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HKDSE - Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education

English-language tutor sued for HK$36 million by old employer over contract dispute

Amid his move to a rival cram school, claims include breach of contract and copyright infringement

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 July, 2017, 6:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 July, 2017, 11:00pm

A celebrity English-language tutor is being sued for at least HK$36 million in contract gratuity payments and damages for alleged copyright infringement by one of Hong Kong’s most famous cram schools following his move to a rival tutorial centre.

The dispute came to light in a writ filed at the High Court on Monday. Tutorial centre Modern Education demanded a sum of HK$36.3 million from its former English tutor, Patrick Chan Chi-yung, in payment for an end of contract gratuity.

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The school – the only publicly listed tutoring centre in Hong Kong – was also seeking unspecified damages for an alleged breach of contract, a third party copyright infringement, plus interest and legal costs, according to the document.

Chan taught at Modern Education for 16 years and began teaching at Beacon College, a rival teaching institution, last Monday.

Star tutors in Hong Kong cater to preparing secondary school pupils for their university entrance exams and guarantee top grades. Many are paid up to millions of dollars a year and they form a lucrative industry in a city known for its exam-oriented culture.

Hong Kong is home to some 7,500 tutorial centres and branches, according to the Education Bureau.

In a statement, a Modern Education spokeswoman did not elaborate on the contract breaches, nor did she specify the alleged copyright infringements.

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The statement only mentioned that Chan was involved in a similar copyright dispute in 2006 when he forwarded and published previous A-level English examination questions in his teaching materials without prior permission from the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority.

“At the time, Mr Chan had a very cooperative attitude and chose to pay for the damages to the company and the authority on his own accord,” the statement read.

“In this incident, Modern Education is immensely surprised and disappointed with how Mr Chan is choosing to deal with it differently than he did before.”

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Beacon College and Chan declined to comment. Chan cited the ongoing “judicial process” and said the matter would “be handled appropriately by lawyers”.

This case will not affect my teaching at Beacon College. It will be ... English classes as usual
Patrick Chan, tutor

“That being said, this case will not affect my teaching at Beacon College,” he wrote via Facebook in response to a Post inquiry. “It will be Patrick Chan as usual, English classes as usual.”

In an earlier public statement on Facebook, Chan said he chose to leave Modern Education because of “changes in management and personnel” and differences in teaching philosophy. He assured students that teaching was his lifelong mission and planned to start fresh at Beacon College with a brand new set of notes, mock papers and teaching materials for students taking next year’s Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.

In 2006, the authority issued a legal warning letter to Modern Education over copyright issues. It said it was “following up” the current case, but declined to confirm whether any copyright infringement claims had been made against Modern Education over Chan’s teaching materials.