One of our readers asked, Why is there the need for all these extra lessons? Surely there would be no need for these extra lessons if teachers were teaching effectively during the school day? Extra lessons are indeed an ongoing part of the school system.
There are several who will argue that teachers are giving extra lessons to make more money. However, in many instances, students are allowed into these classes who do not pay for them. In any case, the fees charged are quite modest. Look at from a strictly economic point of view it is doubtful whether extra lessons are simply for earning extra income.
My candid opinion is that extra lessons have to do more with the anxieties of teachers and parents than with effective teaching during regular class hours or with teachers earning extra income. The extra lesson business is largely centred around the common entrance and CXC. Both of these examinations are the foci of a great deal of anxiety on the parts of teachers, parents, and students. Speaking to a friend of mine whose daughter just sat the Common Entrance, her remark to me was that she was not sure who had really taken the examination, she or her daughter. Given the importance attached to these examinations, the anxieties and stress related to them are understandable.
In this highly stressful situation, the standard belief is that more is better. Teachers feel the need for more time to cover the syllabus or to practice for the examinations. Parents are concerned that their child does not know sufficient. Students feel that they are missing out if all their friends and peers are getting the benefit of these extra classes and they are not. The great appetite is for more instruction and more classes.
What is in short supply is confidence. Yet confidence is the key element in success in the classroom. I taught for several years and never once finished the syllabus. Neither did I offer extra lessons. Yet my students got very good results in the examinations. However, this did not happen immediately after I started teaching. It took two to three years after I was able to take some students through from third and fourth forms to the external examinations. Once confidence had been established then the rest was relatively easy. Practically all my students passed each year. Even then a few parents still sent their children to extra lessons. These students did not perform any better than the other who did not go to these classes. In my opinion, they did not need it. But that was not the view of the parents.
This is not to say that some students who go for extra lessons, need to do so because their regular teachers are not delivering the goods. But bearing in mind that most of the extra lessons are given by the regular class teacher, it would appear that the concern is for more instruction rather than for the quality of the teaching.
May 12, 1997