In Hong Kong, star tutors earn $1.5 million salaries
In the Hong Kong cut-throat world of Chinese education, star tutors drive Ferraris and earn $1.5-million salaries.
Their confident faces smile out from billboards across the city. Their promotional grins are plastered across double-decker buses, subway light boxes, even on TV.
These are Hong Kong's "star tutors," accorded near-celebrity status for their ability to make learning fun and help students pass exams in everything from English to chemistry.
Tutoring is common in Asia, where intense emphasis on grades and exams means parents are willing to shell out. More than half of Hong Kong's youths get assistance outside school, a recent survey found.
The industry here is especially competitive and commercialized as tutors mimic the city's showbiz industry to attract students and grab a share of the $460 million market.
"Those images of fame and stardom have been sustained and re-invented in different forms, resulting in tutors now packaging themselves as the superstars of the education sector in order to appeal to students," says Gerald Postliglione, a professor at the University of Hong Kong.
Star tutors spare no costs on publicity. Even tutors who belong to one of the four major chains here must self-promote. But successful tutors can command hundreds of students.
Those at the very top see their lives splashed across the pages of the city's gossip magazines, revealing how many luxury cars they drive or properties they own. Some reports put their salaries as high as $1.5 million a year. One English tutor, Richard Eng, is famous for his love of Ferraris.