Still, teaching is evolving with society. Alongside the recent progress made on both aspects : teaching as a skill and teaching as a framework, teaching itself has shifted from a societal service to a thriving, humongous and quickly growing industry. At the heart of this new industry stands a new and prominent social figure : the Tutor.
It is not unknown that throughout history, education has never stopped being torn between public and private domains. Up to the Ancient times, rich and noble families could afford hiring a tutor in higher arts education for their children while public school offered basic and common knowledge to everyone such as in reading, writing, mathematics, etc.
However, the similarity is very weak and stops there.
First, at the time, teaching was still only regarded from a cognitive point of view as opposed to a didactical point of view.
Second, the age of information as a context sharply contrasts with any previous age. Tutoring in the present time is more like slyly interpreting information instead of knowing about something as in the past.
Third and most importantly, tutoring was just a luxury that the bourgeoisie could offer for their children, whereas today, it turns out to become a need not to say a requirement more than anything else.
The role of the Tutor has created a true revolution in perceiving the process of learning. The picture of the old unfathomable Master in the mountains whose knowledge and wisdom must be deduced, has been replaced by a coach who behaves like a spark of genie; ushering pupils above their shoulders, always on their side, sharing their point of view.
Furthermore, in a world where information is so close and so accessible, “just a click away” so to put it in modern terms, to “know” has gradually become to mean “to know where”.Knowledge is really everywhere, the main concern is to know the address of the information one needs to know about. Tutorials, documentation, and more recently MOOCs provide a wide range of sources for practical and theoretical knowledge. It is impossible to pass over all of them just as it is impossible to read all the books existing today. Filtering sources according to personal relevance is a crucial skill for finding the bit of knowledge we are missing. It is virtually more important to be informed rather than to know. It is sold to the public that what’s in the box is less important than where the box actually is. And once we find the box, it is more important to “know” how to use what is inside rather than to understand it. Specialisation is pushing the limits of knowledge so far, that we hardly have time to widen our understanding. The complexity of society’s structure requires understanding the interface, not the content. Tutors aren’t the ones who know, they are the ones who know where and how to decrypt information for practical use.
The need for tutors arose very steeply on the market. In less than a decade, there were hundreds of websites and platforms that were created in order to put up together demands of tutoring among young fellows. MySherpa, Communivy, FirstTutors, Verbling, Complétude, … it is almost as if it would take more time to choose a platform than to find a tutor. Nowadays, it appears that anyone having passed the barrier of higher education could be a tutor. It seems so easy; there are so many pedagogical tips for giving lessons. Bit by bit, young students give more credit to a tutor than to a teacher.
The sudden appearance of the Tutor as a key role in society is quite alarming. Internet can easily provide some numbers to it. It means that either something is not working as it was expected to do so, or something is missing, or else: it redefines the way education is meant to work for the currently bourgeoning society up to come. Having a tutor for studying is gradually more and more common. It started with students requiring further help with their studies due to a sudden change of perspective in the educational program. Then, it became a way to compensate for the incompetence of some high-school teachers. Now, it is a way to compete for reaching out a bare hand on the threshold of higher education. Have a look at what The Telegraph recommends. They say : “Securing top grades to meet your offers is much more crucial than in the past”.
Be it the fault of the teachers, the parents, the elder, the ministry of education, the politicians, the increasing specialisation of the industrious sectors, or of the students themselves, tutoring becoming a need as opposed to a luxury is in some way a clue that education is overall lead toward a withering failure. Tutoring per se, is not an issue, a shame or a wrong thing to have recourse to. However, its application on a societal macroscopic scale can have non-desirable impacts.
Debating about that issue would definitely throw us off topic. What is relevant to add in the context of this paper’s question about who’s the teacher, who’s the learner: is that if tutors are gradually overtaking the role of teachers, and if knowledge is gradually becoming a synonym of access to information, then the answer to the question is purely conventional : the teacher is the smartest of the two in surfing on the net. Away from the relation between an adult and a child, between two adults, would the one to be the teacher be the one with Google at hand ?