Tutoring is not only popular in East Asia, but is also becoming a trend in western countries of Europe and North America. In spite of the global trend, Hong Kong continues to run one of the most active and prosperous tutoring industries in the world. Various factors explain its success.
Firstly, there is the cultural factor. A common stereotype of Asian students is their strong commitment to academic success. Asian parents pay much more attention to academic results than their western counterparts. Students, therefore, are trained to take education matters quite seriously starting from a young age.
Secondly, the lifestyle in the never-sleeping metropolis of Hong Kong is in favour of tutorial schools. Hongkongers work long hours and consequently, they cannot provide sufficient homework guidance to their children. Tutorial schools can therefore do a better job in this respect.
Moreover, the frightening cost of real estate in the city often results in three or four generations of family members living under one roof. Flats could be so tiny and noisy that there is no proper place for children to revise or do homework. Hence, tutorial centers are the ideal place to go after school.
Thirdly, the education system of Hong Kong is highly competitive; there are far more high school graduates than the number of seats in local universities. A student's future is solely determined by his or her performance in the HKDSE examination (formerly the HKCEE and HKALE) administered by the Education Bureau. A high mark means a place in one of the best universities. A low mark may suggest no university at all, and therefore no future.
This result-oriented education system explains the success of the so-called "Cram Schools" in Hong Kong since the early 2000s. Cram Schools are exam-oriented and employ a number of fashionably dressed and coiffed tutors with a set of marketing gimmicks to attract students to join their tutorials where they mainly teach exam tips and strategies.
There is no doubt that these tutors have done an excellent job in guiding students to approach the exams. Some tutors were even able to predict upcoming exam questions with a high degree of accuracy. Despite the public confidence in Cram Schools, a number of critics about the failing local education system have emerged. Hong Kong students are encouraged to study the exam trends to score a high mark, and as a result most of them fail to understand the content. So is this really the purpose of education?
In conclusion, parents and students should bear in mind that high school is not the end of the journey. What matters next is university - tertiary education is about equipping students with adequate analytical and problem-solving skills by leveraging on the core foundations developed in secondary school. While exam skills can only help them once, a solid understanding of the subject matter can help them throughout their life journey.