Private tutoring in Southeast Asia

Knowledge economies, positional goods, and double entendres

Authored by: Will Brehm

Routledge International Handbook of Schools and Schooling in Asia

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138908499
eBook ISBN: 9781315694382
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter focuses on private tutoring in Southeast Asia. It first presents an overview of the growing phenomenon in the region and then uses a comparative study of Cambodia and Singapore to illustrate two extreme but divergent cases. The formation and organisation of tutoring differs across Southeast Asia. In some cases, such as in Cambodia, tutoring is initiated by school teachers to top-up (sometimes substantially) low salaries. In these cases, it is difficult to know when mainstream schooling ends and private tutoring begins. In other cases, such as in Singapore, tutoring has developed into a legitimate business sector of the economy. Students typically take extra lessons in centres that are organised as for-profit companies, outside the control of education ministries but connected to school curricula and examinations. Cambodia and Singapore represent these two divergent cases. Tutoring is explained by situating its growth in both cases within the advent of knowledge-based economies and subsequently through the concepts of positional goods in Singapore and clientelism in Cambodia.

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