Cram school in $2.65m tutor row

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 May, 2006, 12:00am

Writ from star teacher seeks unpaid March-April commission from King's Glory Educational Centre


One of the highest-profile cram schools on the local market has become embroiled in a dispute with one of its former 'star' English tutors over allegations of millions of dollars in unpaid wages.


Karson Oten Fan Kar-no filed proceedings against the owners of King's Glory Educational Centre and six related companies on April 29 seeking $2.65 million in unpaid commission - his share of fees paid by students between March 10 and April 24.


In his court writ, Mr Fan claimed King's Glory terminated his employment on April 24 claiming he had breached his contract.


'I was not in Hong Kong at the time and I received a text message from the CEO of King's Glory that night telling me to check my e-mail,' Mr Fan told the South China Morning Post. 'When I did, I discovered a letter from their lawyers telling me they had terminated my services at the end of classes that evening. I never received any notice and they also said they were not going to pay my commission.'


The alleged breaches of conduct included producing mock exam papers to be sold at a chain of convenience stores and providing video lectures to an Internet site for its subscribers to download.


However, Mr Fan maintains the actions had been 'duly and properly authorised and approved' by the school and were similar to things he had done on occasions in the past for promotional purposes.


His writ also states that he had not signed an agreement dated July 7, 2003, which the school said he had breached.


Mr Fan - better known by his teaching stage name K Oten - is one of a growing band of 'celebrity' tutors feeding students' hunger for inside tips on passing exams.


He has featured as a guest on radio and television shows giving advice on study and exam technique to students in the run-up to the all-important HKCEE and A-level public examinations.


One of the largest private tutoring companies on the local market, King's Glory operates 13 teaching centres around Hong Kong, and claims to have upwards of 10,000 students attending its day school and evening classes.


Its tutors' faces feature prominently in the school's advertising campaigns, which are often plastered across MTR trains and the sides of buses. Mr Fan's picture regularly took pride of place on those adverts until recently.


The disputed money is Mr Fan's cut of fees paid for classes both taught by himself in person and for others where students watched a videoed lecture.


According to Mr Fan's writ, that agreement was for 47 per cent for the classes taught in person and 60 per cent for the pre-recorded classes. Mr Fan said the percentage depended on the status and popularity of a particular tutor. 'It is like a movie being shown at a cinema,' he said. 'Some movies are more profitable than others so the cinema will pay out a bigger cut.'


No one from the tutorial school was available to comment this week. But in a statement issued on Wednesday, the school said it filed a writ with the High Court on April 25 seeking to terminate its contract with Mr Fan and free it from monetary and other obligations.


The statement said that King's Glory had informed Mr Fan in a lawyer's letter dated April 24 of its reasons for terminating his contract. The letter had also said the $2.65 million would be held to cover the school's lost earnings caused by Mr Fan's alleged breach of contract.


'As the dispute between this group and Mr Fan Kar-no (K Oten) has already developed into formal legal action, this group believes both parties in the legal action should not release further matters relating to this dispute to the media before the dispute has been settled in court,' the statement said.


King's Glory placed notices on its website on April 25 saying it had ceased all collaboration with Mr Fan. Students who had already signed up for classes taught by him could transfer to equivalent classes with another teacher or receive a refund of fees paid.