Illustration by Kai Henthorn-Iwane

At Berkeley High School (BHS), a large number of the more rigorous classes are structured around the idea that students will have access to a private tutor or another similar resource. This not only disadvantages students with less economic privilege in their classes, but also fuels the mindset that students need paid assistance to succeed.

Although many of those with the resources to afford a private tutor are aware of the inequality in the system, few will sacrifice this privilege for the sake of fairness, which perpetuates the culture. While understandable, it makes this imbalance a hard one to fix.

For a long time, I have been bothered by the idea that students’ success in school is partially based off of their ability to pay for more help. Why is going to a teacher’s office hours or after school tutoring at the College and Career Center not regarded as the most viable option? Of course I can see how a one-on-one, in-depth tutoring session is a lot more appealing than a crowded after school class where twenty students are vying for the attention of two teachers, but the truth of the matter is, after school tutoring is a great resource. However, at a certain point there is no comparison between the advantages of private tutoring and what BHS has to offer.

High school has taught me to use my resources and advocate for myself. In many ways this can be considered a valuable asset in the end, since the ability to problem solve can get people further in the long run when these skills become more valuable. While in the moment, private tutoring can seem like the more beneficial option, it teaches students that they do not need to struggle or work things out for themselves in order to succeed. This is not to say that those with private tutors do not work as hard as those without, but the concept of private tutoring does tend to promote the idea that the most important thing is immediate success in school. There’s a mindset among students, enforced by the attitudes of many teachers, that a single test is pivotal and one bad grade will determine a student’s future.

While there is something to be gained from using the school’s resources, and after school tutoring is completely adequate to a certain point, in the incredibly pressured environment that is high school, this system begins to break down. There is no doubt that private tutoring is the ideal option, as it allows students to advance more rapidly.

This dilemma has plagued students and teachers alike for many years. Because socioeconomic inequality can compound the achievement gap, this is a pressing matter for the BHS community. Moving forward, it is important to consider the next steps in remedying this inequity.