Let’s start with a simple example: for work reasons we must move to another part of the world with our whole family. In that place the language of schooling is a different language from our mother tongue.
Given this fact, there are several options: educate our children in a school close to home, in the new language, or in a school with our mother tongue. Given either of the two options, we will see that in that country private classes outside school hours are common , even in some cases paid for with public funds. And, if we have opted for schooling in a different language, surely the children will go to an academy or receive private classes to catch up with the new language.
The “private” classes, understood as the hours of instruction added to those of the school, during non-school hours, and often individual and specialized, receive different names in international studies. It is very interesting that in international English they are called “shadow education”, Shadow Education .
How necessary are they? The answer is provided by reality itself: families perceive that their children need these private classes.
Diversity of reasons and objectives
The reasons are very different and of differentiated categories. For example, given the importance of languages in today’s communication and knowledge society, the feeling is that students do not receive sufficient training at school to achieve this linguistic competence.
In fact, private classes related to language learning are very widespread in our immediate environment.
Another issue that is often behind the decision to enroll children in these classes is family reconciliation . When minors must be left alone at home, if the family can afford it, going to an academy or similar to be cared for and take advantage of school skills to work on is a solution for many families.
Another common reason is when students show learning difficulties (see the example at the beginning of this text). The personalized attention that private classes can offer could help these apprentices progress in school. And, as has been said, the presence of private classes in most of the countries around us is a real fact that justifies the presence and needs of these extracurricular classes.
Finally, there is the desire of parents or guardians that students receive more specific training in subjects that are not part of the school curriculum. This section includes sports or musical instrument classes, which are also private classes.
Consequences of private lessons
Is it an excessive overload for children to receive these classes? Do they have enough time left to play or interact with their friends in the parks? Data on school hours indicate that children have six hours of classes in schools per day.
Let’s do a quick calculation: if we add six hours of school, nine or ten hours of sleep (according to needs by age), three hours for meals and two hours for personal care (rest, toilet…), we get twenty or twenty one hours. If we add another hour of commuting, we have two or three hours left over each day.
Let’s give alternatives based on the development and interaction needs of the children: play the game , watch television, play in the park, read a book, learn a language, participate in a sporting activity, attend private classes…
When choosing what you want to spend your free time on, it will be necessary to consider the weather and the possibility of accompaniment by families and the corresponding regulations on extracurricular activities in general.
The point of balance
There is enough scientific research to confirm that more exposure to learning improves student outcomes . Therefore, private classes expand student learning and there will be no doubt about its convenience in this regard.
The question is how these private classes are managed so that they are really facilitators of academic, emotional and even social development. We should apply the same principles as for school classes, based on what is called dialogic learning : if they are respected, both in the classroom and in private classes, success will be guaranteed.
Inequality in access
Given that it is interesting to continue investigating this area and even promote private classes, we should consider the factor of social inequality .
Although diversity is an opportunity for learning and improvement , the diversity that stems from inequality or that generates it must be addressed in an inclusive manner. It would be unethical to consider that private classes help learning and take away this opportunity from those families who, for various reasons, cannot access them.
In this sense, it is good to draw the attention of public administrations so that this tool does not increase social inequalities. Even the centers, for example with tutored Libraries or the like, could allow the extension of exposure to learning with inclusive and contrasted attention.
Universities can also develop volunteer programs to allow all students access to the best ways to learn and develop academically, emotionally, and socially.
Author Bio: Jesus Marauri Ceballos is Professor of the Primary Education Degree at the University of Deusto. Organization of centers and didactics at the University of Deusto