Repetitorstvo

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Repetitorstvo
Informal practice commonly found in Post-Soviet States
FSU map.png
Map of Post-Soviet States, where Repetitorstvo commonly takes place.
Entry written by Eduard Klein.
Eduard Klein is affiliated to Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen.

Original text by Eduard Klein

Repetitorstvo is a Russian/Ukrainian term used across much of the former socialist bloc (Azeri repetitorluq; Belarusian repietytarstva; Polish korepetycje) to describe supplementary private tutoring. The origin of the word is the Latin repetere, which stems from re (again) and petere (to seek, beg, beseech) and means to repeat, revise or reread. Repetitorstvo means that students are taught individually or in small groups on a paid basis in addition to their official school curriculum. Usually a school or university teacher is hired, who is then called the repetitor.

Private tutoring is a common practice all around the world, but repetitorstvo has its own peculiarities. While many parents hire private tutors to help their children to earn better grades, in the post-Soviet states repetitorstvo is seen as part of a wider shadow education system (Bray 2007[1]) with both positive and negative consequences. On the one hand, it is a means to improve learning and increase human capital. It provides an additional source of income for education workers and compensates for the fall in their official wages, which for example in Russia in the 1990s fell by up to three-quarters in real terms (Kuzminov 2012:334[2]). It is also profitable for the state since it enables the government to save spending on education.

On the other hand, repetitorstvo may distort teachers’ performance, foster unethical behaviour and corruption, and waste financial resources that might be used more effectively (Bray 2007:18 [3]). It penalises the poor, by creating and expanding social inequalities. Hiring private tutors is costly, so repetitorstvo discriminates against students whose families cannot afford it. It undermines equal access to universities and increases social stratification and inequality.

Repetitorstvo is a common practice in all the post-Soviet states but its nature, costs and scale vary from country to country. During the Soviet period, repetitorstvo was not widespread. Tutors were hired to improve foreign-language skills, but this involved only a small number of students. But after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, repetitorstvo experienced dramatic growth when the state lost its monopoly over education and a private education industry emerged (Büdiene et al. 2006:8[4]). According to a comparative survey conducted among freshmen in 2004-2005, 93 percent of Azerbaijani students had received private tutoring in their final secondary-school year. In Georgia the number was 80 percent, Ukraine 79 percent, Mongolia 71 percent, Poland 66 percent and Lithuania 62 percent (Büdiene et al. 2006:14[5]). An internet search for the term repetitorstvo comes up with over 8 million results on the popular Russian search engine yandex.ru, most of which are professional private tutoring services.

Silova (2010[6]) identifies a chain of circumstances explaining the huge growth of repetitorstvo. One of the main reasons is the fall in teacher’s salaries (Biswal 1999:238[7]). After the breakup of the Soviet Union, state spending on education fell dramatically across the successor-states. Teachers and lecturers at all levels faced heavy wage-cuts, often to below subsistence level. This forced them to seek supplementary income in the private economy, developing private education sector, or shadow education system. Repetitorstvo was the most convenient alternative, as teachers kept their workplaces, but earned extra income without great effort. This ‘service’ was tolerated and even demanded by a growing middle-class, who increasingly spent money on education to invest in their children’s futures (Bray 2013[8]).

In the post-Soviet states, repetitorstvo often resembles petty corruption in the sense that citizens pay for a service that, according to law, should be provided for free. Biswal even applies Klitgaard’s (1988[9]) famous formula, ‘Corruption equals monopoly plus discretion minus accountability,’ to private tutoring and concludes, ‘Klitgaard’s definition of corruption closely resembles the school teachers’ tutoring practice... They are the monopoly suppliers of their services to the students, they have the full discretion in what they supply, and they are hardly held accountable for their actions. This gives rise to a situation where the teachers try to extract students’ consumer surplus by shirking at school and supplying tutoring outside the school for a fee’ (Biswal 1999:223[10]). In the Central Asian states in particular, teachers create ‘artificial demand’ (Johnson 2011[11]) to compel their students to take private lessons according to the logic that “You need to know X, Y, and Z to pass the exam. We'll cover X and Y in class. If you want to learn Z, come to tutoring’ (Jayachandran 2013: 222[12]), making tutoring virtually compulsory. Most citizens in the former USSR believe that schoolteachers treat pupils who receive private tutoring from them better than they do those who do not (Silova 2010: 334[13]).

On a broader scale, repetitorstvo leads to a decline in quality of secondary education, because private tutoring is financially more attractive. ‘When schools offer for-profit tutoring, teachers teach less during the regular school day’ (Jayachandran 2013:14[14]). As a result, the gap between the secondary and tertiary education curriculums increases. At the same time, the demand for higher education increased rapidly in the region in the 1990s, heightening competition for university places and boosting the demand for repetitors to help aspiring students prepare for the entrance exams. Tutors with access to or membership of university admission boards, e. g. through blat-networks (Ledeneva 1998[15]), were in high demand. They used their influence to secure admission in return for higher remuneration than a normal repetitor would request.

This form of repetitorstvo was common in the 1990s and early 2000s, until most post-Soviet states reformed their university admission systems to prevent such forms of corruption (Gabrscek 2010[16]). The new admission systems withdrew responsibility for university entrance examinations from admission boards and replaced them by unified and centrally state-administered examinations. As a result, the special repetitors lost their means of influence. Surprisingly, however, the practice of repetitorstvo increased further after the reforms: parents now no longer secure university access through bribes, but instead oblige their children to study with private tutors (Gabrscek 2010:55[17]).

Private supplementary tutoring is also widespread and highly institutionalised in East Asia (Zhang 2011[18]). In Japan, two-thirds of students take supplementary classes at juku cram schools after their regular school lessons. In South Korea, more than 70,000 Hagwon cram schools teach the vast majority of Korean students. The amount of private money spent on private tutoring in Korea in 1996 equalled 150 percent of the government’s education budget (Bray 2007:27[19]). Private tutoring is common both in developing countries in Africa (Paviot et al. 2008[20]) and in developed countries such as the USA (Gordon et al. 2005[21]) and Germany (Schneider 2005[22]). It is rare however in most of these countries for private supplementary tutoring to have connotations of unethical behaviour or corruption, unlike the case of the post-Soviet countries. This makes repetitorstvo a specific informal phenomenon in the post-Soviet region.

References and Bibliography

  1. Osipian, A. 2007. 'Replacing University Entry Examinations with Standardized Tests in Russia: Will It Reduce Corruption?', in D. Thompson and F. Crampton (eds), UCEA Conference Proceedings for Convention 2007, http://coe.ksu.edu/ucea/2007/Osipian2_UCEA2007.pdf

Notes

  1. Bray, M. 2007. The shadow education system: private tutoring and its implications for planners. Paris: UNESCO, Fundamentals of Educational Planning, 61.
  2. Kuzminov, Y. 2012. 'Academic Community and Contracts. Modern Challenges and Responses,' in P. G. Altbach (ed.), Paying the professoriate: A global comparison of compensation and contracts. New York: Routledge: 331–340.
  3. Bray, M. 2007. The shadow education system: private tutoring and its implications for planners. Paris: UNESCO, Fundamentals of Educational Planning, 61.
  4. Büdiene, V., Silova, I., Bray, M., Zabulionis, A. and Johnson, E. M. (eds). 2006. Education in a Hidden Marketplace: Monitoring of Private Tutoring. Overview and Country Reports. New York: Open Society Institute.
  5. Büdiene, V., Silova, I., Bray, M., Zabulionis, A. and Johnson, E. M. (eds). 2006. Education in a Hidden Marketplace: Monitoring of Private Tutoring. Overview and Country Reports. New York: Open Society Institute.
  6. Silova, I. 2010. 'Private tutoring in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Policy choices and implications,' Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 40 (3): 327–344.
  7. Biswal, B. P. 1999. 'Private Tutoring and Public Corruption: A Cost-Effective Education System for Developing Countries,' The Developing Economies 37 (2): 222–240.
  8. Bray, M. 2013. 'Shadow education. The rise of private tutoring and associated corruption risks,' in Transparency International (ed.), Global Corruption Report. Hoboken: Taylor & Francis: 83-87.
  9. Klitgaard, R. 1988. Controlling Corruption. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  10. Biswal, B. P. 1999. 'Private Tutoring and Public Corruption: A Cost-Effective Education System for Developing Countries,' The Developing Economies 37 (2): 222–240.
  11. Johnson, E. M. 2011. 'Blaming the Context not the Culprit: Limitations on Student Control of Teacher Corruption in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan,' in I. Silova (ed.), Globalization on the margins. Education and postsocialist transformations in Central Asia. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing: 233–258.
  12. Jayachandran, S. 2013. Incentives to Teach Badly: After-School Tutoring in Developing Countries. Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University, http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/~sjv340/tutoring.pdf
  13. Silova, I. 2010. 'Private tutoring in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Policy choices and implications,' Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 40 (3): 327–344.
  14. Jayachandran, S. 2013. Incentives to Teach Badly: After-School Tutoring in Developing Countries. Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University, http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/~sjv340/tutoring.pdf
  15. Ledeneva, A. V. 1998. Russia's economy of favours. Blat, networking, and informal exchange. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  16. Gabrscek, S. 2010. Comparative Analysis of National Testing Centres in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Recommendations for Tajikistan. Final Report. Network of Education Policy Centers, http://www.edupolicy.net/images/pubs/comparative_studies/ntc_comp.pdf
  17. Gabrscek, S. 2010. Comparative Analysis of National Testing Centres in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Recommendations for Tajikistan. Final Report. Network of Education Policy Centers, http://www.edupolicy.net/images/pubs/comparative_studies/ntc_comp.pdf
  18. Zhang, Y. 2011. 'The Determinants of National College Entrance Exam Performance in China. With an Analysis of Private Tutoring'. PhD thesis. Columbia University, Columbia. Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
  19. Bray, M. 2007. The shadow education system: private tutoring and its implications for planners. Paris: UNESCO, Fundamentals of Educational Planning, 61.
  20. Paviot, L., Heinsohn, N. and Korkman, J. 2008. 'Extra tuition in Southern and Eastern Africa: Coverage, growth, and linkages with pupil achievement,' International Journal of Educational Development, 28 (2): 149–160.
  21. Gordon, E. W., Bridglall, B. L., Meroe, A. S. 2005. Supplementary education. The hidden curriculum of high academic achievement. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
  22. Schneider, T. 2005. 'Nachhilfe als Strategie zur Verwirklichung von Bildungszielen,' Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 51 (3): 363–379.