Cram schools in Hong Kong

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Cram schools in Hong Kong are referred to as Tutorial schools (Chinese: 補習社 Jyutping: bou2 zaap6 se5). According to the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong, a third of secondary school students went for private tutoring in the 2004-05 school year, spending a total of HK$18.9 million per month.[1] On the lower estimate, the whole industry is worth more than HK$400 million,[2] and according to other reports, the industry is generating more than US$3.6 billion a year.[3]

Business model[edit]

"Star teachers" featured on a prominent billboard on Nathan Road

Cram schools are relied upon by many secondary school students to endow them with examination techniques.[4] These establishments to the 478 thousand secondary school students in Hong Kong (2008 figures).[5] The schools focus on the two major local public examinations, namely HKDSE and HKLE. Cram schools teach students the techniques of answering questions in the examinations, as well as providing students tips on topics which may appear on the coming examination. Monthly tuition fees per subject are approximately HK$400 (US$51) for each student;.[4] The fee for a course, such as English, can be HK$100 per hour.[5]

Unlike individual private tutors who advertise on sites such as adpost, kijiji and craiglist, cram schools regularly spend a lot on millions on front pages of papers, on the MTR and on buses. Multimedia techniques are increasingly deployed. To increase yield, once traditional classes are now supplemented by classes transmitted by video feed.[4] According to The Standard, the use of video tutorials in the industry in Hong Kong was pioneered by Kevin Ko.[6]

Schools share revenue with their tutors, with some able to obtain a 60% share. The share paid to tutors may depend on their bargaining power (popularity), and whether classes are live or virtual. There are said to be approximately 20 such 'star tutors' in number, with a monthly salary of HK$1 million or above. By comparison, Hong Kong secondary school teachers earnings are capped at $68,915, and a primary school teacher was earning maximum $52,815 in 2009.[4] Some of the tutors, or "presenters", are model-turned.[1][7] The schools apply a fandom approach to promote tutors, who dress fashionably and are given nicknames like "the Godfather of Science," "Brand-A tutor", "Super tutor" or the "Queen of English."[1] They can be seen on billboards, full-page newspaper ads and TV screens in railway stations or on buses. Some of them have their own teams of stylists, fashion designers and photographers; many have personal web sites.[1]


In May 2008, the Independent Commission Against Corruption of Hong Kong stepped in to investigate allegations that HKCEE examination papers had been bought, and that K. Oten of Modern Education had sent out an analysis the current year's paper to examination candidates by text message during the exam. His employers immediately distanced themselves, saying he had been terminated.[8] Oten had previously been dismissed by King's Glory in April 2006 on several counts of violating his employment contract.[4] The court found him in breach, and ordered him to pay HK$8.87 million in damages to his former employers.[9]

For his satirical dramatisation of the tutoring sector entitled Trick or Cheat 《愛出貓》, Hong Kong director Oxide Pang was sued by one of the sector's biggest stars for libel. Kevin Ko, co-founder of Ever Learning, alleges the film was a libellous portrayal of him. The film's main character, named Seven Ko, uses all manner of unethical means, including bribery and having sex with an exams official to gain access to examination questions.[6]

List cram schools in Hong Kong[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Hong Kong tutors selling sex appeal", Associated Press, 20 January 2007
  2. ^ 年薪千萬元的補習天王, Jiujik, 10 November 2006 (Chinese)
  3. ^ Ng, Yuk-hang (1 June 2009). "In Hong Kong, Cram School Teachers' Image Rivals Pop Stars'". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Martin Wong, Yvonne Tsui, 'Star tutors' can net HK$1m a month, page C1, South China Morning Post, 16 July 2009
  5. ^ a b c d Lau, Nickkita (6 November 2009). "Wealth of knowledge". The Standard. 
  6. ^ a b Lau, Nickkita (16 October 2009). "Top-earning celebrity tutor sues over movie". The Standard.  (note: Ko's name is misspelt 'Kelvin' in the Standard article - see official website)
  7. ^ 變質補習天皇 為錢走火入魔, Sing Pao, 30 August 2006 (Chinese)
  8. ^ Carol Chung and Jeffrey Tam, "Tutor faces exam leak probe", The Standard, 8 May 2008
  9. ^ Yvonne Tsui &Loretta Fong, Tutorial school sues star teacher for HK$10m, page C4, South China Morning Post, 26 February 2009
  10. ^ Lee, Diana; Wong, Adele (29 September 2009). "School mourns `Lai Sir' death in horror crash". The Standard. 

External links[edit]