NU conducted study on children’s perception of shadow education

Thirty 6th grade pupils from Kazakhstani schools took part in a study on shadow education that was conducted by Nazarbayev University professor Anas Hajar. Over the course of one year, students shared their experiences and opinions about private tutoring in Kazakhstan. This was the first time the research was conducted among this age group of students, as before only the opinion of high school students was considered in such surveys. 

The term “shadow education” was coined in 1991 by professor and education expert Mark Bray. It stands for an informal component of the educational process, the most common manifestation of which is private tutoring.

“Unfortunately, the field of shadow education hasn’t been properly studied in the world. This is due to the fact that tutors and parents are not willing to disclose this kind of information. Tutors fear for their “well-established business”, while parents worry because of public opinion since it was long ago established in society that if a child needs a tutor, then he is not smart and talented enough. According to the latest statistics published in 2009, 70% of students in Kazakhstan attended extra-curricular lessons conducted by their own class teachers, ”said Dr. Anas Hajar.

The scholar says that he chose 6th-grade students for a reason. At this age, schoolchildren in Kazakhstan decide to enter schools like NIS, RFMS, or “Nur-Orda”, and their entrance exams require thorough preparation. 

In his paper on shadow education, Professor Hajar sought answers to multiple research questions, one of them being: how do 6th-grade students assess the impact of private tutors on their academic performance?

The answers of the project participants were transformed into a thematic map,  which reflected students’ motivation for taking additional classes, the differences between in-class and private lessons, as well as the disadvantages of sessions conducted by tutors. Some disadvantages that the sixth-grade pupils mentioned are pressure and coercion from the school teachers who insist on private lessons; financial burden; and lack of leisure time.

“The significant contribution of this project is that it has exposed the implicit benefits of private tutoring. Most of the previous studies in the field of shadow education have looked at the obvious benefits of private tutoring –  better performance during the exams, students entering elite schools and universities, etc. However, in our project, the children noted the “non-obvious” benefits of additional private lessons. These extra classes helped students gain self-confidence, raised their self-esteem, improved social skills, and increased interest in school lessons. Therefore, we are not saying that private tutoring is bad and should be banned. This sector needs to be regulated,” said the author of the study.

Based on the study, Professor Hajar recommended that the government of the country and relevant authorities develop a state program that will provide private tutoring to students from economically vulnerable families.

“The government should also adopt a realistic and effective policy to respond to the growing private tutoring sector, and work with schoolteachers who provide private tutoring,” the study’s recommendations read.