School daze

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2001, 12:00am

Could it be their good looks, designer outfits or even the free snacks served during their classes? Could these be the (shallow) reasons why thousands of students flock to the growing number of private tutorial schools these days?

Since the late 1990s, these commercial institutions have become a hit among students and made some 'ace tutors' - such as Joseph Li Din-wah, C.Y. Tong and Sze Wai-chun - household names.

Why are students willing to pay for something that is free at school?

'It is the straightforward, no-nonsense approach of the tutorial schools that appeals to students. These people run their schools like a business,' said veteran maths teacher Chan Chi-keung.

'Tutors at these schools tell students how to score high marks in the HKCEE or A-Level by providing them with examination tips and techniques. We teachers on the other hand often have to spend more time on giving students a more comprehensive education. How can we compete in that sense?' he said.

Also, secondary school teachers each have to take care of several classes, which means they have to deal with more than 100 students during the school year.

And this means teachers barely spend any quality time with students individually.

Under the current Education Ordinance, any establishment or person who has more than eight students has to apply to the Education Department for a Registration Certificate and a Fees Certificate. And they cannot operate until their proposed curriculum is approved. According to the Education Department, there are currently more than 1,000 private tutorial schools in Hong Kong.

Though there are no official statistics as to how many students are attending tutorial schools, the number is believed to be high.

'Almost all my schoolmates go to tutorial schools. Many students are too shy to ask their teachers, mainly because they are worried about their teachers' impression of them. [It is embarrassing] if they keep on asking about something they are supposed to know,' said fifth former Fong Yung-ting, 16.

'Besides, teachers are always busy, and you just don't want to take up too much of their time,' she said.

Even though many of the schools often advertise that they have tips about which types of questions are likely to appear in the exam, they are not always accurate, Yung-ting added.

Here are some tips from the Consumer Council on choosing tutorial schools. Before you choose a particular centre, always ask for opinions from other students or parents who have attended courses there.

According to the Education Ordinance, all approved tutorial schools must clearly display their Registration Certificate and Fees Certificate.

Never pay more than one month's fees because, according to the amendment to the Education Ordinance in June this year, it is unlawful to charge annual fees in one lump sum.

So, be smart and check the details before enrolling on any tutorial classes.