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Test angst fuels private tuition boom

HONG KONG. Hong Kong has overtaken Japan in the proportion of primary and secondary pupils using private tutors after school. The rise is due to the competitive exam system and parents' interest in results.

In a survey just released by the The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 34 per cent of students aged 10 to 19 had private tuition after school. This is almost 10 per cent higher than Japan, renowned for its high-pressure exam system. Three years ago the Japanese education ministry found 26 per cent of primary and secondary students had out-of-school coaching.

Most of those using private tutors in Hong Kong are students about to sit matriculation exams but a surprising 45 per cent of primary pupils have private coaching after school, many of them doing more than six hours a week. The average is four hours.

"The main reason for having private tuition is that they are not satisfied with their academic performance," said Jacky Pang, senior researcher with the Federation. Only 2.3 per cent said they took tuition solely because their parents wanted them to. Some pupils say they do not understand what their teachers say in class.

More than half the students using private tutors were being coached in English language. Mathematics came next with 40 per cent of pupils receiving out-of-school coaching. Almost a quarter of students said they were being coached in all subjects, although researchers say it is unclear to what extent tutors are merely supervising homework rather than actually teaching.

Hong Kong parents spend between Pounds 80 and Pounds 250 a month on private tutors but only 12 per cent of the students said their performance had improved a lot after coaching. Almost 80 per cent said there was just a little improvement and 3.4 per cent said there was none at all.

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