The parents of middle and high school students in Mon State government schools have expressed concerns about costs surrounding extra ‘tuition’ fees and the lack of downtime in their children’s schedules caused by obligations to attend extra study sessions before and after regular classes.
‘Tuition’ is a common practice throughout Burma in which school teachers or people from outside the school system charge a fee to teach the same lessons taught during class time before or after school. In addition, while not every student attends ‘tuition’, most students attend ‘extra time’ classes which teachers conduct for an hour and a half after the regular day has finished.
According to a grade 8 (Standard 7) student in Mudon Township, students get up early in the morning and go to tuition around 5:30 am, then continue to study at their school until 3 pm, after which they attend ‘extra time’ classes until 4:30 pm with their teachers. Following this, they go directly to tuition until 6 pm, leaving students little time to relax.
The student detailed that many school teachers who teach ‘extra time’ only lecture on the basics during the day and demand a fee for the added support after regular school hours, asking for 1,500 kyat (US $1.10) per month for grade 8 (Standard 7) students.
Even though students can study at their school without attending morning or evening tuition, students feel they will not pass exams if they do not attend, which is why parents allow them to go to tuition even though it is a large financial burden. The school teachers or external educators who teach tuition explain the same lessons from school in more detail during these after school classes and if the students understand they can go back home.
The Mon State Ministry of Education has stated that any form of collecting extra fees by teachers, including tuition, donations or selling school/classroom seals, is prohibited. However, students are required to pay 5,000 kyat (US $3.67) per month in school fees and 1,500 kyat per month for ‘extra time’ fees.
Yet, despite the prohibition by the Ministry of Education, teachers still find a way around the ban and conduct tuition classes.
A Mudon Township parent explained that, “due to my child’s school teacher being unable to teach tuition, I allow my children to live in their teacher’s house and to study hard to get a high score. We need to spend 2,700,000 kyat (US $1,983.13) per year for grade 10 (Standard 9) students and 3,400,000 kyat (US $2,497.28) for grade 11 (Standard 10) students per year. We can break down the fees we pay to the teacher up to three times: first, we have to pay part of the fee at the start of tuition in March; second, in July we pay again while students go back home to take a rest for 10-15 days; and lastly, in October we need to pay all the money that we have yet to pay.”
Similarly, even though school teachers from Kalaw Taw and Nyne Hlone villages in Mudon Township are not allowed to teach tuition, they ask the students to attend night study classes and sleep at the school, which costs students 200,000 (US $146.96) or 300,000 kyat (US $220.43) per year. However, some parents cannot afford to pay for this and their children face difficulties in attaining quality education. In addition, for the grade 10 (Standard 9) students who live at their teacher’s house, they need to annually pay 500,000 kyat (US $367.32) if they do not eat food there and 1,000,000 kyat (US $734.63) if the students live there, including food costs.
The parents of students who live in Thanbyuzayat Township explained that students who study in grade 10 (Standard 9) and 11 (Standard 10) have to pay an annual fee of 1,200,000 kyat (US $881.67) for them to live at their teacher’s house and access regular tuition there. On the other hand, the parents also need to support their child in their daily expenses and monthly ‘extra time’ fees from the school.
The parents are worried about the high cost of tuition fees and other expenses for their children’s education. If school teachers do not teach tuition or open night study class in their house, but rather teach the students in the classroom properly, the students would not need to live in their teacher’s home and parents would also not need to worry about the affording their children’s education.
According to a grade 7 (Standard 6) student from Wae Ka Lee village, Thanbyuzayat Township, “we need to study at school and also ‘extra time’. We are often exhausted by the challenging schedules because, after 4:30 pm when school lets out, we rush to attend tuition. In school there are many students and since teachers cannot give one-on-one instruction, we feel we have to attend tuition after school in order to get more assistance. We have no time to rest and we are always in a hurry.”
By Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM)