Well, that’s the title that had my attention when I picked up a copy of Wall Street Journal last week. I wondered what was so phenomenal that garnered this amount of attention. I took some paragraph directly from Jonathan Cheng’s article in the Dispatch. And so it began…
When Richard Eng isn’t teaching English grammar to high school students, he might be cruising around Hong Kong in his Lamborghini Murciélago. Or in Paris, on one of his seasonal shopping sprees. Or relaxing in his private, custom installed karaoke room festooned with giant Louis Vuitton logos.
Mr. Eng, 43 years old, is one of Hong Kong’s best-known celebrity “tutor gods.”
Hong Kong parents are often desperate to help their children succeed in this city’s pressure cooker public examination system, which determines student’s college worthiness. That explains why many are willing to pay handsomely for extra curicullar help. They use flashy, aggresive market tactics that have transformed them into scholastic pop stars, or tutor gods, as they are known in Cantonese.
Private tutoring is big business around the world. Programs that help people prepare for standard tests have become a multibillion dollar industry. Tutoring agencies are also booming in places like mainland China and Japan. Several years ago, Hong Kong’s government estimated that the city’s family spent nearly half a billion U.S. dollars a year on tutoring.
Hong Kong stands out though, for instructors who boldly tout their success rate – and their own images. They pay to have their faces plastered throughout city on 12-meter-high billboards and the sides of double decker buses. They are also known for buying ads that take up the entire front page of newspapers – space more commonly filled by banks and property developers. One local television station is even preparing to launch a fictional drama series based on the lives of the tutor gods.
The tutors won’t say exactly how much they make. But typically, a popular tutor might teach 100 students in a single lesson, each paying as much as US$12.50 to be there. So a tutor working 40 hours could gross US$50,000 in a week. “It’s big business,” says Ken Ng, a well-known tutor god. “That’s why I’m driving my second Ferrari.”
Years ago, Mr. Eng remembers, tutors were looked down in Hong Kong as second-rate teachers. Now, he adds, people ask for his help and “they say, ‘I want to be a tutor god.’ ”
* There are parents who do not approve of the way things work but …
Rosa Wong, 46, says she is put off by the “deification” of the tutors. “In my heart, I don’t agree with the preactises,” she says. But that didn’t stop her from enrolling her 16 year-old daughter Sarah in classes with four different tutor gods. She decided on the best ones after watching sample lesson videos on YouTube.
“When everyone elses takes their classes, and your children don’t,” says Ms. Wong, “you’re afraid they won’t be as competitive.’ Besides she says, these teachers are great at “tipping” or predicting questions – an important edgethat could determine her daughter’s future.
Sometimes, the tipping seems to be a little too accurate. A few tutors have been known to guess questions that appeared in nearly identical form on the actual tests. This spring, a legislator here called for a formal investigation into any possible ties between tutors and testing officials.
For full article, click here : The Wall Street Journal Online
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