Tutoring service providers can be held accountable for the quality of their services
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) articulates in Article 26(1) that it is a basic entitlement that all children receive an education at least in the ‘elementary and fundamental stages’. In Australia, this aspect of the universal right is left to the mainstream schooling sector. Article 26(3) states that parents have the prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. Private tutoring and other personal educational choices exercised by parents fall into this category of human rights.
An issue inherent in the use of private tutors is that of the commercial imperative associated with the tuition providers. The providers are businesses and the main aim of businesses is to generate profits. Profits are best earned when costs or expenses are minimised and when income is maximised. This can lead to compromises that affect the quality of the service being provided. Issues of rights arise for parents and their children, when the focus by private tutors is too strongly on the commercial and not enough on the educational.
In every national jurisdiction where there is a private tutoring sector, common issues arise in regards to the accountability of tutors to fair trading, consumer protection and educational laws.
The NSW government has been particularly proactive in assisting the private tutoring sector to improve accountability for tutors. Annually, the Office of Fair Trading through the relevant Minister and the Commissioner of Fair Trading, issue a warning to parents in regards to the use of tutoring services. This year, in a notable initiative, Stuart Ayres, Minister for Fair Trading has made it a priority to reach out to vulnerable communities where the use of private tutors is on the rise. Most notable of these are the Indian, Chinese, Korean and Arabic-speaking communities.
It is well known that education is highly valued amongst Indians across the world. Indian families are classified as ‘aspirational’ and many families prioritise study at school and at university, for their sons and daughters. In such a context, the Indian community use private tutors and value additional or supplementary education. This makes the Indian community vulnerable, particularly if their rights in regards to the provision of tutoring services, are not well understood.
On February 6, Ayres and Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee, invited around 30 attendees of the Indian media to a function at the new Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in Parramatta. The purpose was to advise the media about the rights parents have when they take on private tutors for their children. The Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe, ministerial staff and several media groups were also in attendance.
The OFT has had relevant documents relating to the law translated into Hindi, primarily to achieve the purpose of protecting the community and educating parents about their rights regarding tutoring service providers.
The Australian Tutoring Association (ATA) has also realised the immense importance of having its Code of Conduct translated, and this is now available in Hindi. In the next few weeks, it will also be translated into Telegu and Gujarati.
“We encourage parents to seek only ATA tutors and we support a self-regulation model,” said Ayres.
It is extremely important that all parents understand their rights and ensure that they seek proper information and accountabilities from private tutors. Parents can go to www.ata.edu.au and www.fairtrading.com.au to find useful fact sheets.
In the first instance, the OFT recommends that parents only take on tutors who are registered with the ATA and are accredited. In this way they can ensure best practice standards are being upheld and that they have an avenue of support in the event of an issue arising from the standard of service being provided.