How to become a celebrity tutor in Hong Kong

Joseph Lam, popularly known as the ex-boyfriend of Miss Hong Kong 2015 Louisa Mak, has given up the high status of a being barrister and has opted to join the lucrative tutoring industry as an English tutor at Beacon College , one of the biggest tutorial centres in the city.  Tutoring is a profession that is traditionally less prestigious than practising law but in recent years have become an extremely profitable career. Joseph Lam has a degree in Mathematics from the University of Oxford (though he opted to become an English tutor specializing in teaching IELTS instead of being a Math tutor), and was called to the bar in Hong Kong in 2015. Dispelling the myth that being a barrister is a guaranteed way to become rich, he wrote on his Facebook page, “Now that I am being presented with lucrative contracts in the entertainment and educational industries, deciding whether to stay on for at least another ten years as a junior barrister or moving on is a no-brainer.” Joseph Lam’s career switch is another example of how flourishing the tutoring industry in Hong Kong is. Times Magazine reported that the private tutoring industry in Hong Kong, with almost 7500 tutorial centres and their branches across the city (SCMP), is worth $255 million USD. Not only are barristers opting for this career switch, even PhDs have opted for this profession. Koopa Koo, a PhD from the University of Washington, is a Math tutor at Beacon College.

If you want to become famous but you don’t know how to sing or act, you can consider being a celebrity tutor!

How much do they earn?

Take YY Lam, a celebrity Chinese tutor from Beacon College, as an example. In 2015, it was reported by Business Insider that he earned more than HK$35.5 million and was responsible for 40% of the company’s revenue. (Business Insider 2015). In October 2015, YY Lam was offered an annual salary of HK$85 million to work at Modern Education, Beacon College’s rival. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong, CY Leung’s salary is around HK$4.5 million and HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver’s salary was reported to be $89 million in 2014. (SCMP) How To Become A Celebrity Tutor In Hong KongYY Lam (Source: Facebook \ YY Lam ) According to the annual report of Modern Education, the five best-performing tutors’ annual pay ranged from around HK$2 million to HK$15 million. (SCMP). At Beacon College, the four best tutors apart from YY Lam made an average of HK$4.8 million each in 2014-2015. (SCMP)

Why do they earn so much?

Hong Kong’s education system is exam-oriented, from primary school to the most important and high-stake examination in a HK student’s life: the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE). Students attend tutorial classes due to peer pressure and to gain an edge over the others. Also, tutors teach examination skills while schools do not.

What do celebrity tutors do?

Teach exam skills – Celebrity tutors not only teach the content of each subject, but also how to tackle examination questions from analyzing past examination papers. For example, for the HKDSE Geography exam, the only words that matters is the “key words”, which can be found from the marking scheme published by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. Students who attend tutorial lessons would know that they only need to study the marking scheme, and not the textbook. Atonia Cheng, an English tutor at Modern Education, saysEven if you have really good English in Hong Kong, you cannot excel in exams because it’s not just about English standards, you have to be more focused about answering the questions.”  How To Become A Celebrity Tutor In Hong Kong


Preparing notes: Some students attend lessons by star tutors for their comprehensive notes, which appear as fancy textbooks, distributed every month. Examination skills, sample essays, and supplementary exercises for students to practise on are included in the notes. For example, a  Geography tutor would compile all the marking scheme from all the past examinations for you – something your school teacher won’t do.

Predict examination trends and topics: Tutors would predict trends – for example last year Topic A was asked, so this year, Topic B will be examined. Joseph Li, an English tutor, once prompted an investigation by ICAC in 2000 for successfully predicting several questions in the A-levels English exam. (SCMP)

Hold “mock examinations”: Star tutors hold “mock examinations” a few months before the HKDSE for students to get a taste of their current level and what they need to improve one.

Do you have what it takes?

1. Academic qualifications Although not a must, a lot of star tutors have a Master’s degree and even a PhD degree. For example, Alvin Choi, a Math tutor at Beacon College, has a Master’s Degree from Cambridge University. Guy Leung, a Liberal Studies tutor at Beacon College, was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University .   How To Become A Celebrity Tutor In Hong Kong

2. Be able to teach as if performing a stand-up comedy “It’s like performing a drama or a stand-up comedy, but there must be content, so students can learn things in a happy way,” said Mia Wong, an English tutor at Modern Education.(SCMP)

3. Be prepared to work really hard: Mia Wong says she spends 6 hours every day before lectures searching for up-to-date examples and trendy expressions, and practising her lectures in front of a mirror.(SCMP)

Prospect of being a celebrity tutor

The prospect of being tutor is GREAT! You don’t even need to be a celebrity tutor and can earn a decent wage as a private tutor at small tutorial centres. As long as there are exams in Hong Kong, the tutoring industry is bound to flourish.

If you are keen on making the big bucks as a celebrity tutor, consider gaining some experience as a teacher first. Check out some teaching jobs here.

For a video summary of this article, click here. 

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