Benefits and Tensions of Shadow Education: Comparative Perspectives on the Roles and Impact of Private Supplementary Tutoring in the Lives of Hong Kong Students (doi: 10.14425/00.45.72)

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Mark Bray


Over half of Hong Kongs secondary students receive private supplementary tutoring, and in the last grade of secondary schooling the proportion exceeds 70%. Such tutoring is widely called shadow education because it mimics the regular system − as the curriculum in the schools changes, so it changes in the shadow; and as the regular school system expands, so does the shadow. The scale of private tutoring has grown significantly in the last two decades, and has become a standard feature of the lives of many families. Some tutoring is provided one-to-one by professionals, semi-professionals or amateurs; other tutoring is provided in small groups; and yet other tutoring is provided in lecture formats. Such tutoring demands significant financial investment by households, and also consumes substantial amounts of students time. Some tutoring has benefits in helping slow learners to keep up with their peers and in stretching further the learning of high achievers. Parents may also prefer to pay other people to manage homework and related stresses. However, tutoring can also increase pressures on young people, and is not always effective. This paper presents Hong Kong data within a framework that compares local patterns with those in other parts of the world. It raises questions about the implications of patterns and about appropriate responses for families, educators and policy makers.


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