19 December 2005

The Tuition Wars

After much procrastination, I decided to clear out my old stuff in the cupboard. There is only one area where the termite infestation is bad, but I took this opportunity to do a major clean up.

As I took out all those old revision books that I didn't have the heart to throw away, I recalled the tuition frenzy last time. Not my tuition frenzy - I only went for 4 classes a week, but rather all my other classmates. It's not uncommon for my friends to only have Thursday as their free day, so I'm thankful I escaped that fever.

But it's no denying that the tuition business is big. Upon careful analysis, tuition teachers can make as much as university professors, with half the education. After all, a doctorate is not a requirement for tuition teachers. As I was saying, it is a big business and tuition centres go all out to trash the other centres.

My friends and I would sometimes chat about the latest scandal or rumour coming out from tuition teachers about other centres. We would compare notes on who is the best teacher, and the mystery deepens if we find two teachers having similar notes. This was what happened with two famous tuition centres, EL and G. Their feud is pretty well-known throughout every school, and you are either a student of EL or G, rarely both.

I was a student at EL and I think he's pretty good. But he would sometimes drop a comment criticizing some unnamed tuition teacher. He never said names, but we knew who. And all the competition will come to a climax during public exam time. Ah, yes, the results of public examinations is the ultimate marketing tool. If a particular tuition centre has a high rate of A's, it can expect many new students the following year. Therefore centres will stop at nothing to make its students excel, and it does get interesting.

When it is near exam day some centres will hold special seminars. Basically the teacher will run through the important points, and any 'spotted' questions. They each ahve their own 'secret sources' where they get hints on what is coming out for the actual exam. Again, this is used as a comparison benchmark for new students. The more accurate the prediction, the more popular it will be.

So these seminars are organized and held as if they were secret MI6 meetings. At the EL tuition centre, the teacher will only announce the date of the seminar about a week (or less) before the actual day. This is to prevent other tuition centres, presumable G, from having their seminars on the same day. Obviously he suspects some of the students are 'double agents' reporting to G. Yes, they do resort to such dirty tricks.

Also, the notes given to us are prepared in a special manner. They are not sent to only one photocopier shop, for fear that they could be duplicated. Instead, several unnamed photocopier shops are employed, and they handle different sections of the notes. So if the competition managed to steal notes from a particular shop, it still won't be complete. And just to be extra certain, they are photostated on very yellowish paper, so any attempt to photocopy it ourselves will result in blurry notes (because of the low contrast). Pretty high tech, huh?

It's really amazing how cut throat this business has become. But as usual, humanity has shown their weakness - greed. I'm not sure if EL and G are still at odds, but I suppose so. As for me, I'm glad I do not have to rely on extra tuition anymore.

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