HK Tutors as Celebrities

Source: NYTimes, Aug 2013

Many of the city’s celebrity tutors have their own music videos, Facebook fan pages and products including files and sticky notes. The local news media have reported that some tutors can annually earn more than 10 million Hong Kong dollars, or $1.3 million.

… the private tutoring business for Hong Kong high school students is valued at nearly 2 billion dollars, according to a report in 2011 by Synovate, a market research firm. Modern Education became a listed company in 2011 and reported a profit of almost 32 million dollars in the 2012 financial year. It has 14 branches for secondary school students, with a total of more than 600,000 course enrollments.

Tutorial-school chains generally generate most of their revenue through the mass sales of relatively affordable courses. At Modern Education, students can pay about 100 dollars an hour to attend classes with about 100 other pupils.

Hong Kong’s public university system can accommodate only about 18 percent of local high school graduates, and the number of available places has remained about the same for two decades.

The most anxious month for students is July, when exam results and university places are announced, and when local newspapers feature top test scorers as if they were local heroes.

Star tutors and cram schools are popular across the more affluent parts of East Asia, including in China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. An Asian Development Bank report released last year said that about 90 percent of primary school students in South Korea and 74 percent in China attended private tutorial sessions. Mr. Ip criticized a system that focused only on exam results, rather than on teaching. “The shortcut mentality is detrimental to learning,” he said. “After attending cram schools for several years, students may still hold such an attitude after entering university. They may only aim at graduating, say by picking the easiest classes.”

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