Urban life

Tribes of Hong Kong: Celebrity Tutors

Exploring the city’s subcultures, ANSHEL MA meets the celebrity educators Michelle Sun, David Chiu and Christine Ma-Lau

It’s September, which means we’re entering a new school year in Hong Kong – a place known for cutthroat competition for school places. Here, tutorial centres promote their star teachers as celebrities, putting their faces in advertisements plastered on billboards and buses. One of those celebrities is David Chiu. He founded iCon Education tutorial centre, which specialises in helping students enter university.

‘In the past, parents preferred good teachers in tutorial centres. That’s no longer the case; now they want famous tutorial centres,’ he says. While Chiu admits some star tutors are only in it for fame and money, he says he’s dedicated to helping young people. ‘I opened the school so I could use my own teaching methods and choose the tutors to work with. When I see our students’ personal growth, I am proud. Their success is our success.’

The ecosystem of education-related services here is vast, extending far beyond just schoolwork. Extracurricular activities are important as ever. First Code Academy, for instance, is among the few education centres that offer coding courses for kids in Hong Kong. Its founder Michelle Sun, who has worked in Silicon Valley, says, ‘I believe that technology and coding are a kind of lingua franca of the younger generation. It helps prepare Asian children for the future competition on a global scale, a point more parents have started to notice’.

Another parent favourite is JEMS Learning House, which teaches an unusual subject: moral education. Founder and principal Christine Ma-Lau says a sense of responsibility, compassion and perseverance are essential, and primary schools have started to include these non-academic topics in their curricula. ‘I hope that alternative education like this can flourish in Hong Kong, and that other educators will work together to make it happen,’ she says. ‘In the end, we all share one mission: to nurture our next generation.’ 

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