ArticlePDF Available

The effectiveness of private tutoring: Students' perceptions in comparison with mainstream schooling in Hong Kong

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

This paper examines Hong Kong students’ perceptions on the effectiveness of private supplementary tutoring relative to mainstream schooling. Drawing on survey and interview data, it shows that large proportions of secondary school students receive private tutoring. Students generally perceive private tutoring and private tutors to be more effective in the provision of examination support compared with mainstream schooling and teachers. However, perceptions vary according to students’ self-reported academic levels and motives for taking private tutoring. The operations of the parallel sector of private tutoring have significant implications for the nature of schooling and therefore need to be considered by teachers and school administrators. The Hong Kong data contribute to the international analysis of private tutoring and add a significant component to the wider conceptual literature.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Title The effectiveness of private tutoring: students’ perceptions in
comparison with mainstream schooling in Hong Kong.
Author(s) Zhan, S; Bray, TM; Wang, D; Lykins, CR; Kwo, OWY
Citation Asia Pacific Education Review, 2013, v. 14 n. 4, p. 495-509
Issued Date 2013
URL http://hdl.handle.net/10722/184784
Rights The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com
1
Published 2013 in Asia Pacific Education Review, Vol.14, No.4, pp.495-509
The Effectiveness of Private Tutoring:
Students’ Perceptions in Comparison with Mainstream Schooling in Hong Kong
Authors: Shengli ZHAN, Mark BRAY, Dan WANG, Chad LYKINS & Ora KWO
Shengli Zhan (corresponding author)
The University of Hong Kong, 852-6094 6006, 852-2517 4737, email: slzhan@hku.hk
Mailing address: Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
Mark Bray
Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Email: mbray@hku.hk.
Dan Wang
Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Email: danwang@hku.hk.
Chad Lykins
Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Email: chad.r.lykins@gmail.com.
Ora Kwo
Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Email: wykwo@hku.hk.
Key words: private tutoring, shadow education, perceived effectiveness, examinations
Abstract
This paper examines Hong Kong students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of private supplementary tutoring
relative to mainstream schooling. Drawing on survey and interview data, it shows that large proportions of
secondary school students receive private tutoring. Students generally perceive private tutoring and private
tutors to be more effective in the provision of examination support compared with mainstream schooling and
teachers. However, perceptions vary according to students’ self-reported academic levels and motives for
taking private tutoring. The operations of the parallel sector of private tutoring have significant implications
for the nature of schooling, and therefore need to be considered by teachers and school administrators. The
Hong Kong data contribute to the international analysis of private tutoring, and add a significant component to
the wider conceptual literature.
2
The Effectiveness of Private Tutoring:
Students’ Perceptions in Comparison with Mainstream Schooling in Hong Kong
Introduction
Mainstream schools have long been recognized as the principal institutional channel through which societies
educate their young. Alongside mainstream schooling, the last few decades have brought rapid growth of
parallel avenues through which young people gain knowledge and skills. This paper focuses on private (fee-
paying) tutoring in academic subjects received by students as a supplement to their regular schooling (Bray,
1999, 2009, 2010). It adds to the research literature which is still in its infancy but expanding significantly,
especially in East Asia (e.g. Bray 2009; Dang 2007; de Castro and de Guzman 2010; Ho and Kwong 2008;
Lee et al. 2009; Zhang 2013).
In Hong Kong, forms of private supplementary tutoring are readily visible through company
advertisements on buses, in shopping malls and in newspapers (Kwo and Bray 2011). This type of tutoring is
through organized classes, in contrast to tutoring through informal arrangements on a one-on-one or small-
group basis. A government survey of 6,100 households in 2004/05 indicated that 36.0% of households with
primary-aged children were paying for some kind of supplementary tutoring, and that corresponding
proportions were 28.0% in lower secondary, 33.6% in upper secondary, and 48.1% in sixth form or equivalent
(Hong Kong, Census and Statistics Department 2005: 23). A smaller survey conducted five years later found
that 73.5% of sampled secondary students were receiving tutoring and that another 7.9% had previously
received private tutoring (Caritas 2010). Among the Grade 9 students surveyed in the research reported in the
present paper, 53.8% were receiving tutoring in 2011/12; and the corresponding figure for Grade 12 was
71.8%.
The public view on private tutoring is not wholly positive. Critics argue that the examination-oriented
drilling associated with some sorts of tutoring undermines dimensions of students’ long-term learning (Ho
2009b; Ngai et al. 2013). They add that reliance on private tutors may damage students’ independent-learning
abilities (Ho and Kwong 2008; Caritas 2010). Yet the strength of demand for tutoring raises the question
whether mainstream schooling is in some way inadequate.
Although the payments for most tutoring are made by parents, students are the primary consumers.
Especially in the upper grades of secondary schooling, students play a major role in deciding the subjects,
formats, and persons from whom they receive tutoring. As such, the views of students on the nature of
tutoring that they desire (or feel that they can manage without) have implications not only for family
expenditures but also for the nature of their regular schooling. However, little systematic information has been
collected either in Hong Kong or elsewhere about students perceptions of the quality and effectiveness of
tutoring of various types.
Addressing this theme, the paper has six main sections. It begins with the broad literature on private
tutoring and on effectiveness before turning to the precise themes which the research addressed. Next the
paper describes the context of mainstream schooling and private tutoring in Hong Kong, and the research
3
methods. The findings comprise the core of the paper, and are presented in the following section. Finally the
paper discusses the implications of these findings both for Hong Kong and more broadly.
Relationships between private tutoring and mainstream schooling
The relationships between private tutoring and mainstream schooling have been described in many ways.
Marimuthu et al. (1991: vi) used the metaphor of “shadow education” to describe private tutoring, with
mainstream schooling being viewed as the primary institution. Bray (1999: 17) extended the shadow metaphor,
noting its appropriateness in four ways:
First, private supplementary tutoring only exists because the mainstream education exists; second, as
the size and shape of the mainstream system change, so do the size and shape of supplementary
tutoring; third, in almost all societies much more public attention focuses on the mainstream than on
its shadow; and fourth, the features of the shadow system are much less distinct than those of the
mainstream system.
The metaphor of private tutoring as a shadow also draws attention to ways in which private tutoring
reproduces inequalities in mainstream schooling and wider societies. Prosperous families can afford greater
amounts of tutoring and better quality, while students in low income families, if they receive tutoring at all,
must accept limited amounts and inferior quality. Private tutoring may undermine efforts to reduce the social
inequalities transmitted through educational processes. With reference to Japan, for example, Tsuneyoshi
(2001) argued that the private tutoring aligned the educational processes with the stratified and hierarchical
order of the wider society despite government efforts to reduce disparities between and within schools.
Similar observations may apply to other countries (Lee et al. 2009; Heyneman 2011).
Other writers have used different metaphors. For example, Dawson (2010: 14) used a biological
metaphor, when describing private tutoring as parasitic on schooling. Others (e.g. Baker and LeTendre 2005;
Mori and Baker 2010) described the relationship as symbiotic, i.e. with mutual support. Each of these
metaphors has some relevance to Hong Kong as well as to other societies.
The effectiveness of private tutoring
Much private tutoring explicitly aims to improve school grades and performance on standardized
examinations. Thus, any consideration of effectiveness must keep such aims in mind. Other purposes of
tutoring may include improved confidence, child-minding (especially for young pupils), and, in some cases,
entertainment. Thus, there are many ways in which tutoring can be “effective”, and evaluation criteria might
fit the motivations of the consumers.
The research literature on the links between tutoring and academic achievement is not robust, but
nevertheless provides some useful indicators. Liu (2012) surveyed 13,978 Grade 7 students in Taiwan, and
after controlling for other variables found significant positive effects of tutoring on analytical ability and
mathematics performance. However, the positive effects decreased when tutoring hours were lengthened. In
South Korea, Sohn et al. (2010: 26-27) examined 11 studies, six of which found positive correlations between
4
expenditures on tutoring and academic performance, though the relationship disappeared in at least one case
when controls were added for student background. Also in South Korea, Byun (2014) used propensity score
matching to compare the effects of tutoring on academic achievement in mathematics for a nationally
representative sample of lower secondary students. He found that tutoring focused on test preparation made
some difference in achievement gains, but that other forms of tutoring made little difference. To some extent,
this echoed conclusions by Kang (2009), who found positive but small effects from investment in tutoring as
measured by the experience of 1,752 students tracked by the Korean Education and Employment Panel
longitudinal study.
Other studies are available from China. Analyzing survey data from 10,513 senior secondary students
in three provinces and one municipality, Lei (2004) found a positive correlation between expenditure on
private tutoring and academic achievement. However, Xue and Ding (2009) found negative correlations in
data from 4,772 urban households. Zhang (2013) examined the relationships between private tutoring and
national college-entrance examination scores for 6,043 senior secondary students in Jinan. Her analysis
produced mixed findings for Chinese, mathematics and English, and for rural and urban students. In Macao,
Ho and Kwong (2008) found a positive but small relationship between private tutoring and memorization, but
no effect on advanced learning strategies such as elaboration, self-control and persistence.
Tutoring may also produce different results for subgroups of students with different academic levels.
Certain types of tutoring may help students who seek support for remedial purposes, while other types may
help students seeking enrichment. Overall study load and anxiety about examinations are also relevant factors
(Barrow 2012; Byun 2014; Chong 2012; Dawson 2010).
In summary, empirical studies on the effectiveness of private tutoring mostly link private tutoring to
student academic achievement and sometimes to students learning strategies. The mixed findings may reflect
issues of sampling, measures of demand for private tutoring (yes/no questions, duration, or cost), measures of
academic achievement (one subject or multiple subjects), modes of tutoring (one-on-one, small group, large
lecture class), and quality of tutoring. However, other important relationships have been largely ignored,
including those between private tutoring and non-cognitive development.
In order to identify a more complete picture, this paper presents data on the scale, types, subjects and
intensity of private tutoring in Hong Kong. This gives a picture of educational experiences outside school as
well as within it. The paper then examines the following dimensions of student perceptions of the
effectiveness of private tutoring with special focus on the relationship between private tutoring and
mainstream schooling:
students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of private tutoring on examination results, school grades,
relationships with school teachers, confidence in school learning, and learning strategies;
students motives for taking or not taking private tutoring; and
students’ comparisons of teachers and tutors.
5
The students’ perceptions of private tutoring expose some of the gaps that they perceive in their regular
schooling. The data show complementarities between the two sides, but also show shortcomings in the regular
school system that should be considered by teachers and administrators.
Mainstream Schooling and Private Tutoring in Hong Kong
The nature of mainstream schooling
Hong Kong has an extensive network of public and private schools. Since 1978, all children have been
required by law to attend school for at least nine years. Until 2009, this was accomplished through a
“6+3+2+2+3” model, with the first nine years (six years primary, plus three years lower secondary) being free
and mandatory, and the next seven years (two years upper secondary, two years matriculation, and three years
for a standard university degree) optional. In 2009, this was replaced with a “6+3+3+4” model, with free
education in public schools extended from nine to 12 years, and the standard university degree moving from
three to four years (Hong Kong, Information Services Department 2012).
In the new system, a single examination leading to the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education
(HKDSE) replaced the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) for Grade 11 students and
the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) for Grade 13 students. Four core subjects were made
compulsory for the HKDSE, and supplemented by two or three elective subjects. By consolidating the two
examinations, the government aimed to promote all-round development and reduce the amount of time
dedicated to test-preparation (Hong Kong, Curriculum Development Council 2006). The HKDSE, like its
predecessor HKALE, is a high-stakes examination and a major determinant of post-secondary opportunities.
Although the gross enrollment rate in tertiary education is approximately 60% (Hong Kong, Education Bureau
2012a), the sector is stratified. Competition for elite institutions and prestigious programs is therefore severe.
In 2011/12, the year in which the research reported in this paper was conducted, Hong Kong had 524
secondary schools. Among them, 497 were in the local system and 27 were international schools, including
subsidized schools run by the English Schools Foundation (ESF). Among the schools in the local system, 32
were operated directly by the government and 365 were aided schools operated by voluntary agencies but with
substantial subsidies and accompanying regulations (Hong Kong, Education Bureau 2012b). Alongside these
institutions were 63 schools in the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS), a format that provided less government
finance in exchange for freedom to charge fees and flexibility in curricular and hiring practices. The
remaining schools were fully private.
The nature of private tutoring
Private tutoring in Hong Kong is offered both through companies and through informal arrangements.
According to market research conducted in 2011 for the initial public offering of a local company, total
capacity in tutoring centers was 45,700 places, among which 54% were provided by companies operating as
chains and 46% was through smaller companies (Synovate 2011, cited by Modern Education 2011: 93). Over
half the chained capacity was provided by six companies, and the number of chained centers increased from
6
38 in 2005/06 to 106 in 2009/10. Although many students made individual arrangements with self-employed
tutors, the figures showed that the largest corporations controlled a significant portion of the market.
The providers typically offer a number of modes of tutoring at different prices. The four main modes
are as follows:
One-on-one tutoring. A single tutor works with one student at a time. The tutoring may be offered by
chained centre, an independent company, or a self-employed tutor. The tutors may work full-time or
part-time, with the latter category including many university students. Working with just one student
at a time, tutors can tailor the lessons to students’ specific needs. This is typically the most expensive
mode of tutoring.
Small-group tutoring. A tutor runs a class with a small number of students. According to interviews,
students commonly join small groups for homework checking and revision of lessons.
Lecture-type tutoring, either live or video-recorded. Lectures are delivered by tutors to large classes,
often with the aid of teaching assistants. The lecturers may be physically present, may be live-
broadcast on a screen in an overflow room, or may be pre-recorded. The cost of video-recorded
classes is slightly lower than that of live classes, and recorded classes can be offered in multiple
locations on flexible schedules. Some companies offer packages that combine both types of lectures.
This style is mainly provided by established tutoring centers and large companies operating in chains.
Tutors for these two types of private tutoring are commonly called tutorial “kings and queens” (Kwo
and Bray 2011). Much of this type of tutoring focuses on preparation for public examinations by
providing revision notes and mock examinations.
Online tutoring. The internet offers a small but potentially important marketplace for tutoring.
Provision can vary from highly personal one-on-one language instruction via a web-chat to
completely automated tutorials that adapt to the students’ abilities. These services can allow students
to access services beyond their immediate geographic vicinity (c.f. Ventura and Jang 2010).
Methodology
Research on private tutoring, as in other domains, may use quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods (Bray,
2010). The study reported in this paper used mixed methods of both quantitative survey and qualitative
interview. Creswell and Plano Clark (2007) highlighted several types of mixed methods for research. A
common approach, followed in this study, uses quantitative surveys to identify overall patterns and interview
data to triangulate and illustrate these patterns. Some interview questions in the research reported here echoed
items in the questionnaire, and others sought deeper understanding. This paper is mainly based on the
questionnaire responses, identifying the general patterns of tutoring and of students’ perceptions, but also
presents illustrations from interview data.
7
Sampling
The quantitative data reported in this paper were derived from cluster sampling. Since students are more likely
to receive private tutoring at transition points in education systems (Bray 2009: 25), students in Grade 9
(secondary 3) and Grade 12 (secondary 6) were targeted. Two classes were selected from each grade, and all
students in each class were invited to participate. The base sample number was calculated as if it were a
simple random sample. In 2011/12, respective Grade 9 and 12 enrollments were approximately 80,000 and
83,000, which for a random sample would have required a minimum for each grade of 382 students with a
0.05 margin of error and 95% confidence level. To account for the design effect of multi-stage sampling
(Snijders and Bosker 1999: 22-24), in line with accepted practice this base sample size was doubled. To allow
for non-responses, the team inflated the sample size by 5%. This created a target sample of 802 (382 x 2 x
105%) students for each grade.
The next step was calculation of the required number of schools. Average class size in most Hong
Kong local secondary schools was 33 in 2011/12 (Hong Kong, Education Bureau 2013), so 25 sample classes
were initially needed of each grade. After 2009, under the new 6+3+3+4 system all local secondary schools
included both junior and senior secondary education, and students in Grades 9 and 12 could therefore be
sampled from the same schools. With two classes for each grade at school level, 13 sample schools in the
local Hong Kong system were randomly selected. To permit comparison of students in the local and
international school systems, one international school was added. During the implementation stage, the classes
of some sample schools were found to be small and two further local schools were added in order to meet the
minimum target sample size. In the final sample, 1,646 questionnaires were administered in 16 secondary
schools, among which 1,624 (98.7%) were returned. Among them 967 (59.5%) were from Grade 9, and 657
(40.5%) from Grade 12 (Table 1).
~ Table 1 about here ~
Interview data were collected from the same 14 schools (i.e. without the additional two local schools).
Four students in each grade who had completed the questionnaires were randomly selected for individual
interviews: one female and one male without private tutoring during the previous 12 months, and one female
and one male with private tutoring during the period. Students were interviewed immediately after completing
the questionnaires, in separate quiet locations. In some schools all students in the selected classes received
tutoring, in which case only students with tutoring could be chosen for interview. Altogether, 101 students
were interviewed (Table 1).
Measures, interview questions, and statistical methods
The questionnaire listed types of private tutoring for students to tick. Students were also asked to indicate the
time they spent in tutoring on specific subjects during different seasons, i.e. during ordinary school term time,
8
examination time, and holiday time (Tables 2 and 3). Similar questions were asked during interviews as
warm-up questions.
On the specific matter of students perceptions about the effectiveness of tutoring, two questions were
asked in the survey. One was a general comparison of effectiveness of different types of tutoring (Table 4),
and the other was on specific dimensions (Table 5). Related interview questions focused on students tutoring
experience and why they had chosen private tutoring for extra assistance instead of seeking help from school
teachers.
The question on students motives for taking or not taking private tutoring was initially phrased on the
basis of informal interviews with secondary and university students who had received private tutoring, and
then adjusted after piloting. Six motives for taking private tutoring, together with an option of others, were
listed for respondents to choose and with the possibility of selecting more than one choice. For the students
who did not receive tutoring, nine reasons plus an option of others were listed (Table 6). Interviews echoed
these survey questions and sought more depth.
The questions on comparison of teachers and tutors listed nine items for students to indicate the degree
of agreement or disagreement (Table 7). During interviews, students were asked to describe their views on the
roles of teachers and tutors based on their personal experience.
Finally, in order to identify how students motives and views on teacher-tutor comparison would
influence their evaluations of the effectiveness of private tutoring, a linear regression model was used to
analyze data for students who had received tutoring. Since improving students’ academic achievement is
considered a key dimension of the effectiveness of private tutoring, students self-reported academic levels
within their schools were included in the regression model. Other variables at family, school and individual
levels were included as controlling variables. The model was:
.
In the model,
is each students evaluation on the effectiveness of private tutoring, on six dimensions
respectively;
are dummy variables of the student’s self-reported academic level;
are six variables on the students motives of taking private tutoring;
are three factors of the student’s views on tutor-teacher comparison;
are the sector of school factors, including school types (aided school as reference
variable; and government school, DSS school, and international school) and grade level;
eIndfFameSchdMtvbAcdaaEff jjjjjjJjjjji   Ttccj
j
Eff
j
Sch
j
Acd
j
Mtv
j
Ttc
9
is the natural log of family monthly incomes;1 and
is the sector of other individual factors, including gender, type(s) of private tutoring
received, and subjects of private tutoring received during term time.
The goal of this linear regression model was to identify correlations rather than causal relationships,
which circumvented the issue of endogeneity. Causal relationships are commonly used for education policy
evaluation analysis when some intervention activity at policy level is used to influence or change individual
decision-making and actions (Khandker et al. 2010; Schlotter et al. 2011). This study focused on students
perceptions on the effectiveness of private tutoring in order to understand the strong demand for private
tutoring despite the negative views of segments of the public. It also sought to understand whether students’
perceptions were related to their comparisons of learning in tutoring centers and schools. For such objectives,
correlation was adequate to answer the questions.
Findings and discussion
Scale, types, subjects and intensity of private tutoring
Among all sampled students in the questionnaire component, 61.1% had received tutoring during the previous
12 months. Tutoring was most common among Grade 12 students: 71.8% were receiving or had received
tutoring, compared with 53.8% of Grade 9 students.
~ Table 2 about here ~
Students in different grades had different emphases in the types of tutoring received. Grade 9 students
were more likely to receive small-group or one-on-one tutoring, while most students in Grade 12 received
lecture style (recorded or live) tutoring. Nevertheless, one-on-one and small-group tutoring were also popular
in Grade 12, and about 30% of students had received tutoring in this pair of categories (Table 2). Perhaps
surprisingly, given that Hong Kong is a technologically advanced society, very few students reported that they
had received online tutoring.
1 Variables of mother’s education level, father’s education level, and number of siblings were originally
included in the model but removed since no significant effects were found.
j
Fam
j
Ind
10
Students were also asked about subjects and time spent on private tutoring. As in other empirical
studies in Hong Kong (Bray and Kwok 2003; Ho 2009a; Lee 1996), the research showed that English and
Mathematics were the most popular subjects. Over 70% of students received tutoring in English, and nearly
60% in Mathematics. In addition, about one third of students received tutoring in Chinese. These three
subjects had been core components of the HKCEE and HKALE, and remained core components in the
HKDSE. In the school system launched in 2009, Liberal Studies became a core subject for the HKDSE. This
fact helps to explain why a significant number of students also received tutoring in this subject (Table 3).
~ Table 3 about here ~
The fact that private tutoring is most commonly received in examined subjects lends credibility to the
notion that demand is linked to public examinations. This connection was also evident in student interviews.
One interviewee who received tutoring in both Chinese and English reported that the tutoring helped with “the
skills, not the knowledge”. She added that tutors just teach some skills to deal with the examination and
make the answers more perfect, and that the materials given by her tutoring centers were “within the range of
public exam”.
Data on time spent in tutoring further underlined the relationship between tutoring and public
examinations (Table 3). Students spent more time on tutoring during the examination season than during
ordinary term-time or holidays. Concerning mathematics, for example, students reported an average of 2.85
hours each week on tutoring during the examination season, compared to 2.19 hours and 2.09 hours during
ordinary term-time and holidays. At the extreme, during the examination season students may spend as much
as 50 hours per week in private tutoring for each of the major subjects (English, Mathematics and Chinese)
more time than they spend in mainstream classrooms for those subjects.
Students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of private tutoring
The survey asked students about their perceptions of the impact of various types of tutoring in general and
also in various domains. In general, students perceived one-on-one and small-group tutoring to be more
effective. As shown in Table 4, students considered one-on-one tutoring to have a large effect (mean=3.49),
11
and small-group to have a medium effect (mean=2.88). Those two types of tutoring are usually more costly.
Internet tutoring was only considered to have a small effect (mean=2.00), and lecture style tutoring either by
tutor (live) (mean=2.61) and by video recording (mean=2.24) was considered to have an effect between small
and medium.
~ Table 4 about here ~
Concerning the various dimensions of the effectiveness of private tutoring, generally students
considered tutoring to be most effective at improving examination grades, confidence in examinations,
revision skills, and learning strategies. Students considered tutoring to be less effective at improving school
performance or relationships with school teachers. Table 5 presents the students’ views on all types of tutoring
in both aggregated and disaggregated ways. As noted in Table 2, students received different types of tutoring,
and it is therefore pertinent to ask about variations in their perceptions. It was found that different types of
private tutoring may have perceived advantages in certain dimensions of effectiveness, especially for one-on-
one and lecture-type (video recording) tutoring. As shown in Table 5, students considered one-on-one tutoring
to be particularly effective in improving their examination grades (mean=3.18) and learning strategies
(mean=3.10); and students considered lecture-type (video recording) tutoring to be quite effective in
improving their confidence in examinations (mean=3.13), revision skills (mean=3.18), and learning strategies
(mean=3.13).
Grade 12 students not only received more tutoring than Grade 9 students, but also received much
greater proportions in the form of live and/or video lectures. This form of tutoring was more readily available
at the Grade 12 level since the large chained companies specialized in this form of tutoring for this target
group, and marketed it actively. Thus, although the students might have felt that one-on-one and small-group
tutoring was more effective generally, especially at the Grade 12 level they nevertheless attended lecture-style
tutoring in large numbers. Online tutoring was not perceived to be effective, which was reflected in the low
proportion of students using this type.
~ Table 5 about here ~
12
Interviewed students who received private tutoring were less likely to seek help from their teachers
when they encountered learning difficulties. Students who did not ask teachers for help provided four types of
explanations. First, they said, teachers were busy and might not be able to answer students questions in detail,
even if they wished to do so. Second, the students stated, teachers encouraged students to depend on
themselves. Third, some students felt timid about asking for help. Fourth, tutors were described as willing to
answer all questions in detail, eliminating the need to ask teachers.
Students’ motives for taking or not taking tutoring
As noted above, the survey asked students to select from a list the reasons for taking or not taking tutoring.
Table 6 shows that 76.3% of Grade 9 students receiving tutoring did so “to improve examination scores”, and
this number increased to 92.1% in Grade 12. This suggests that preparation for public examinations begins
early in secondary school for most students, and intensifies as they progress through the system. A large
majority also indicated that they took tutoring to learn school subjects better. This number also increased
from Grades 9 to 12, and students seemed to find private tutoring increasingly necessary to cope with their
subjects as they moved through senior secondary school. The number of students who took tutoring because
their parents chose it for them declined from Grades 9 to 12, perhaps because students become more
independent of parents and gradually internalize the external pressures to perform well in school and on
examinations.
~ Table 6 about here ~
These survey findings were echoed in the interviews. Most students started to receive tutoring at the
suggestion of their parents when the students found that they could not fully understand what teachers taught
or that their school performance or examination results were weak. Though students might not know for sure
whether tutoring helped, receipt of tutoring helped them to feel secure, especially before the examinations.
One Grade 12 student, who might be considered typical, sought tutoring because “the school teacher has to
teach the whole group and in a way that everyone can learn”, but for him “sometimes it is not good” because
13
he “might not understand” the teacher and thus would need clarification from his tutor. Another considered
the tutoring good because it “definitely improves [his] subjects”.
Another Grade 12 student received tutoring in English, Mathematics and Chinese from different
chained tutoring companies. She first received tutoring in English and Mathematics in Grade 10, because of
perceived low academic performance. When she found that her tutoring in English in one company was not
effective in improving her grades, she changed to another company in Grade 11. When asked if the program
helped, she replied that her academic results were quite similar. Nevertheless, she felt that the tutor was
good, and her reason for the similar result was that “I think that I do not work hard enough”. She started the
tutoring in Chinese at the beginning of Grade 12 when the public examination was approaching, having
considered it unnecessary in earlier grades. Her decision to seek tutoring in Chinese was to “feel safe before
the examination”. This desire for a feeling of security was commonly expressed among other respondents.
Students’ comparisons of teachers and tutors
Some of the survey and interview questions asked students to compare private tutors and mainstream teachers.
The students perceived teachers to be more concerned with knowledge, behavior and life counseling than with
examinations and grades (Table 7). In contrast, students described tutors as more knowledgeable, inspiring in
teaching, interactive with students, and supportive.
~ Table 7 about here ~
Such findings suggest that students perceive teachers and tutors as playing different roles. Teachers,
in students opinions, play multi-functional roles in various aspects of students’ daily lives, while tutors
specifically satisfy their desires to score well in tests and examinations. Teachers met the government mandate
of providing an enabling environment for every student to attain all-round development” (Hong Kong,
Curriculum Development Council 2006), rather than focusing on skills directly related to examinations. The
government emphasis may stimulate demand for private tutoring (Chong 2012), since the public may still
consider that “winning in examination is the destination of education” (Luk 2003: 26). Even concerning
14
cognitive learning, students have clear ideas about different benefits they may receive from their teachers and
tutors. In the words of one interviewee:
School teachers focus mainly on content knowledge. Only a few teachers would teach us the skills
[for examination]. Language [English and Chinese] teachers don’t even have enough time to finish the
syllabus, let alone the skills. We have school-based assessment as well, which occupies much of our
time. They will teach us skills but not too much, while tutoring centers would particularly focus on
exam skills.
There seemed to be a perceived disconnection between the mandated forms of pedagogy and the examination
skills required for university entrance. Students felt that the examination demanded skills that were not taught
adequately in mainstream schools, and tutors helped to fill this void.
Relationships between perceptions of effectiveness and motives for taking private tutoring
This section provides the results of the regression model designed to describe the relationships between
perceptions and motives for taking private tutoring. Only students who received private tutoring within the
previous 12 months were included in the analysis. Some variables on background information were also
included in the model, including student gender, grade, family income, school type, and types of tutoring
received. Table 8 summarizes the linear regressions of factors that may influence the six dimensions of
students’ perceptions on effectiveness of private tutoring. Self-reported academic levels, motives for taking
private tutoring, and comparison of teachers and tutors, were all correlated with perceptions of the
effectiveness of tutoring.
Students’ self-estimated academic levels
Despite the mixed findings concerning the relationship between private tutoring and academic achievement
reported in previous literature (e.g. Lei 2005; Liu 2012; Sohn et al. 2010; Zhang 2013), the Hong Kong
students with higher self-reported academic achievement were consistently more likely to have positive
perceptions of the effectiveness of private tutoring for improving examination grades, relationships with
teachers, confidence in examinations, revision skills, and learning strategies. This suggests that private
tutoring may be disproportionately effective for higher achievers, possibly widening the gap between those at
15
the top and those at the bottom of the class. The fact that this is based on subjective self-reports strengthens
the claim, since students recognize the opportunity for solidifying their advantage over the lower-performing
peers.
Students’ motives for taking private tutoring
Students who took private tutoring to “learn school subjects better” and “improve examination scores” had
more positive perceptions on the effectiveness of tutoring in all six dimensions. That is, students in this
category who expected tutoring to lead to improved school grades and examination scores generally seemed to
have their expectations satisfied.
However, students who received private tutoring just because their parents chose it for them had
relatively negative perceptions on the effectiveness of tutoring, especially in terms of confidence in
examination and revision skills. Parents play an important role in students’ schooling choices, especially when
students are young. This finding suggests that pushing children into tutoring may not be an effective way to
improve school and examination performance, or to improve broader study habits. Most Grade 9 students
interviewed stated that their parents suggested or required them to have private tutoring and also found tutors
for them, but a significant number of students considered the tutoring burdensome and useless.
~ Table 8 about here ~
Students’ comparisons of teachers and tutors
All three factors concerning students’ comparisons between teachers and tutors had significant influences on
their perceptions of the effectiveness of tutoring. The better the perceptions students had for tutors in terms of
preparing for examinations, being more supportive and inspiring, and being more knowledgeable and
interactive, the more effective the students considered tutoring to be.
Among all the three factors, the factor “tutors are more knowledgeable and interactive” had the largest
coefficients with all six dimensions of student’s perceptions of effectiveness. Teacher-student relationships are
important for students’ learning and confidence. Interviews with students who received tutoring showed that
16
students were not willing to approach teachers about their learning difficulties. The students therefore went to
tutors instead.
Conclusions
This paper has shown that Hong Kong secondary students have great demand for private tutoring. Over half of
Grade 9 students and nearly three quarters of Grade 12 students in the sample had received tutoring during the
previous 12 months. Many students consider tutoring to be a necessary and normal part of life. These features
have parallels in other parts of the world, particularly in East Asia (Bray and Lykins 2012; Jang 2011; Zhang
2013) but also in other regions (Silova 2010; Song et al. 2013). Few data been published in any location on
students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of tutoring in comparison with their mainstream schooling along the
lines of this Hong Kong study. As such, the research has significance for wider analysis as well as in Hong
Kong itself.
As anticipated, the data showed that examinations, and the consequences from success or failure in
examinations, were the dominant driver of demand for tutoring. The most popular subjects for tutoring were
three of the four core subjects in the HKDSE examination, namely English, Mathematics and Chinese. The
fourth core subject, Liberal Studies, had lower demand than Science which is a non-core subject; but this was
to be expected since Liberal Studies required creativity of a sort that would not easily be compatible with the
type of large-class tutoring offered by the major companies (Fung and Yip 2010). The role of examinations is
also evident from the time that students spend in tutoring during the examination season compared with
ordinary term time and holidays. In extreme cases, students spend more time in private tutoring on certain
subjects than in their normal schooling. In this respect, the shadow seemed to dominate the mainstream rather
than vice versa.
When comparing teachers and tutors, many students complained in interviews about lack of support
from teachers in providing examination skills, and appreciated tutors’ roles of helping them with learning
difficulties and facilitating examination preparation. However, the tutors were not just gap-fillers, and the
tutoring had a backwash on schooling. Tutoring may have reduced the burdens on teachers since students
preferred to ask their tutors rather than their teachers for clarification of concepts and facts; but it may also
have reduced the students’ respect for their teachers and widened disparities within classrooms.
17
Whether or not the tutoring actually does improve students’ educational performance, it is clear from
these data that many students think that it does. Since perceptions drive behavior, these perceptions are of
clear importance. In contrast to the negative views on tutoring, particularly of the large-class variety, among
segments of the public and some scholars, students generally have positive perceptions on the effectiveness of
private tutoring in both learning and non-cognitive dimensions such as feelings of security.
Although students consider that the general effectiveness of lecture-type tutoring is not as good as that
of one-on-one and small-group tutoring, those who took lecture-type tutoring by video recording considered
that it did improve their examination grades, confidence in examinations, revision skills, and learning
strategies. Lecture-type tutoring with tutorial kings and queens are a distinctive supply-driven feature of Hong
Kong (Kwo and Bray 2011). Though criticized severely by school teachers and the public, this type of private
tutoring need further research concerning its relationship with students preferred learning styles and the
impact on learning capacity for long-term success.
The findings stress the need for educators and others to take account of all locations of learning, i.e.
out-of-school as well as in-school, when considering educational issues and their broader social implications.
The Hong Kong authorities, like their counterparts elsewhere, have ignored the existence of private tutoring in
their documents about the aims and processes of education (e.g. Hong Kong, Curriculum Development
Council 2006; Hong Kong, Legislative Council Panel on Education 2013). While 38.9% of the students
surveyed indicated that they had not received tutoring during the last 12 months, only 17.2% of them reported
that it was because they were already doing well enough in school, and 23.7% stated that it was because they
did not have the money to pay for tutoring. By contrast, 61.1% of the students did invest in tutoring, mainly to
improve their examination scores and to learn school subjects better. These students particularly felt that the
schools were not teaching examination skills adequately; and most of the students who invested in tutoring
felt that indeed it had helped to improve their school grades and examination scores. Since the higher
achievers were more likely to seek tutoring than the lower achievers, the tutoring was an instrument for
widening gaps.
The paper has also stressed differences between Grade 9 and Grade 12 students. Higher proportions of
the latter received tutoring; and among the students who received tutoring, larger numbers attended live and/or
video lecture-style classes. The Grade 12 students were also more likely to make their own choices rather than
18
following parental guidance and instructions. The students who received tutoring just because their parents
chose it for them had more negative perceptions on the effectiveness of tutoring, and stated that the tutoring
was burdensome. While the question remains open on whether the tutoring was actually effective for these
students, the fact that students had negative perceptions might cause at least some parents to reconsider their
approaches. Commentators such as Ho (2009b) and Ngai et al. (2013) have argued that educational processes
in Hong Kong are already excessively pressurized with inadequate space for self-expression and personal
development, and parental demands for children to receive tutoring on top of schooling may be
counterproductive.
Finally, the paper has highlighted students’ comparisons of teachers and tutors. The teachers may be
reassured by indications that students view them as being more concerned with guidance and the broader sides
of life. However, it may be disquieting to see that students consider their tutors to be more knowledgeable and
inspiring. The study suggests that teachers and school administrators could usefully pay more attention to the
students’ perceptions and the reasons why large numbers seek tutoring despite the existence of a well-funded
public education system. Such observations may also have pertinence in other parts of other world, including
in the ones where enrollment rates in tutoring are lower but where those enrollment rates are rising (Bray 2009;
Mori and Baker 2010).
Acknowledgement: The research reported in this paper was funded by the General Research Fund (GRF) of
the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC), project 741111. The authors also acknowledge inputs from
Emily Mang and Nutsa Kobakhidze.
References
Baker, D. P., & LeTendre, G. K. (2005). National differences, global similarities: World culture and the
future of schooling. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Barrow, C. (2012). The modern private super-tutor. Spear’s. 20 April 2012.
http://www.spearswms.com/education/31795/the-modern-private-tutor.thtml accessed 11 June 2013.
Bray, M. (1999). The shadow education system: Private tutoring and its implications for planners. Paris:
UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP).
http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001802/180205e.pdf accessed 11 June 2013.
Bray, M. (2009). Confronting the shadow education system: What government policies for what private
tutoring? Paris: UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP).
http://www.unesco.org/iiep/eng/publications/recent/abstracts/2009/Bray_Shadoweducation.htm
accessed 11 June 2013.
19
Bray, M. (2010). Researching shadow education: challenges and directions. Asia Pacific Education Review, 11
(1), 3-13.
Bray, M., & Kwok, P. (2003). Demand for private supplementary tutoring: Conceptual considerations, and
socio-economic patterns in Hong Kong. Economics of Education Review, 22(6), 611-620.
Bray, M., & Lykins, C. (2012). Shadow education: Private supplementary tutoring and its implications for
policy makers in Asia. Mandaluyong City: Asian Development Bank, and Hong Kong: Comparative
Education Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong.
Byun, S.Y. (2014). Shadow education and academic success in South Korea. In H. Park, & K. K. Kim (Eds.),
Korean Education in Changing Economic and Demographic Contexts. Dordrecht: Springer, in press.
Downloaded 11 June 2013 from: https://sites.google.com/site/sooyongbyunshomepage/research-2.
Caritas, Community & Higher Education Service. (2010). Private supplementary tutoring of secondary
students: Investigation report. Hong Kong: Caritas.
http://klncc.caritas.org.hk/private/document/644.pdf accessed 11 June 2013. [in Chinese]
Chong, D. (2012). Tutoring center sees big profits in reforms. South China Morning Post, 7 May 2012.
http://www.scmp.com/article/1000331/tutoring-centre-sees-big-profits-reforms, accessed 11 June
2013.
Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. (2007). Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research. Thousand
Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Dang, H. A. (2007). The determinants and impact of private tutoring classes in Vietnam. Economics of
Education Review, 26(6), 648-699.
Dawson, W. (2010). Private tutoring and mass schooling in East Asia: reflections of inequality in Japan, South
Korea, and Cambodia. Asia Pacific Education Review, 11(1), 14-24.
de Castro, B. V., & de Guzman, A. B. (2010). Push and pull factors affecting Filipino students’ shadow
education (SE) participation. KEDI Journal of Educational Policy, 7(1), 43-66.
Fung, C. L., & Yip, W. Y. (2010) The policies of reintroducing Liberal Studies into Hong Kong secondary
schools. Educational Research for Policy and Practice, 9(1), 17-40.
Heyneman, S. P. (2011). Private tutoring and social cohesion. Peabody Journal of Education, 86(2), 183-188.
Ho, E. S. C. (2009a). Understanding shadow education of East Asian societies from an international
perspective. Hong Kong: Faculty of Education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. [in Chinese]
Ho, E. S. C. (2009b). Good performers taking private tutoring is against the nature of learning. Ming Pao
Daily, 12 May http://happypama.mingpao.com/cfm/study3.cfm?File=20090512/prepd/398sh04a6.txt
accessed 11 June 2013. [in Chinese]
Ho, E. S. C., & Kwong, W. L. (2008). Shadow education and related services in Macao: The phenomenon
and its impact. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Centre for International Student Assessment. [in Chinese]
Hong Kong, Census & Statistics Department (2005). Latest 2004/05-based Consumer Price Indices.
http://www.censtatd.gov.hk/FileManager/EN/Content_908/cpi_slide.pdf, accessed 11 June 2013.
Hong Kong, Curriculum Development Council (2006). Senior secondary curriculum guide (Secondary 4-6):
Booklet One. http://cd1.edb.hkedcity.net/cd/cns/sscg_web/html/english/main00.html, accessed 11
June 2013.
Hong Kong, Education Bureau (2012a). Self-financing local programmes.
www.edb.gov.hk/index.aspx?nodeID=225andlangno=1, accessed 11 June 2013.
20
Hong Kong, Education Bureau (2012b). Education Statistics. Hong Kong: Education Bureau.
Hong Kong, Education Bureau (2013). Figures and statistics: secondary education.
http://www.edb.gov.hk/en/about-edb/publications-stat/figures/sec.html accessed 11 June 2013.
Hong Kong, Information Services Department (2012). Hong Kong: The facts - education.
http://www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/factsheets/docs/education.pdf, accessed 11 June 2013.
Hong Kong, Legislative Council Panel on Education (2013). 2013 Policy Address: Policy Initiatives of
Education Bureau. Legislative Council Paper No.CB(4)318/12-13(01).
http://www.edb.gov.hk/en/about-edb/legco/policy-address/2013_Education.pdf accessed 11 June
2013.
Jang, S. H. (2011). The effects of after-school programs on students’ assessment and shadow education
expenditures. PhD dissertation, Educational Administration Department, Seoul National University.
Kang, C. (2009). Does money matter? The effect of private education expenditures on academic performance
in the Republic of Korea. In F. Barrera-Osorio, H. A. Patrinos, & Q. Wodon (Eds.), Emerging
evidence on vouchers and faith-based providers in education: Case studies from Africa, Latin
America, and Asia (pp. 151-164). Washington DC: The World Bank.
Khandker, S. R.; Koolwal, G. B. & Samad, H. A. (2010). Handbook on impact evaluation: Quantitative
methods and practices. Washington DC: The World Bank.
Kwo, O., & Bray, M. (2011). Facing the shadow education system in Hong Kong. IIAS Newsletter (University
of Leiden, International Institute for Asian Studies), 56: 20. http://old.iias.asia/article/facing-shadow-
education-system-hong-kong, accessed 11 June 2013.
Lee, C. (1996). Children and private tuition (Youth Poll Series No. 34). Hong Kong: Hong Kong Federation
of Youth Groups.
Lee, C. J., Park, H. J., & Lee, H. (2009). Shadow education systems. In G. Sykes, B. Schneider, & D. N. Plank
(Eds.), Handbook of education policy research (pp. 901-919). New York: Routledge for the American
Educational Research Association.
Lei, W. P. (2005). Expenditures of private supplementary tutoring by high school students: Influential factors
and policy implications. Education and Economics (Wuhan), (1), 39-42. [in Chinese]
Liu, J. (2012). Does cram schooling matter? Who goes to cram schools? Evidence from Taiwan. International
Journal of Educational Development, 32(1), 46-52.
Luk, H. K. B. (2003). From under banyan trees to in front of computers: Stories of education in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong: Step Forward Multi Media Co.. [in Chinese]
Marimuthu, T., Singh, J. S., Ahmad, K., Lim, H. K., Mukherjee, H., Osman, S., et al. (1991). Extra-school
instruction, social equity and educational quality [in Malaysia]. Singapore: International Development
Research Centre.
Modern Education Group Limited (2011). Global Offering. [Prospectus for offer of shares on Hong Kong Stock
Exchange]. Hong Kong: Modern Education Group Limited.
Mori, I., & Baker, D. (2010). The origin of universal shadow education: What the supplemental education
phenomenon tells us about the postmodern institution of education. Asia Pacific Education Review, 11(1),
36-48.
Ngai, A., Chan, S. C. & Cheung, S. (2013). Private tutoring of primary and secondary school students in
Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups.
21
Rohlen, T. P. (1980). The juku phenomenon: An exploratory essay. Journal of Japanese Studies, 6(2), 207-242.
Schlotter, M. , Schwerdt, G. & Woessmann, L. (2011). Econometric methods for causal evaluation of
education policies and practices: a non-technical guide. Education Economics, 19(2), 109-137.
Silova, I. (2010). Private tutoring in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Policy choices and implications. Compare:
A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 40(3), 327-344.
Snijders, T. A. B., & Bosker, R. J. (1999). Multilevel Analysis: An Introduction to Basic and Advanced
Multilevel Modeling. London: SAGE.
Sohn, H., Lee, D., Jang, S., & Kim, T. K. (2010). Longitudinal relationship among private tutoring, student-
parent conversation, and student achievement’. KEDI Journal of Educational Policy, 7(1), 23-41.
Song, K. O., Park, H. J., & Song, K. A. (2013). A cross-national analysis of the student- and school-level factors
affecting the demand for private tutoring. Asia Pacific Education Review in press. DOI 10.1007/s12564-
012-9236-7.
Synovate (2011). Market landscape for private tuitions in Hong Kong and English learning institutes in China.
Hong Kong: Synovate.
Tsuneyoshi, R. (2001). The Japanese model of schooling: Comparisons with the United States. New York:
RoutledgeFalmer.
Ventura, A., & Jang, S. (2010). Private tutoring through the internet: Globalization and offshoring. Asia Pacific
Education Review, 11(1), 59-68.
Xue, H., & Ding, Y. Q. (2009). A positivistic study on the private tutoring of students in urban China. Journal of
Youth Studies [Hong Kong], 12(1), 115-128. [in Chinese]
Zhang, Y. (2013). Does private tutoring improve students’ national college entrance exam performance? A
case study from Jinan, China. Economics of Education Review, 32(1), 1-28.
22
Table 1 Descriptive statistics of student survey sample and interview sample
Characteristics
N
%
Characteristics
N
%
Survey Sample
School Type
Students’ self-estimated academic
level within grade
Government
155
9.5
Aided
1,181
72.7
Excellent
77
4.7
Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS)
222
13.7
Good
389
24.1
English Schools Foundation (ESF)
66
4.1
Fair
833
51.6
Gender
Poor
236
14.6
Female
804
49.5
Very poor
78
4.8
Male
820
50.5
Grade
Grade 9
967
59.5
Total
1,624
100.0
Grade 12
657
40.5
Interview Sample
School Type
Gender a
Government
11
10.9
Female
53
52.5
Aided
62
61.4
Male
48
47.5
Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS)
20
19.8
Grade
English Schools Foundation (ESF)
8
7.9
Grade 9
56
55.4
If Taking private tutoring during the past 12 months*
Grade 12
45
44.6
Yes
54
53.5
No
47
46.5
Total
101
100.0
a Among the 14 schools, one was a boys’ school and only students in Grade 9 attended the interview;
one was a girls’ school and students in both Grades 9 and 12 attended the interview.
23
Table 2 Scale, types and subjects of private tutoring received by secondary students
All
Grade 9
Grade 12
% of students receiving private tutoring
61.1%
53.8%
71.8%
Number of cases
1,624
967
657
Types of tutoring (among students with private tutoring during the previous 12 months)
Small group
41.8%
53.5%
29.0%
Private one-on-one
38.0%
44.2%
31.1%
Lecture style by tutor (live)
37.4%
22.1%
54.2%
Lecture style (video recording)
33.5%
7.9%
61.7%
Online tutoring
1.2%
0.8%
1.7%
Number of cases
992
520
472
Subjects of tutoring (among students with private tutoring during the previous 12 months)
English
65.2%
58.5%
72.4%
Mathematics
52.7%
68.5%
35.7%
Chinese
31.8%
29.4%
34.4%
Science a
25.8%
19.5%
32.7%
Liberal Studies
9.2%
5.6%
13.2%
Business b
8.9%
4.7%
13.6%
Humanities c
6.1%
8.3%
3.6%
a Science is a combination of biology, chemistry and physics.
b Business is a combination of economics, accounting and business.
c Humanities are a combination of humanities subjects other than English and Chinese, including
history and geography.
Table 3 Time spent on private tutoring, by subject and season Unit: %, hours/week
% of all
students b
Ordinary seasona
Examination season a
Holiday season a
N
Mean
Range
N
Mean
Range
N
Mean
Range
English
71.7%
654
2.19
0.25-50.00
583
2.50
0.50-50.00
509
2.00
0.50-14.00
Mathematics
58.0%
530
2.19
0.50-25.00
499
2.85
0.50-51.00
398
2.09
0.50-42.00
Chinese
38.8%
325
1.88
0.25-48.00
318
2.33
0.50-50.00
244
1.70
0.50-12.00
Liberal Studies
13.4%
98
1.92
0.25-18.00
110
2.44
0.50-24.00
75
1.95
0.50-1.95
Science c
29.9%
262
2.23
.025-24.00
257
2.55
0.50-34.00
205
2.37
0.30-42.00
Business c
11.1%
92
2.02
0.50-14.00
92
2.57
0.50-25.00
71
2.25
0.30-15.00
Humanities c
8.8%
63
1.83
0.50-7.50
77
2.54
0.50-20.00
40
1.91
0.50-8.00
Other subjects
3.4%
28
2.27
1.00-10.00
31
3.35
1.00-20.00
25
2.28
1.00-8.00
Number of
cases
995
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
a Hour(s) that students spent on private tutoring of a certain subject each week, during ordinary
season, examination season, or holiday season.
b All students who spent time on a certain subject during ordinary season, examination season
and/or holidays were included in the percentage.
c See Table 2 for explanation of components of Science, Business and Humanities.
24
Table 4 Students general evaluations of the effectiveness of different types of private tutoring
Types of private tutoring
Percentage % a
Mean
No
effect
(1)
Small
effect
(2)
Medium
effect
(3)
Large
effect
(4)
No
opinion
(2.5)
Private one-to-one
0.8
2.8
25.4
58.1
11.7
3.49
Small group
3.2
12.9
55.3
14.1
13.4
2.88
Internet tutoring
23.7
40.7
11.7
0.6
21.3
2.00
Lecture style by tutors (live)
6.9
26.8
41.1
9.4
14.4
2.61
Lecture style (video recording)
17.5
34.4
27.2
2.7
17.4
2.24
N = 1,624.
a In the questionnaire, 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = agree; 4 = strongly disagree; 2.5 = no opinion.
Thus, “mean > 2.50” implies that students in general agreed with the statement, and “mean < 2.50” implies
that students in general disagreed with the statement.
Table 5 Students evaluations of the effectiveness of different types of private tutoring in various
dimensions
Private tutoring has improved
my …
Types of private tutoringb
Alld
One-on-
one
Small
group
Onlinec
Lecture
by tutor
(live)
Lecture
(video
recording)
Examination grades
3.18
3.07
-
3.03
3.08
3.16
Relationship with school teachers
2.38
2.35
-
2.42
2.12
2.35
Confidence in examinations
3.05
3.06
-
2.93
3.13
3.09
Revision skills
3.01
3.07
-
3.02
3.18
3.07
Confidence in school performance
2.91
2.82
-
2.76
2.78
2.84
Learning strategies
3.10
2.99
-
3.01
3.13
3.06
Number of cases
191
233
1
100
61
992
a In the questionnaire, 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = agree; 4 = strongly disagree; 2.5 = no opinion.
Thus, “mean > 2.50” implies that students in general agreed with the statement, and “mean < 2.50” implies
that students in general disagreed with the statement.
b The columns of mean evaluation scores are based on views by students who received only one type of
private tutoring listed.
c Sample size of students who only received online tutoring for the past 12 month is too small (just one case)
to generate valid mean evaluation of the various dimensions of effectiveness of private tutoring.
d The column of mean evaluation scores is based on views by students who received one or more types of
private tutoring. Hence the total number of cases is larger than the sum of the previous columns.
25
Table 6 Students’ motives for taking or not taking private tutoring
Motives for taking private tutoring
Percentage of students
All
Grade 9
Grade 12
To improve examination scores
83.9%
76.3%
92.1%
To learn school subjects better
71.5%
65.2%
78.6%
My parents chose it for me
32.7%
51.5%
11.9%
Many of my friends are doing it
19.3%
12.4%
27.0%
My teachers recommended it
7.6%
6.2%
9.1%
Attracted by advertisement
1.5%
0.8%
2.3%
Other reasons
4.3%
2.7%
5.9%
Number of cases
992
520
472
Motives for not taking private tutoring
Percentage of students
All
Grade 9
Grade 12
I don’t have time
35.8%
36.7%
33.5%
It is not worth the money
27.7%
24.9%
34.3%
None of the available private tutoring seems to suit my
needs
26.7%
28.2%
23.1%
My teachers are knowledgeable enough
26.1%
25.4%
27.6%
I don’t have the money
23.7%
18.2%
36.8%
I’m already doing well enough in school
17.2%
17.1%
17.5%
Not many of my friends are doing it
9.9%
12.5%
3.8%
My parents do not want me to do it
6.8%
6.7%
7.2%
My teachers said it is not useful
4.4%
4.4%
4.4%
Other reasons
15.1%
17.1%
10.5%
Number of cases
632
447
185
26
Table 7 Students’ comparisons of teachers and tutors
Factors a
Items
Percentage (%)
Mean
Strongly
Disagree
(1) b
Disagree
(2) b
Agree
(3) b
Strongly
Agree
(4) b
No
opinion
(2.5) b
Teachers not
only for exam
(34.9%)
My school teachers are
more patient with me
5.4
24.4
35.0
14.4
20.9
2.69
My school teachers
provide more guidance
and counseling about
my life
3.5
17.9
43.6
18.8
16.1
2.86
My school teachers help
me to learn knowledge
and skills other than
exam
3.7
21.5
44.9
15.3
14.6
2.79
My school teachers
advise me more on my
behavior
3.5
16.0
47.0
17.4
16.0
2.86
My school teachers are
more likely to make me
confident in my
studying
5.8
26.0
36.4
8.3
23.5
2.59
Tutors more
inspiring and
supportive
(16.0%)
My tutors are more
inspiring in teaching
5.8
24.6
48.3
6.2
15.2
2.62
My tutors are more
supportive
5.2
17.8
50.3
13.8
13.0
2.79
Tutors more
knowledgeable
and interactive
(11.1%)
My tutors are more
knowledgeable
1.7
21.5
32.3
19.7
24.8
2.82
I have more interaction
with my tutor(s)
6.8
23.7
38.5
20.1
10.9
2.77
N=992.
a This column is based on factor analysis of nine items in the questionnaire. The number in parentheses is the
percentage of variance for each factor.
b In the student questionnaire, 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = agree, 4 = strongly disagree, and 2.5 =
no opinion. Thus, “mean > 2.50” implies that in general students agreed with the statement, and “mean <
2.50” implies that in general they disagreed with the statement.
27
Table 8 Linear regression model of students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of private tutoring
Dependent Variable: Student perceptions of the effectiveness of private tutoring (Tutoring has improved your…; range: 1-4)
Examination grades
Relationship with
school teachers
Confidence in
examinations
Revision skill
Confidence in
school
performance
Learning
strategies
B
S.E.
B
S.E.
B
S.E.
B
S.E.
B
S.E.
B
S.E.
Self-estimated academic level (ref.=excellent)
Good
-0.062
0.099
-0.166
0.162
-0.121
0.124
-0.068
0.117
-0.330**
0.131
-0.235*
0.124
Fair
-0.230**
0.096
-0.145
0.158
-0.277**
0.122
-0.195*
0.114
-0.479***
0.129
-0.321**
0.121
Poor
-0.406***
0.106
-0.412**
0.172
-0.457***
0.133
-0.388***
0.125
-0.674***
0.141
-0.541***
0.132
Very poor
-0.460***
0.125
-0.321
0.222
-0.412**
0.161
-0.322**
0.148
-0.724***
0.173
-0.436**
0.158
Motives for taking private tutoring
To learn school
subjects better
0.113**
0.045
-0.020
0.071
0.101*
0.054
0.113**
0.051
0.123**
0.059
0.157***
0.053
To improve
examination score
0.116*
0.057
0.063
0.089
0.023
0.072
0.152**
0.067
0.204***
0.078
0.142**
0.070
Attracted by
advertisement
0.014
0.144
0.290
0.210
0.087
0.170
-0.073
0.160
0.332*
0.185
-0.006
0.164
My parents chose it
for me
-0.038
0.049
-0.141*
0.079
-0.129**
0.059
-0.101*
0.056
-0.044
0.064
-0.077
0.059
Many of my friends
are doing it
-0.079
0.049
-0.019
0.077
-0.080
0.058
0.056
0.055
0.005
0.063
-0.086
0.057
My teachers
recommended it
-0.016
0.073
0.120
0.11
-0.084
0.088
-0.041
0.083
0.100
0.096
0.026
0.086
Three factors of perception on comparison between teachers and tutors a
Teachers not only for
exam
0.020
0.020
0.080**
0.036
0.035***
0.025
0.040*
0.021
0.040
0.028
0.034
0.025
Tutors more
supportive/inspiring
0.071***
0.020
-0.038
0.029
0.060**
0.023
0.077***
0.022
0.068***
0.025
0.064***
0.023
Tutors more
knowledgeable/
interactive
0.075***
0.021
0.073**
0.036
0.085***
0.025
0.077***
0.024
0.136***
0.028
0.093***
0.025
Df
808
-
588
-
758
-
755
-
714
-
740
-
Adjusted R Square
0.154
-
0.087
-
0.096
-
0.130
-
0.138
-
0.138
-
* p<0.1; ** p<0.05; *** p<0.01.
a The three factors of perception on comparison between teachers and tutors were based on data analysis results in Table 7.
Parents’ education level was not significant, so was removed from the model. Variables of gender, natural log of family income, school types, types of tutoring, and subjects
for tutoring were included in the regression model. To save space, they were not listed in the table. The full model can be provided on request.
... In the 1980s, when local post-secondary places were available for only about 4% of the cohort, most families assumed that post-secondary education was out of reach. Twenty years later post-secondary education had expanded to serve 60% of the cohort, and families therefore not only saw it as within reach but also sought the more desirable parts of the system that could be obtained with the help of supplementary tutoring (Zhan et al. 2013). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Increasing amounts of structured teaching and learning take place outside formal school systems. Much of this teaching and learning takes the form of private supplementary tutoring which may be provided one-to-one, in small groups, in large classes, and/or over the internet. Such provision is commonly called shadow education because much of its content mimics that in schooling: as the curriculum changes in the schools, so it changes in the shadows. Shadow education has long been especially prominent in several rich countries of East Asia, notably Japan and South Korea. For overlapping but different reasons it has also been prominent in several lower-income countries in South and Southeast Asia such as India, Sri Lanka and Cambodia. More recently shadow education has flourished in such countries as Kazakhstan and Myanmar, and indeed it is now visible throughout the region and beyond. This chapter presents data on the scale and nature of shadow education around Asia and the Pacific, noting commonalities and variations. The chapter includes information not only on the recipients but also on the providers of shadow education. Three main providers may be observed, namely entrepreneurs who operate tutorial centres of various kinds, teachers in mainstream schools who offer private tutoring on the side to supplement their incomes, and informal workers such as university students who desire some extra income. From this mapping of the scale and nature, the chapter turns to the implications. On educational side, tutoring does not always enhance learning-much depends on the motivations of both the tutors and the students as well as the formats, contents and durations of tutoring. Tutoring can also have a backwash on schooling. With a wider lens, tutoring tends to maintain and exacerbate social inequalities since rich families can secure more and better shadow education than their lower-income counterparts. Private tutoring also has an economic dimension, providing incomes for tutors and ancillary support services. Regulation of the sector has been generally neglected, but is now being taken more seriously in some countries.
... The second, and by far more popular, category of research addresses the effectiveness of private tutoring (Deke et al., 2014;Ha & Park, 2017;Hof, 2014;Ireson, 2004;Kim, 2015;Luplow & Schneider, 2014;Popov et al., 2002;Prakhov, 2017;Wittwer, 2008Wittwer, , 2014Zhan et al., 2013;. One of the most frequently asked questions in these studies is whether tutoring actually helps students improve their academic performance, get higher test scores, and enrol in desired institutions. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
This dissertation aims to provide a genealogy of the relations between the public and the private in education. It does so by the exploring how public education and private tutoring form and transform each other and why they are seen as legitimate or problematic in different historical and cultural contexts. Drawing on curriculum theory and Foucault’s genealogical approach to history, the study examines how private tutoring has been problematised in Imperial, Soviet and post-Soviet Russia and discusses how these problematisations reflect and shape the dominant visions of education. The results show that norms and values in relation to which private education has been problematised and addressed in Russia have varied in line with nationalist, communist and neoliberal visions of education. Although most questions, such as tutor competence, individual privilege, inequality, ethics, governance, and ideological conformity, have constantly been in the focus of critical reflection, they were ‘answered’ differently in different historical periods. Others, such as spatial inequality and ethical concern for corrupt tutoring practices, are of more recent origin. In contrast to previous research into shadow education, the study argues that the mimicking character of supplementary tutoring is not its natural feature. Rather, in the Russian case, it is the result of constant problematisation and the corresponding regulation of its conformity with what is regarded as ‘sacred’ national values. In general, private tutoring in Russia has often been treated as a ‘symptom’ of other educational and societal problems, and addressed indirectly, through reforms in public education. Paradoxically, in fighting against undesirable effects of private tutoring, Russian schools had to adopt some of the traits commonly associated with just that industry, namely individualisation, exam drills, and the promotion of private and positional good. Conversely, changes in the structure, content, pedagogy, or assessment procedures in the mainstream system have provoked considerable changes in tutoring practices, which, however, are not limited to imitation and supplementation. The study concludes that this symbiotic relationship cannot be reduced to imitation, reproduction, or supplementation. Rather, it changes like shifting shadows reflecting and ultimately shaping the dominant perceptions of what education is and ought to be.
... Another key finding in this study was that most of the Hong Kong students who attend shadow education do so because of their own preferences instead of recommendations from teachers. This finding is in accordance with Zhan et al.'s (2013) research which showed that Hong Kong students believe that shadow education helps them cope with examinations more efficiently compared with mainstream education in schools. It can be inferred that shadow education prompted by school factors has a significant effect on testing scores but not on student wellbeing: students who are in a fierce competition climate and who put more time into shadow education will have lower levels of wellbeing. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study investigates the effect of shadow education on Hong Kong student wellbeing. The data were extracted from PISA 2018 (Programme For International Student Assessment 2018) of Hong Kong, and HLM analysis was conducted with student and school dimensions as the independent variables and student wellbeing as the dependent variable. The results in the student dimension showed that students attending shadow education had a significantly higher level of wellbeing than students who did not attend, and in the school dimension, that school competition climate had a significant impact on students' wellbeing; however, shadow education caused by schoolwork pressure and shadow education support appeared to have no significant impact on wellbeing. Furthermore, there was an interactive effect between competition climate and shadow education time which negatively affected wellbeing.
... Korea National Statistical Office reported that 12% of students receive group tutoring in 2010 (as cited in Bray & Lykins). The research which was conducted among 3 secondary schools in Hong Kong found that 53.5% of students were receiving group tutoring during 12 months in 2011/12 (Zhan et al., 2013). ...
... Hong Kong has a high enrolment rate of private tutoring compared to other Asian jurisdictions (Bray and Lykins 2012). A survey of 1,646 students conducted in 2011/2012 showed that 53.8% of Secondary 3 and 71.8% of Secondary 6 students had received private tutoring in the past 12 months (Zhan et al. 2013). EPT is particularly popular because English is a compulsory subject in the curriculum, and its examination result is heavily counted for university admission. ...
Article
Full-text available
The shift from meritocracy to parentocracy in contemporary societies has resulted in a situation where children’s educational success increasingly depends on parents’ wealth and wishes rather than children’s ability and efforts. Better-off parents can afford extra learning activities to increase children’s competitive edge. This phenomenon is fuelled by ‘English fever’ in many non-English-speaking contexts, driving parents to subscribe to English private tutoring (EPT), or shadow education, for children. This paper reports on the findings from a larger year-long study on lecture-style EPT involving Hong Kong secondary students and their parents, schoolteachers and tutors. With a focus on the parental perspective, it expands the notion of parentocracy to EPT with qualitative empirical evidence from 14 parents. The findings unveil parents’ complex, ambivalent and contradictory attitudes toward EPT. These parents played a supporting rather than a dominant role in children’s education at the senior secondary stage. Despite their aspirations for their children, they did not have high expectations on the returns from their ‘investment’ in EPT because they believed children’s success ultimately depended on their own ability and efforts. This study reveals the subordinating role of parentocracy in a meritocratic curriculum where academic success is largely determined by results in high-stakes examinations.
... Table V expresses that most of the learners in BOU are receive private tutoring privately for preparing mathematics (mean, 4+). (Zhan et al., 2013) found that large proportions of secondary school students receive private tutoring. However, perceptions vary according to students' self-reported academic levels and motives for taking private tutoring. ...
Article
Full-text available
Mathematics has always been a challenging academic subject particularly in schools. When students encounter difficulties in mathematics learning, the seemingly common reaction to resolve the issue is to get them to practice more because most of us believe that practice makes perfect. This becomes a problem and in turn, it is more acute for the Open School learners. The current research project aims to investigate what problems the Open School (OS) learners encounter themselves to be successful in the mathematics course of the SSC Program. A survey was conducted among 200 learners in 3 focus group discussions under a project work funded by the University. To identify the learners' attitudes and perceptions on mathematics course a questionnaire is made using Likert Scales. The results showed that most of the sections of the mathematics curriculum of the Bangladesh Open University (BOU) are difficult for the learners. They mainly rely on print materials and shadow teaching rather than using video materials.
Article
The main purpose of this research was to investigate the phenomenon of shadow education in Greece. In this research, the quantitative research method is combined with the qualitative method. The results showed that the liberalization of education during the recent decades was accurately implemented in the institution of shadow education. Knowledge is becoming a commercialized product and the choice for private education is made through private-financial criteria. Restrictive and maladjusted educational policies and decisions relating to individuals’ needs support the development of this institution, highlight the exchange value of academic credentials of the individual, and exacerbate social inequalities.
Article
Full-text available
This study aims to map the literature on shadow education using metadata extracted from 488 publications indexed in the Web of Science database. It is termed as shadow education because much of its content mimics what is learned in schools. The study uses bibliometric procedures to describe and visually represent available literature on shadow education in terms of main sources, key authors, institutions, and countries leading the production and dissemination of research on shadow education. Further, the study elaborates on h-classics publications to obtain an in-depth understanding of the most influential scientific outputs in this domain. Key findings of the study are that research on shadow education (a) has experienced steady growth over the last decade; (b) is disseminated through a wide range of outlets, mainly in the disciplines of sociology of education, economics of education, educational psychology, and language education; (c) is published mainly by scholars working in East Asia and the United States; (d) has focused on tangible (quantifiable) benefits related to improved examination results; and (e) reveals how this form of instruction primarily benefits students hailing from high socioeconomic backgrounds, thereby contributing to greater educational inequality. This study also suggests pedagogical implications and areas for ongoing research.
Article
Using interview data collected from mothers and tutors, this research demonstrates that academic improvement and parental involvement combine to justify outsourcing mothers' educational work, which requires mothers to supervise their children and leads to role strain. Therefore, middle-class families hire tutors providing after-school educational help to maintain a coherent image of intensive mothering. This outsourcing could ease parent–child conflict, maintain the mother's caregiver role (following engendered emotional norms and patriarchal order), and provide another adult role model for the child. Lower-middle-class mothers value tutors' cultural capacity to educate their children both academically and behaviourally. Upper-middle-class mothers outsource teaching aspects, which could risk their carer role, and use educational professionalism to justify the hire. By focusing on Taiwanese mothers' tutor-hiring phenomenon in relation to outsourcing mothering for schooling, this article contributes to sociological perspectives on shadow education and demonstrates how tutoring complements mothering and schooling in Taiwan.
Article
Purpose: “Teach with Fun After-School Care Service (TWF)” was an educational mentoring program developing character traits among primary school students in the form of school-based mentorship, provisioned under a wider intergenerational project. This study aims to examine the effectiveness of the program on character traits development among primary students. Methods: Two multi-school controlled pretest–posttest trials were conducted in primary one through three across two school years between 2016 and 2018. Among students, 37 (34.6%) were of ethnic minority and with special educational needs. Treatment group of 107 students were compared with 53 in comparison group on traits of self-control, responsibility, cooperation, kindness, and courtesy. Results: Results demonstrated interaction effects between time and group for self-control ( p = .026), responsibility ( p = .038), and courtesy ( p = .042). Discussion: This research provides evidence for TWF’s intervention model and offers implications for intergenerational programs. Findings enrich cumulative knowledge about desirable social outcomes in education setting.
Article
The main purpose of this study was to examine whether and how the amount of time spent in private tutoring, the extent of the student-parent conversation, and student achievement were related longitudinally. The autoregressive cross-lagged model was used as the model for the analysis of variables from the KYPS data. The main findings of this study were as follows. First, there was a positive relationship between the amount of time spent in private tutoring and student achievement. Second, there was a positive relationship between the extent of the student-parent conversation and student achievement. Last, there was no statistically significant relationship between the amount of time spent in private tutoring and the extent of the student-parent conversation.
Article
While a number of national studies have been conducted in various parts of the globe, determinant patterns of shadow education (SE) in the Philippines is still unknown. This study aims to establish preliminary data on the factors that determine SE participation of a select group of 1,235 Filipino basic education students. Respondents were asked to accomplish a researcher-made instrument (Cronbach a = 93.5%), wherein data was treated in-depth through descriptive and inferential statistics. Results revealed that despite the rising education cost vis-à-vis students' socio-economic status, there exist a number of factors that determine Filipino students continued SE participation. Such factors can be used as basis in curricular and instructional restructuring and in strengthening the dynamics between school and community partnership.