Category Archives: Supplementary Education Researchers

CIES 2012: Patterns of shadow education in the Asian region: learning from diversity and commonality

Comparative and International Education Society

Mark Bray, Comparative Education Research Centre, Univ of Hong Kong

“Patterns of shadow education in the Asian region: learning from diversity and commonality”

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has commissioned a study of shadow education (private supplementary tutoring) in its regional member countries. The ADB region is wide and diverse. It includes prosperous countries in East Asia such as Japan and the Republic of Korea, and poor countries in South Asia such as Bangladesh and Nepal. Equally it includes countries shaped by a Soviet heritage and as well countries shaped by European colonial heritages. From a comparative perspective, the benefit of this diversity is that it brings a range of models and variables for analysis. This paper examines patterns in the scale and content of shadow education, noting changes over recent decades and likely future trends. It is mainly based on existing studies, and as such notes gaps as well as strengths in the literature. Finally, the paper remarks on the implications for the work of ADB, which is dedicated to reduction of poverty and which is concerned about social disparities while pursuing economic growth in the region.

AERA 2012: Private Supplementary Tutoring for Secondary School Students in Hong Kong

American Educational Research Association

Apr 15, 10:35-12:05h

Chad Lykins and Mark Bray, Comparative Education Research Centre, Univ of Hong Kong

“Private Supplementary Tutoring for Secondary School Students in Hong Kong: Scale, Nature and Implications”

Studies suggest that private supplementary tutoring is intensifying in scale, intensity, and importance, with many students regarding it as essential to satisfactory academic results. However, there is a lack of evidence about the nature of this tutoring, including the subjects studied, modes of delivery, and costs. This paper presents evidence on private supplementary tutoring from a mixed-method study involving a survey and group interviews with secondary school students in Hong Kong. It then analyzes this evidence in the light of research on the rapid growth and evolving nature of private tutoring in Hong Kong and throughout the world.

Another Academic Job Focused on Supplementary Education?

Perhaps I’ve found a second job that is advertised with a focus on supplementary education, though I have the strong suspicion that Marburg University in Germany has something else in mind when they are looking for a professor who works on “extramural education of youth” (außerschulische Jugendbildung). I suspect that this has more to do with community centres that offer specific programs for youth or perhaps programs that focus on youths who are not attending school…

First Academic Job Ad to Specify Supplementary Education

As a sign of the growing institutionalization of research on supplementary education and the leadership of Prof. Mark Bray (Hong Kong Univ) in this field, the Comparative Education Research Centre at the University of Hong Kong is advertising a position as Full-time Research Assistant Professor in Comparative Education with a particular focus on Shadow Education at the University of Hong Kong:

Applicants are invited for appointment as Research Assistant Professor in Comparative Education in the Faculty of Education, as soon as possible for a period of three years.

Applicants should possess a Ph.D. degree with relevant research background and demonstrate ability to produce published work. The appointee will work under the supervision of Professor Mark Bray within the framework of the UNESCO Chair in Comparative Education which has been established at the Faculty level. This Chair focuses on social inequalities and access to educational opportunities, especially the nature and implications of Shadow Education (private supplementary tutoring). The appointee will join a team and take responsibility for either a global emphasis or a focus on a particular region or country in comparative perspective. He/She will work with colleagues in the Faculty including the Comparative Education Research Centre (CERC) on other dimensions in the field of Comparative Education, and will develop research proposals for future projects. Teaching responsibilities will be within the broad domain of education and international development at undergraduate and/or postgraduate levels.

Information about the Faculty and CERC can be obtained at and Enquiries about the post should be sent to Professor Mark Bray, Faculty of Education (e-mail:

A highly competitive salary commensurate with qualifications and experience will be offered, in addition to annual leave and medical benefits. The appointment will attract a contract-end gratuity and University contribution to a retirement benefits scheme, totalling up to 15% of basic salary.

Applicants should send a completed application form and an up-to-date C.V. to Application forms (341/1111) can be obtained at Further particulars can be obtained at Closes May 10, 2012.

The University thanks applicants for their interest, but advises that only shortlisted applicants will be notified of the application result.

This is a fantastic opportunity for a younger scholar, but also for our emerging field!

Obsessing about Finland

Does the (success of) the Finnish education system have any relevance for Japan?

The degree to which some of my interlocutors in Japan obsess about Finland and see Finnish education as a panacea for all that is wrong (presumably, but see my argument for the central importance of perceptions) with Japanese education has puzzled me for some time. The somewhat less urgent interest in Singapore falls in the same category, I think.

Now, Keita Takayama who has been doing some terrific work on the place of Japanese education in a comparative and global context, makes the case that the reference nation status of Finland (and the lack of such status for E Asian education systems that perform equally well in PISA and similar comparisons) is due a) to the proximity of Finnish policies to OECD precepts, and b) to Finnish pre-PISA status as a “tabula rasa” among education systems that is not burdened by any of the preconceptions about E Asian education systems. Takayama makes this case in an Asia Pacific Memo on February 16, 2012.

Takayama makes his case very succinctly, but Finland’s status as a reference nation has come up in N American debates as well.

See for example:

If I were to start from the premise that there are things about Japanese education that could use reform, what countries would I look to? Or, what countries might I not look to?

I do think that education systems vary significantly by scale. According to Eurostat, the total number of primary and secondary students in Finland is about 1.2 mio. Japan’s comparable figure is 18 mio. This reflects the ratio of the two populations with about 5.3 mio Finns in 2010 and 127 mio Japanese. Clearly, an education system that is fifteen times as large in terms of the number of students enrolled involves different complexities than a smaller counterpart. That is not to say that there aren’t aspects of Finnish education that are worth examining in considering reforms for Japan, I’m just not convinced that Finland is the most relevant example in this regard.

Why not pick more proximate comparators? While South Korea is not even half as populous as Japan its education system operates on a scale that is much closer to Japan. Likewise France which would be an example of an education system that has some structural similarities (high degree of centralization, for example) and operates on a similar scale, though a comparison between Japan and France on comparative educational achievement would likely lead to a large-scale visitation movement from France to Japan, not the other way around.

What about Canada? Again, not quite on the population scale of Japan, but similar success to Japan…

I see the interest in Finland as primarily a faddish one will raise some questions that are wonderful raise about education elsewhere (including in all the countries mentioned in the above), but will not provide panacea.


Asia Pacific Memo on Supplementary Education in Malaysia

Today, on January 26, 2012, we published an Asia Pacific Memo on supplementary education in Malaysia by Husaina Kenayathulla who has recently completed her PhD at Indiana University.

For her PhD Husaina has analyzed extensive data on the participation in supplementary education in Malaysia (extensive), including on ethnic and regional differences in that participation. In the Memo she focuses on the regulation of supplementary education. While Korea is known to be the case of the strictest regulation of supplementary education in the context of hypereducation, the Korean government has been battling hagwon mainly out of a concern with inequality. This is a concern that is also frequently raised in other jurisdiction, i.e. access to supplementary education may lead to class reproduction. Another concern, more prevalent in developing countries generally, is with corruption. This corruption is rooted in low teacher salaries and often involves the withholding of class materials during school hours to use these as the basis of tutoring after hours.

Neither inequality nor corruption are driving regulation in Malaysia, Husaina argues, instead it is a concern with the quality of education.


Guest Post: German Nachhilfe

A guest post by Steve Entrich, PhD Student, Univ of Potsdam:

 “Private Nachhilfe” or after-school lessons as given in juku-like institutions, private tutoring at home, and all other forms of supplementary education has been the focus of an annual debate in Germany.  Parents, education experts and politicians, who see this kind of “shadow education” as a result of shortcomings in schools, regularly express their concern about the growth of supplementary education.

Where once a school was able to guarantee children an education good enough to succeed in society, many parents now see the future of their children at risk due. The fear that the school system is not changing quickly enough or at least not in the right direction to meet the challenges of the 21stcentury leads to more private agitation.

Naturally, demands for responses focus on schools’ accountability. To do so, reforms of the educational system are necessary and were implemented over the past few years – mainly as a result of the bad performance of German pupils in PISA 2000. In general, PISA has led to an unbelievable amount of research activities.

What is often forgotten is the fact that research focused not just on the assumed failures of schools is needed, but also about Nachhilfe, which was also the topic of a lot of discussions.

For some years the German media is now bringing up the problem of Nachhilfe but except a few regionally specific social scientific projects no national or even comparative study has been carried out.

In the end, not all the debates about concerns towards this kind of education were pointless.

Finally, in 2007 the government reacted and the BMBF, the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, commissioned a report. Shortly after, the selected private research institution, the FiBS (Institute for Education and Socio-Economic Research and Consulting), came up with a survey of over 169 pages summing up all the available data about forms of commercial Nachhilfe, data records about offering institutions and an international overview about comparable data including Austria, England, Poland, Japan and South Korea.

The survey was titled with: “What do we know about Nachhilfe? – Status and Examination of Research Literature about Offering, Need and Effect” (in German).

All in all, the education experts of the FiBS stated, that the current state of research was “fragmentary” or rather “confusing” (p. 12) and so a lot of work has to be done until we can fully understand how we – in political as well as societal terms – have to deal with this educational reality.

Clearly we will have to observe other Nachhilfe-systems around the world to see what concepts seem promising to us for dealing with Shadow Education. Sadly not much was done after the FiBS report was published. While I myself am in the middle of a research project about Shadow Education in Germany and Japan, not much is done in German research institutes to see what is going on in Nachhilfe-institutions. Just one thing seems to be clear: Nachhilfe – or however you may entitle this kind of private tutoring – is expanding all over the globe. Last year FiBS started a survey about Nachhilfe in the G8-States and found out, that the need for supplementary education of this kind is growing steadily.

One reason for this – Nachhilfe institution operators themselves said so – are the school reforms mentioned above, e. g. the structural reform of the Gymnasium, where students don’t need to go to school for 13 years altogether (including 4 to 6 years of primary education) but just 12 years. Pressure in school has intensified and so more and more students (and parents) look for help – and they find it. If you follow FiBS, 58 % of institutional Nachhilfe offers stated that the request for their private after school lessons has steadily increased over the past few years.

I still hope for more research activity in this field of study and am happy, that the BMBF has already included a section about out-of-school learning in the national report on education as a result of the FiBS report. We do know that Nachhilfe exists and is expanding; we just have to understand how to deal with this fact in the present and the future as well.





Where to Meet Nice Supplementary Education Researchers

For the most part, supplementary education research is relatively underdeveloped as an academic specialty.

Supplementary Education on

A quick example: on, six researchers have joined me in stating their interest as “supplementary education“. I don’t know any of them and six of them list their status as “independent researcher” which doesn’t bode well for someone setting out in an academic career. Is it on-going squabbles about terminology? No, it doesn’t seem to be as neither “shadow education”, “hypereducation” nor “supplemental education” have an entry. There are a ton of entries with “tutoring” as a word, but they are relatively unfocused.

Why No Subdiscipline of Supplementary Education Research

So why has research on supplementary education not established itself? Another way of asking that question is, why are there not more researchers interested in this topic?

For the years that my previous SSHRC grant ran, I was able to recruit a single MA student as an RA. I sent feelers out towards sociology as we as Ed Studies, but found no interest.

One reason for the sparsity of research is the relatively recent recognition of supplementary education as a phenomenon worth of academic study. In places like Japan, pundits and commentators have written about juku since the 1970s, but this has not led to a research literature. In most OECD countries, the current tutoring/supplementary education boom is a relatively new phenomenon and thus hasn’t attracted a lot of attention yet.

Also, supplementary education sort of sits between all disciplinary chairs. The good thing is that this means it is establishing itself as a genuinely interdisciplinary enterprise which is terrific. This interdisciplinarity not only means a variety of perspectives on the phenomenon (most prominently, perhaps, sociological, but a significant presence of ed studies and pedagogy, coupled with a smaller presence of anthropologists, geographers, economists, etc.), but also means a relatively greater proximity to policy.

Take the example of most education schools: If you look at traditional divisions within the study of education, you will find divisions such as primary, secondary, higher education, or life-long learning, but these examples already suggest that supplementary education doesn’t “fit”. For people focused on schools, juku seem to informal, for life-long learning types 塾生 are too young. That may be why research in this area seems to be coming from neigbouring disciplines rather than education itself in many cases.

CEIS as a Place to Meet

For some time then, the emerging community of supplementary education researchers has been struggling with setting up a centre to its activities or a regular place to meet. Following some discussions last year at the CIES meetings in Montreal, CIES seems to be emerging as a strong contender. Why? It is interdisciplinary, and highlights cross-regional and cross-national comparisons. While CIES is U.S.-based, it has regional and national equivalents throughout the world and a regular global meeting. It meets annually. It is of a nice size, i.e. big enough that participation always seems to yield new insights, but small enough that some lasting links can be built. And finally, it is a pretty friendly conference.

I am aware of several efforts to propose panels that will be focused on supplementary education in Puerto Rico next Spring. One proposal is anchored by Mark Bray of the Univ of HK who generally functions as the godfather to the emerging network of researchers, partly based on his long-standing work in this field, but also partly on his past role as past director of UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning which has given him a wonderful network of researchers around the world.

Hopefully I will be joining with Janice Aurini and Scott Davies – with whom I have collaborated in the past – on a panel proposal as well.

Further Institutionalization

Hopefully, regular meetings of some of the people in this emerging field at CIES will lead to further institutionalization in the form of a community of scholars to whom one can circulate work in progress and with whom one can collaborate on grant proposals and publications.

There is – as of yet – no journal or newsletter that focusses on supplementary education. Yet, there is a growing – albeit informal – network of researchers who focus at least some of their energy on research in this area.

Scenarios for a Global Supplementary Education Bust

I recently had long conversations with Janice Aurini (Waterloo Univ) and Scott Davies (McMaster Univ) with whom I had organized a workshop on the worldwide growth of supplementary education in June 2010.

One of the topics we focused some speculative conversation on was scenarios of a lack of world-wide growth of supplementary education. In other words, looking at the past 15 years, the trend has clearly been to ever more and more important supplementary education whether at a high level of intensity (e.g. Japan, Greece, etc.) or at a low level of intensity (e.g. Canada, Germany, etc.). Under what conditions could we imagine a departure from that trend?

Massive economic crises are obviously one scenario. Given the for-profit and for-fee nature of much of supplementary education, some kind of global crises – financial, military, environmental, demographic – would obviously put a squeeze on supplementary education.

Changes in education itself might also rob supplementary education of its basis. If we continue to see a transformation of education into human resource and skill acquisition (as opposed to erudition and high culture or less concrete and concretely measurable skills like critical analysis) that would suggest that supplementary education will have an important role to play. But it is not entirely unimaginable that that particular pendulum might also swing the other way. If innovation and technological inventions continue to drive a global economy that might be less organized around cheap, but rather around high quality and innovative, then different kinds of education might also come to the fore.

Likewise, if there is some kind of recognition of a particular harm that hypereducation does to children and thus to society, there may be a push back against testable knowledge. Demographic developments could hasten such a push. There are few general (empirical) laws in the social sciences, but more formal education seems to mean lower fertility among women (probably correlation not causality). If that suggests a globally declining fertility, I could imagine scenarios where childhood and child-rearing are reconsidered on a fundamental scale, though this is a distant scenario, obviously.

On the national level (pick any nation), the lack of regulation of supplementary education obviously holds some risks. There was a case of child abuse in Kyoto some years ago that prompted the installation of CCTV cameras in many juku. While this response seems to have calmed fears among Japanese parents, it does not seem far fetched that similar scandals might break out elsewhere and erode the confidence in unregulated supplementary education.

Supplementary education may also become a victim of its own success. Some of the scenarios talked about in Japan, most notably suggestions to allow juku to become alternative schools of some kind, replacing, rather than supplementing state-recognized schools, suggest the possibility of an incorporation or co-optation into the formal education sector.

Emerging practices of state-recognition of supplementary education through No-Child-Left-Behind in the U.S., the Hartz IV Bildungspaket in Germany, tax deductions in France, or the emergence of 校内塾 in Japan suggest that some version of incorporation is a very real possibility. While this could be viewed as a triumph or success of supplementary education, it would also spell the possible end of its supplementary character.

More scenarios for a halt to the global rise of supplementary education surely exist, I would be delighted to hear suggestions along these lines via comments.

Challenges in Regulating Juku

If policy-makers in Japan or elsewhere were to decide to regulate supplementary education, they would face a number of hurdles and challenges.

The first would be to define supplementary education in such a way that the “right” kind of businesses/organizations would actually be captured by this definition. I have struggled together with colleagues to come up with definitions of supplementary education as this sector and the state-recognized sector is shifting, but this would be even harder to do in a legislative context, I imagine.

A further hurdle would be enforcement. Would this be somehow handed over to local or national education authorities? Or, would this be treated as a quasi-business license?

One avenue that is obviously attractive to make regulation possible is to offer public funding for supplementary education activities and to make this funding contingent on criteria that would characterize supplementary education institutions. In some ways, this is the route that the U.S. No-Child-Left-Behind funding for tutoring to students who are enrolled in consistently “failing” schools has taken. In that case it appears to be local or state authorities who are in charge of “certifying” particular businesses or individuals as tutors. There don’t seem to be any unified criteria that are being applied in this case.

In the Japanese context, there do not seem to be formal criteria in the contracts that some Boards of Education (most noticeably in the 23 wards of metropolitan Tokyo) are entering into with juku to provide services within schools (konai juku). Such contracts could obviously include criteria like teacher certification (highly unlikely in the current Japanese context). Most likely they do include specification of student-teacher ratios, facilities to be used, etc.

The final option and one that supplementary education businesses in the more established sectors of this kind will likely push, is self-regulation, the seemingly instinctive response of all North American business groups to any hint at regulation, though somewhat less common elsewhere in the world.

Apparently, there were some discussions about versions of self-regulation between representatives of the largest education conglomerates and the Ministry of Education some years ago. These seem to have focused on some kind of teacher certification. I was told about such discussions by juku operators, but have been unable to follow up on whether these were formally reported or acknowledged.

Clearly, when dealing with a juku industry as sizeable as the Japanese one, the emergence of an industrial lobby will be one of the main obstacles to any attempts by governments (national or local) to regulate or even to structure supplementary education activities.

In the case of teacher certification, this would seem to put education conglomerates at a distinct advantage as they are already offering more formal forms of employment compared to the SME owner-operated sector. SME juku rely primarily on casual labour, often provided by former students. Requiring such casual labour to be certified in any way would likely incur prohibitive costs.

As I have argued in the context of questions regarding the efficacy of juku instruction, a requirement of teacher certification of some kind would likely lead to tutoring for such certification in its own right. Meta-tutoring anyone?

For further reading on teachers in private sector education, see: