Discussion paper

Downsides to East Asian education success

13 Aug 2012
Description

Using several recent international reports as evidence, this policy brief argues that the extensive use of private tutors in East Asia has a detrimental affect on family budgets, children's time and national education systems.

A recent report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) suggests that high participation in private tutoring in East Asian countries is a factor behind their education success. The report shows that 70-80% of students are engaged in private tutoring and it warns about profound education and social consequences of the “alarming” expansion of tutoring. The report adds to evidence from recent OECD studies that extensive private tutoring is increasing education inequality in Korea and Japan.

The studies raise questions about whether East Asian schools systems are a good model for Australia to follow to improve school results as advocated by the Grattan Institute. A report published by the Institute earlier this year on East Asian education completely ignored the heavy dependence on private tutoring in these countries and its impact on inequality.

The new ADB report says what is called “shadow education” is dominating the lives of young people and their families, exacerbating social inequalities and creating inefficiencies in education systems.
“Shadow education is expanding at an alarming rate. It is already most extensive in the Asian region, and increasing proportions of household income are being spent on private tutoring,” said Jouko Sarvi, Practice Leader for Education in the Bank’s Department of Regional and Sustainable Development, in releasing the report.

He said that private tutoring “has some positive elements but there are very heavy negative implications of it expanding in Asia...Poorer students don't have the means to pay for private tutoring services.”
“As a whole, the trend reinforces poor education practice and inequality in education provision in societies. It also has negative implications for education planning and sustainable public and private financing of education.”

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2012
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