The curriculum at Melbourne High School has been carefully designed
to provide a foundation of the skills and knowledge required for
further study; to provide an intellectual challenge; to inspire
a love of learning and to teach study habits invaluable for a life
Families have justifiably high expectations of the academic demands
placed on a student at Melbourne High School. Classes do move quickly,
and it is likely that more content will be taught in an average
term at Melbourne High than at the student's previous school. This
does not mean, however, any son will be expected to become expert
immediately, or else run the risk of falling behind.
Some parents mistakenly believe that their son will not be supported
in his learning if he has difficulty in a subject. Any student who
does not understand what is taught in class will be assisted by
their class teacher; there is no expectation that the student should
hire a private tutor in order to catch-up.
It is the school's intention to help families develop young men
who are well-rounded, have a wide-range of interests and are fully-equipped
for a professional and personal life after their school years. It
is concerning that some of our students receive so much tutoring
out of school hours that they do not have the time to pursue other
interests, or to develop important relationships.
Reliance on tutors also tends to undermine the school's efforts
to help students become an independent learner. In order to acquire
the habits of mind typical of a sophisticated thinker, students
need to learn to solve problems through deep thinking; having a
tutor provide 'the answers' could be detrimental to his intellectual
growth and entrench his reliance on the advice of others, rather
than trusting his own ability to apply the lessons learned in class.
Where any parent is concerned about their son's progress they should
contact his Student Learning Coordinator. The coordinator will meet
with the student to ascertain his needs and to implement any additional
or alternative aspects to his study program.
What role should tutors play?
From the Principal's Report, published in OURS,
Friday 10 June 2011. Volume 24, Number 16
Many MHS families employ private tutors to support their son's
learning. A recent survey of Year 11 students revealed that approximately
a quarter of students currently employ tutors with some students
using multiple tutors.
Given that these students are the most academically able in the
state, it is worth asking whether tutors are really necessary and
what role they can or should play. Our students report that their
first use of a tutor was often to prepare them to sit the entrance
exam. Our own analysis indicates that coaching for the exam is unlikely
to have much impact as the majority of the test assesses natural
ability rather than prior learning. It may be the case, however,
that the use of a tutor leads some families to believe that their
son only gained a place on the basis of a tutor's assistance and
therefore a tutor will be necessary to maintain them at MHS.
When we ask our students themselves, many report using tutors to
give them an edge over their peers and from a perception that those
students gaining the best results do so with the help of tutors.
In fact our own analysis indicates that our most able students rarely
There are certainly instances when it would be quite appropriate
for MHS students to utilise tutors; however, this is not reflected
in the current pattern of use amongst our students. There are equally
a range of problems that can result from the use of tutors and it
is worth considering these carefully.
The majority of tutors are current or past teachers; however, some
have no teaching qualification and there bone fides are questionable.
If they are not currently teaching the subject they are providing
tutorial support in to the relevant year level, it is often the
case that they are unfamiliar with the requirements of the course.
They will certainly be unfamiliar with the MHS course requirements.
It has given rise to situations when the tutor provides ill-informed
and misleading advice. A possible solution would be if the tutor
was a current MHS staff member; however, it is not permitted by
their conditions of employment.
There have sometimes been issues when a tutor has given undue assistance
to a student. In some cases this has led to authentication concerns
and the teacher is not convinced that the work is entirely that
of the student. In such circumstances, the teacher has little option
other than to reject or fail the work submitted and report a breach
of rules. In other instances it can lead to a self-defeating dependency.
Where students have leaned too heavily on a tutor and therefore
have not developed their own understanding of a topic, they will
be brought undone when undertaking a test or exam when they have
to stand on their feet.
Some tutors set students additional homework above that already
set by the teacher. This can result in an exaggerated and unnecessary
workload for the student. As tutors cost money there is also an
equity issue stemming from who can afford a tutor regardless of
whether they do or do not need support. Class teachers will provide
some individual assistance to students and the School offers additional
after class assistance in English and mathematics.
Finally, there have been instances when tutors have convinced students
and their families that their good marks are largely attributable
to the tutor's assistance. They clearly have a pecuniary interest
in doing so to convince the family to continue to pay them. Unfortunately,
this can result in students having an undeserved lack of confidence
in their own ability.
The School Council is currently investigating the use of tutors
at MHS. We recognise that in certain circumstances tutor support
is necessary and justified; however, the current pattern of use
does not match this need. The widespread use of tutors also comes
with its problems as identified above.
One response being considered by Council is the establishment of
a MHS authorized tutor service. This would be manned by tutors endorsed
by the School and referral to the service would be based on perceived
need. The cost of the service could also take into account the financial
circumstances of the family. Another advantage of such a service
would be for the class teacher and the tutor to work in collaboration
rather than in isolation, as is the case at present.