Academic journal article Journal for Educational Research Online

Why Do Parents Employ Private Tutors for Their Children?: Exploring Psychological Factors That Influence Demand in England/Warum Nehmen Eltern Nachhilfe Für Ihre Kinder in Anspruch?: Eine Untersuchung Psychologischer Faktoren, Die Nachfrage Nach Nachhilfe in England Beeinflussen

Academic journal article Journal for Educational Research Online

Why Do Parents Employ Private Tutors for Their Children?: Exploring Psychological Factors That Influence Demand in England/Warum Nehmen Eltern Nachhilfe Für Ihre Kinder in Anspruch?: Eine Untersuchung Psychologischer Faktoren, Die Nachfrage Nach Nachhilfe in England Beeinflussen

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Theoretical approaches that have been used to explain the worldwide demand for private tutoring or shadow education tend to emanate from economic, educational or comparative perspectives (Bray & Silova, 2006; Dang & Rogers, 2008). These perspectives focus on factors at a macro level that influence demand such as the quality of national education systems, the extent of competition through high stakes testing for places in secondary schools and higher education, and the economic advantages gained from higher level qualifications. While these factors are significant, this paper argues that more proximal, psychological factors may also play a part in parents' decisions to employ private tutors and therefore deserve greater consideration in the research literature.

International research points to cultural, economic and educational factors that drive the demand for private tutoring (Bray & Silova, 2006). Economic and educational factors at a macro-level include expenditure on public education, characteristics of education systems and household income (Dang & Rogers, 2008). These models help to explain variation in the take up of private tutoring in different countries and illustrate that the quality of public education and family income are related to the demand for private tutoring. They also inform thinking about the context of the private tuition market in a given country and the factors that may need to be modeled (Bray & Silova, 2006; Ireson, 2004).

Family financial resources influence demand for private tutoring within a single country, with several studies showing that children in higher socioeconomic status families are more likely to have tutors than children in poorer families. This relationship is found in countries such as England (Ireson & Rushforth, 2011), Ireland (Smyth, 2009), Canada (Davies, 2004), Turkey (Tansel & Bircan, 2006) and Hong Kong (Bray & Kwok, 2003). In these countries, the cost of private tuition can be substantial, especially if continued over several terms, or for more than one subject. Even so, as Davies (2004) pointed out, parents may use private tutoring as an affordable alternative to private schooling.

High rates of private tuition in South East Asian countries have been attributed to cultural factors, specifically the influence of the Confucian tradition which values the role of effort in educational success (Heine, Lehman, Markus, & Kitayama, 1999; Salili, 1996; Lee, 1996). In contrast, Tweed and Lehman (2002) propose that the USA and other 'culturally Western' groups have been influenced by the Socratic tradition which places emphasis on the questioning of authority, a tendency to evaluate and self-generated knowledge.

A small number of studies have explored psychological factors that may influence the uptake of private tutoring. Lee, Park, and Lee (2009) use expectancy value theory to explain the initial and sustained investment in private tutoring. They propose that motivation to engage in private tutoring is a function of the perceived value of education and parents' expectancy of their child's success in achieving target grades (Lee, Park, & Lee, 2009). They argue that parents see private tutoring as an investment in their child's future economic status, calculating that the benefits of a university degree in terms of future earning potential make it worthwhile.

l.i Parental involvement

Parents' perceptions of their role may also impact on their decision to invest in private tutoring but as there is very limited research on this topic we draw on work that examines parental involvement in their children's education, which offers some useful lines of enquiry. Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1997) argued that parents' decisions to become involved in their children's education are a function of three constructs: the parent's construction of his or her role in the child's life; the parent's sense of efficacy for helping their child succeed at school, defined as a person's belief that he or she can act in ways that will produce desired outcomes (Bandura, 1997); and the general invitations, demands and opportunities presented by both the child and the child's school. …

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