Private lessons in high demand in Algeria as finals draw near
By Said Jameh for Magharebia in Algiers – 28/05/09
More and more Algerian students seek private lessons after school hours as the end-of-year exams approach. This informal training is not limited to baccalaureate prep; many families pay for tutoring for their children in elementary and middle school as well.
Teachers in various departments offer private or "supporting" lessons, in order to raise students' knowledge and to boost their potential in the exams.
Such lessons are advertised and arranged during regular school hours, and are often given in teachers' homes or rented halls for up to 15 students at a time.
School is free in Algeria, but many parents choose to allocate a separate budget for supplementary training. Some complain of the high prices of lessons, but succumb to pressure from their children.
Exam preparation is the talk of the town in Algeria these days, as elementary school exams concluded Wednesday (May 27th) and will be followed by middle school tests on June 2nd, and the baccalaureate beginning on the 7th.
The Ministry of National Education has also weighed in on the issue of independent study. Public schools, they claim, do their very best to ensure that students achieve outstanding academic results.
Officials complain of the growing phenomenon, particularly at the elementary level, for its potential impact on children's upbringing.
As a result, Minister of Education Boubekeur Benbouzid announced on May 20th that the government would take disciplinary action against teachers who offer private lessons to elementary students.
The Ministry launched its own programme of after-school training in January, where schools offer courses on Monday and Thursday afternoons for a fee.
This initiative is intended to regulate the exam prep sector, to ensure students receive training in accordance with ministry curricula.
Parents do not seem to mind their children spending time in private lessons, as long as they reinforce their knowledge and help them pass the exams.
Djamila, a housewife whose daughter is due to sit for the bac, is confident the lessons will have the desired effect. "I don't care about the money I spend as much as I care about my daughter's success," she told Magharebia.
Yacine, a secondary school history teacher, said he has given private lessons for more than two years, to earn additional income and improve his standard of living.
"The salary I am paid can only cover my needs for 15 days, so I had to offer private lessons to students who need them," he told Magharebia. He sticks to the curriculum, though, as "this is what students get tested in".
Mohamed Guidji, head of the education committee in the People's National Assembly, believes that this adherence to the curriculum is paramount. He told Magharebia that if the objective of private lessons is to enable students to gain more knowledge, they need to stick to the courses taught at public institutions. According to Guidji, the growth of private lessons requires a new law to regulate the practice and avoid corruption.
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