Parents want tighter rules on tuition

Parents are alarmed that disgraced mathematics tutor Kelvin Ong seems to have set up shop again.

This speaks volumes about the lack of safeguards in the private tuition industry here, they said, calling for the authorities to step in and regulate the flourishing industry.

When contacted, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education (MOE) said that the new tuition centre, Ace Achievers, is currently not registered with MOE, and that it is looking into the matter.

Two years ago, Mr Ong had faked his credentials, claiming that he was both a gifted student and a long-time teacher in the Gifted Education Programme (GEP), who could help children get into the GEP.

He was asked by the ministry to stop his lies, and eventually he shut down his business - AristoCare centre in 2012 - and said then he would not continue teaching.

But a very similar Ace Achievers, which was registered in May, operates from Mr Ong's Lentor home, The Straits Times reported yesterday.

Seven parents interviewed said they were alarmed that Mr Ong seemed to have no problems re-entering the tuition business.

Although what he has done is not illegal, many felt the industry should be monitored more strictly by the MOE. Some suggested having an accreditation programme for tuition teachers.

The ministry clarified that centres offering tuition or enrichment programmes with 10 or more students must be registered with it and, to do so, the academic qualifications of tutors must meet minimum standards.

There are 850 registered tuition centres and enrichment centres now, up from about 700 in 2012 and 800 last year.

But individual tutors who do not teach in centres are not regulated by the ministry.

And with parents willing to pay thousands of dollars to get their kids into prestigious schools and programmes, tuition has become a multi-million-dollar business here.

Parents said that the new centre points to all that is wrong with smaller, unregulated outfits.

Madam Tracy Bee, 41, a mother of three and a sales manager in a pharmaceutical company, has doubts about claims made by some tuition centres, such as their student testimonials and guaranteed results. "Education has become so commercialised and it's a huge business in Singapore," she said.

"The ministry ought to look at it seriously as it continues to grow."

Criticising Mr Ong's actions, Mrs Hazel Chiang, 45, who works in a software company and has a daughter in Primary 6, said: "From Day 1, he wasn't forthcoming in revealing his true identity. He already gave so much false hope to parents hoping to get their kids into GEP.

"It's not acceptable if he's back doing the same thing all over again, and may have used a different name to hide his identity."

But maths tutor Lena Chng, 44, who has two girls, added that parents must also do their own checks.

"Parents need to do some investigation of tutors, rather than just accepting information blindly," she said.

Madam Eileen Ang, 47, who runs a Chinese tuition centre, noted that when it comes to choosing a centre, most parents just look at the brand, prices and what other people have recommended.

"It's very easy to put up seemingly promising information online, but it's difficult to verify anything unless parents are resourceful," said the mother of two girls.

Members of the public can refer to for the list of MOE-registered private schools.

This article was first published on Oct 27, 2014.
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