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What gives Hong Kong’s celebrity tutors their cult status? It is the city’s education system

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2018, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2018, 4:00pm

Lawsuits, multimillion-dollar talent wars and diehard fans – all the things that can be found in the bizarre world of Hong Kong’s infamous tutors. But what has made this industry so popular and robust (“Why is private tutoring such a big deal in Hong Kong?”, June 7)?

Everywhere in Hong Kong we see the flashy advertisements for local tutorial centres, in newspapers, on the side of buses and on billboards. Young, attractive, well-dressed tutors are presented as possessing somewhat magical powers originating from their professional knowledge and admirable credentials. They promise to change the fate of all students for the better in the cutthroat race for success in exams, altering their future academic and professional trajectories.

This appeals to the emotional insecurities of both students and parents. The tutorial centres focus on guaranteeing the maximum return on investment, which fits the quick-fix, short-cut, results-oriented mentality of local students.

Idol worship is rife, and tutorial centres have given rise to many a celebrity. These telegenic celebrity tutors even have their own music videos, Facebook or Instagram fan pages.

Watch: Celebrity tutors earn millions in Hong Kong

It should be clear to all that the claims made by the star tutors mostly aim at attracting students and growing their business. Therefore, a set of marketing skills and persuasive communication techniques are applied to build these claims. Students should use their critical thinking skills to analyse the underlying purpose and ideology of such advertisements.

Once shadow education has entered a culture, it becomes very difficult to uproot. The private tuition industry in Hong Kong is merely a manifestation, or even a by-product, of the much larger phenomenon of our skewed education system.

The trend of star tutors will continue as long as the local high-pressure education system continues to place a huge emphasis in the role of public examination results on students’ academic and career prospects.

Adrian Lam, Kornhill