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Costly lessons - Parents spend more on after-school classes than books, tuition - s u r v e y
published: Tuesday | February 26, 2008

Mark Beckford, Staff Reporter

Some Jamaican parents are spending more money on extra lessons than books, uniforms and tuition, according to the Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions 2006.

The document, which was launched last week at the Planning Institute of Jamaica's New Kingston office, said parents were spending $12,155 on extra lessons compared to $9,317 for tuition; $6,009 for exams and other fees and $3,692 for books on average per year.

In light of the findings, educator Hyacinth Bennett said that, on face value, they bode negatively for the education system.

"Whether these extra lessons are conducted within or without the education system, it speaks volumes negatively of the deficit in the system," Bennett, who is also a Government senator, told The Gleaner yesterday.

She further called for an enquiry into the findings to establish the reason for extra spending on additional lessons.

The latest finding is in keeping with current trends as, in the 2004 survey, the figure for extra lessons was also higher than tuition exams and other fees and books.

"An inquiry (to determine) whether schools or teachers are failing in the educational system needs to be done," she said. "On the other hand, it could be anxiety from parents for their children to succeed at the major exams - Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC)."

President of the National Parent-Teacher Association, Sylvester Anderson, was, however, more cautious in casting judgement on the education system.

"Parents might have concerns with the contact hours teachers might have with their child," he reasoned.

Individual time

Anderson said some parents believe children are not receiving enough individual time, because of overcrowded classes. He also noted that parents use extra lessons as a means to keep their children occupied outside of school hours.

"The parents might not have time to spend with the child so that comes in," he surmised.

Leone Hines-Smith, a parent whose daughter is currently in sixth form at a prominent high school, said a "gap analysis" is needed to see whether parents feel that there is a difference between the level of teaching during regular school hours and the extra lessons.

"No parent wants to feel as if they are short-changing their child; they want to give their child as much a chance in life [as possible]," Hines-Smith said.

The latest finding is in keeping with current trends as, in the 2004 survey, the figure for extra lessons was also higher than tuition exams and other fees and books.

Published under the title 'Education Annual Per Capita Expenditure', a further breakdown of the statistics showed that the Kingston Metropolitan Area had the highest expenditure with an average of $15,689 per household, compared to 'other towns' that spent an average $9,810 and rural areas with $9,442 per household.

The figure for extra lessons was outpaced by transportation at $13,265 and lunch and snacks at $18,688.

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