As someone who has taught in a kindergarten and tutorial centres here in Hong Kong, I believe it is about time that parents of children attending these places realised that there is a significant number that are committing fraud on a regular basis.
This may seem unbelievable, but from my own experience and from talking to teachers in similar centres in Hong Kong, it appears that my experiences are a regular theme.
I don't choose the word fraud lightly, but I feel this is exactly the word to describe what's going on.
Firstly, the vast majority of teachers employed are not native English teachers.
A lot of the teachers are locals who are told to pretend they cannot speak or understand Cantonese, and in many cases these teachers are told to lie and say they are from other countries such as Canada.
These centres will also employ foreign people who they claim are native English teachers but in fact are from non-English-speaking countries.
This is important, because not only are the parents being fooled, there is no substitute for an educated native English teacher.
These centres also employ teachers from English-speaking countries who have no qualifications, but have married a local person thus giving them the work visa required to teach.
The courses that are being taught are, in my opinion, of a very poor quality.
Parents spend extra money on courses that they believe will improve their child's chances of a better life, but the reality is that these courses are in no way an addition to what they learn in school, and are in fact a way of getting more money from the parents.
The parents must take some blame here as any analysis of these courses would show the content to be poor and the exercises of no value, but the majority of the parents keep paying as they feel their children will be disadvantaged if they don't.
The teachers of these centres usually don't last long, as they are overworked and underpaid and in some situations the employer has them working hours or in conditions which are illegal.
It is about time this sham was stopped, that parents stopped paying these places huge money for nothing, and instead just spent some extra time with their own children.
Dermot Cooper, Happy Valley