Jakarta – Many Indonesian students attend after-school tutoring sessions to get a better grasp of the material they are learning, but the success of these tutoring agencies raises questions about the state of education in the country.
After-school tutoring services are the go-to option for parents who are concerned about their children's academic performance or students who have specific goals, such as passing a university entrance exam.
The price range for these services is very broad. Students can pay as little as Rp 25,000 (US$1.74) for a group lesson and as much as Rp 1,000,000 for a private session.
The tutors are usually employed to help students gain a better understanding of the topics they are learning in school, and since the pandemic began, this role has grown in importance, especially after the significant learning interruptions that resulted from schools shifting online.
But not everyone can afford to employ tutors' services, which raises several questions, including whether after-school tutoring has become essential and if the country's standard education system is failing to serve students.
Agatha Milenia Rosiani Gather, or Rosi, is a bachelor of education graduate from Surabaya. While she was a student, she used the services of after-school tutors because "when teachers give instruction in school, they tend to only give materials without any clear explanation because of time limitations".
Rosi complained that in exams "the questions are always far more elaborate than the previously given explanation".
"One thing [that was important for me] in choosing a tutoring service was the exercise bank," she added, referring to a collection of supplementary practice questions that many tutoring agencies offer. The exercise bank that her service provided her had the "right" kind of questions, which helped her pass her exams.
Michelle Angeline Jawono, a 22-year-old who lives in Surabaya and has a bachelor's degree in media and communication studies, said a lack of time in school to discuss the material had caused her to turn to tutors.
She added that teachers rarely built close educational connections with their students because of time constraints and that, as a result, students failed to develop a complete understanding of the material.
"After-school lessons provide a more direct and private interaction between tutors and students, which can result in a more effective teaching and learning experience," she said.
While Michelle believes in the benefits of after-school tutoring sessions, she also acknowledged that students could abuse such services.
"In some cases, if the student does not have any intention to learn, they can misuse these sessions to cheat. For instance, they might ask or even force their tutors to do their homework while learning nothing in the process," she said.
Kenny Wijaya, the 27-year-old owner of tutoring agency paopaocourse.id and a tutor himself, believes that the responsibility of a tutor is not as simple as providing the correct answers to students. He said it was essential that tutors understood this, especially as the role had grown in importance recently.
"Based on what my pupils have told me, their [school] teachers just come to class and then give [the students] assignments through Google Classroom or ask them to watch videos on YouTube. That does not teach the students anything," he said.
Kenny added that the notable difference between school and after-school tutorial services was how they handled students, which was why students turned to tutors in the first place.
He said taking after-school lessons would elevate a student's ability to learn, as there were too many students in typical classrooms. He noted that he understood the plight of students who found it difficult to concentrate when studying in a big class.
"[After-school tutoring services] give full attention to students. It's different from a school, where there are many people in a class, so that it's very difficult to pay attention to each student one on one," said Kenny.
Meanwhile, Michelle said she believed the utility of tutoring services depended on the student.
"Case A, if the student is ambitious, they might perform better after using such services," she said. "Case B, if the student asks their tutor to do homework, this not only will not help the student academically, but it will also erode the student's integrity."