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** For foreigners who are not familiar with the country, education and tuition culture in Malaysia, you might find the following guide useful - Malaysia, Education & Tuition: A Background Guide.

 
The geography of tuition


         Yes, you read the title correctly. But the topic of interest here is not the tutoring of Geography as an academic subject, but the urban-rural dichotomy of the tuition phenomenon. To be more precise, it's about the affinity of 'tuition' to urban areas and its aversion to rural regions in Malaysia.
The urban-rural divide
         If you live in the Klang Valley, tuition centres are common features of the urban landscape. They are so ordinary a sight that you usually don't notice them, unless you are associated with them in some way or other. If you are a student, you could be attending their classes; if you are a parent, you could be paying them tuition fees; or if you are a tuition teacher, they would be your employers. For those of you who have nothing to do with the tuition centres, you would still have passed by them at some time in the past, whether you are aware of them or not. It is the same in other urban areas such as Ipoh, Johor Bahru, Georgetown, Kota Kinabalu, etc. But as soon as you leave the concrete forest of the cities, those tuition centres become conspicuously scarce. And it isn't just the tuition centres that disappeared off the scope, the prevalence of other forms of tuition, such as private tutoring also goes into decline. What are the reasons for this dichotomy? Are there not students in rural areas as well? Do they not go for tuition too, as their urban counterparts do?


Not interested, or not enough?
         The most immediate answer that comes to mind, is the size of a tuition market. Although there are many rural school-going children, they are too sparsely distributed to matter in any significant way. There is no geographic concentration as in the cities and towns. Tuition centres are businesses. They are owned and operated by business persons who are ultimately concerned with the bottom line. And the rural areas do not provide a strong economic incentive for them to operate there. When the market size is too small, tuition centres just wouldn't become profitable. But market size could only be a partial explanation. What about private tuition, which is smaller in scale and require little financial capital? Why does it not flourish the way it does in the cities? There must be other factors at work which cause tuition to be so closely associated with the urbanites.


The cold hard facts

         A deeper reflection will reveal that the higher level of competitiveness among urban students plays a part in the supply-demand situation. This urban competitiveness could be traced to a socio-economic affliction. An affliction known as the 'Diploma Disease', whereby students pursue academic credentials merely as means to better jobs and higher salaries. The condition affects our society as a whole but is more apparent in urban areas due to the greater differentials in living standard between individuals who have unequal levels of education. Here in the large towns and cities, these stark differences are laid bare for the urbanites. Those with tertiary education have better chances to hold comfortable high-paying jobs, drive expensive cars and live in beautiful homes. On the other hand, those without sufficient education usually struggle to get by at low-paying jobs and occupy the lower rungs of the societal ladder. Since the gateway to each level of academic credentialing is guarded by examinations, the rewards for success and the penalties for failure in those examinations are substantial.

         Urban students are very cognizant of these 'cold hard facts' and they therefore strive to advance as high as possible in the education system. If tuition helps people to pass exams and stay in the education system longer, then for these urban students it may be a very good investment of their time and money. In comparison, the differentials are less apparent in rural areas due to the milder social stratifications and lower standards of living there. The 'push' and 'pull' factors are stronger in urban areas. Urban students are fiercely competitive in the education 'game'. Hence, the demand for tuition is stronger as well.


Keep up or lose out

         Secondly, urban parents themselves play an important role in popularizing tuition. They usually have higher achievement expectation regarding their children's education when compared to their rural counterparts. More often than not, it is the city parents who push their children towards tuition, having seen, in their own eyes, how importantly other city folks regard academic credentials. Moreover, they are capable of easily embracing tuition due to prior experience to it, that is, because they have probably attended tuition classes as students in the past. Also, urban parents are better off in economic terms to afford tuition for their children.


Got money, no worry

         Sometimes, it isn't just about affordability. The lifestyles of urban families are simply different from those in rural regions. For example, the urbanites usually have the mentality that 'all problems can be fixed with money'. When this attitude is extended to education, tuition often becomes the first answer whenever academic performance slips. Families, especially those with both parents working, also prefer structured frameworks for supervision of their children. Parents want their children to be out of mischief and doing something 'useful' after school hours. Tuition is the ideal solution for them in this regard. Some even hire private tutors to come to their homes not just for personal coaching, but also for child-minding functions. This is clearly one of the many manifestations of a hectic urban lifestyle.


         As urbanization sweeps into rural regions, tuition is expected to be following not far behind. Signs of such rural assault are already beginning to show, whereby some large tuition centres are seen establishing smaller albeit rural branches. Soon, tuition may become a truly 'nationwide experience' for all of our students. When that happens, it may or may not be a good thing after all.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Glossary of Terms :
(1) Tuition - Tutelage, the act of tutoring or teaching a student (pupil); Fees paid for instruction (especially for higher education). In Malaysia, tuition is more popularly used to denote tutoring rather than fee. Common Malaysian misspellings: Tiution, Tution. *(BM): Tuisyen, Tiusyen, Tusyen, Tuisen, Tiusen, Tuisyan, Tiusyan, Tusyan. | (2) Home Tuition - Tutoring that takes place at students' or tutors' home as opposed to at tuition centers; Also: Home Tutoring, Private Tuition, Private Tutoring. *(BM): Tuisyen Di Rumah, Tuisyen Swasta. | (3) Personal Tuition - Tutoring on the basis of one tutor catering to one student. Also: Personal Tutoring, Individual Tuition, Individual Tutoring, One-to-one Tuition, 1-to-1 Tutoring, One-to-one Tutoring, 1-to-1 Tuition. *(BM): Tuisyen Peribadi, Tuisyen Persendirian, Tuisyen Perseorangan, Tuisyen Individu. | (4) Group Tuition - Tutoring on the basis of one tutor catering to several (small number, but more than one) students. Also: Small Group Tuition, Small Class Tuition, Group Tutoring, Small Group Tutoring, Small Class Tutoring. *(BM): Tuisyen Berkumpulan, Tuisyen Kumpulan Kecil, Tuisyen Kelas Kecil. | (5) Tutors - Tuition Teachers, persons who conduct tuition. In Malaysia, teacher is more popularly used to denote a school teacher whereas tutor usually means a non-school teacher. Also: Tiutors, Tuitors. *(BM): Guru Sekolah, Cikgu Sekolah, Pengajar Tuisyen, Guru Tuisyen, Cikgu Tuisyen. | (6) Home Tutors - Tutors who provide home tuition as opposed to those who teach at tuition centres. Also: Private Tutors, Personal Tutors, Individual Tutors, One-to-one Tutors, 1-to-1 Tutors, Group Tutors, Small Group Tutors, Private Teachers, Personal Teachers, Individual Teachers, One-to-one Teachers, 1-to-1 Teachers, Group Teachers, Small Group Teachers, Private Tuition Teachers, Personal Tuition Teachers, Individual Tuition Teachers, One-to-one Tuition Teachers, 1-to-1 Tuition Teachers, Group Tuition Teachers, Small Group Tuition Teachers. *(BM): Pengajar Di Rumah, Pengajar Swasta, Pengajar Peribadi, Pengajar Persendirian, Pengajar Perseorangan, Guru Di Rumah, Guru Swasta, Guru Peribadi, Guru Persendirian, Guru Perseorangan, Cikgu Di Rumah, Cikgu Swasta, Cikgu Peribadi, Cikgu Persendirian, Cikgu Perseorangan. | (7) Tuition Centers - Private institutions that conduct tuition on classroom-like settings. Also: Tuition Centres, Tutorial Centers, Tutorial Centres, Tuition Classes, Tutorial Classes, Tutoring Classes. *(BM): Pusat Tuisyen, Pusat Bimbingan, Pusat Tutorial, Kelas Tuisyen. | (8) Home Tuition Jobs - Home tuition vacancies; Posts to be filled by home tutors. Also: Private Tuition Jobs, Home Tutoring Jobs, Private Tutoring Jobs, Home Tuition Assignments, Private Tuition Assignments, Home Tutoring Assignments, Private Tutoring Assignments, Private Tuition Vacancies, Home Tutoring Vacancies, Private Tutoring Vacancies. *(BM): Jawatan Kosong Tuisyen, Pekerjaan Tuisyen, Kerja Tuisyen, Tugasan Tuisyen. | (9) Home Tutees - Home tuition students; Pupils receiving home tuition from home tutors. *(BM): Pelajar Tuisyen, Murid Tuisyen, Penuntut Tuisyen. | *(BM) denotes terms in Bahasa Melayu or Malay Language.

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