis, said in an article published recently in the news website Kapitalis.
He added that in addition to maths and physics, the most popular subjects for tutoring, other subjects are joining the private tutoring club.
"There are now even private lessons of philosophy," Laroussi said.
It is the same story in other countries. According to a report published in May by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, a Germany-based nonprofit research institute focusing on the analysis of global labor markets, students are increasingly turning to private tutoring, mainly in developing countries, as a result of the relatively unsatisfactory education quality offered by some formal educational institutions.
Compared to the degree of importance Tunisian parents attached to private tutoring, the overall education level in the North African country is worrying.
Tunisia is facing a severe learning crisis among the majority of its students, the Arab Barometer research network said in a report in 2021.
According to the report, the rise in the number of graduates was not accompanied by a commensurate improvement in quality in Tunisia. In the 2015 evaluation by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international assessment that measures 15-year-old students' reading, mathematics, and science literacy every three years, Tunisia ranked 66th out of 70 participating countries and the majority of the participating students scored below the proficiency level.
Will private tutoring effectively enhance the performance of students? Possibly, but many Tunisian parents resort to it out of disappointment at the school system.
In 2021, a region-wide poll found that 77 percent of respondents in Tunisia were dissatisfied with education, which is more than in any other country in North Africa, according to the Middle East Institute, a Washington-based institution dedicated to the study of the Middle East.
Although against private tutoring, Meriem Trigui, a gynecologist and a mother of two, still let her children take private lessons.
"Private tutoring has become a necessary supplement as the school courses are not always satisfying," Trigui said, adding that private lessons are becoming more of a burden for families, as their shares in household education budgets continue to increase.
The average private tuition for each subject is from 100 Tunisian dinars (about 30.7 U.S. dollars) to 200 dinars per month, according to the parents Xinhua interviewed. This is a heavy burden for families with several children.
Besides, some teachers prefer to offer fee-based tutoring after school due to their comparatively low salary, which further encourages some teachers to not give their best effort in class.
Mohamed Ben Ammar, a 55-year-old primary school teacher, told Xinhua that some teachers coerce their students into using their private tutoring services to make more money.
"Private tutoring has further deepened the gaps between students," Ammar said, adding that education represents an increasing cost for families that can afford it, and a decreasing value for those who cannot.