During my high school days, one of the most famous tuition centres in Kuala Lumpur were owned by one man named M. S. Tan. Was it Tan Ming Swee? The centres were Ming Institute and SAC (Student Academic Centre). SAC occupied the top floor of a shop building (now an Udani Carpet store) behind the Pustaka Antara (now Tabung Haji Wilayah Persekutuan) on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. Ming Institute was just across the street. Was it a six-storey building? I wonder if it is still there.
Students came from schools all over KL to SAC and Ming Institute. Word of mouth was the best advertising. The centers were state-of-the-art, by those days’ standard. They had well-trained teachers (some were regular school teachers—who didn’t teach as well at their school—trying to earn the extra income), well-prepared sets of monthly notes, air-conditioned classrooms, a place like a canteen in each building where some snacks were sold during “recess,” clean toilets, and a hall (an entire floor of Ming Institute) with color CCTVs where a class can be conducted by a teacher on stage in the front, with a video camera transmitting the teacher’s image and sound around the entire hall via those CCTVs! Hundreds of students could interact with the teacher(s) via available microphones.
The tuition centers offerred systematic lessons on how to pass those dreaded national examinations SRP/LCE, SPM/MCE, & STP/HSC. They had complete sets of passed years’ questions with answers. The teachers would go through all of those questions with all of their students systematically throughout the year. They had trial exams with spot questions that were way too darn close to the eventual actual examination questions. Well, actually, they even got some actual questions out. In fact, Mr. Tan openly challenged anyone in the world who thought they had the actual exam questions (or knew someone who did) to come forward so he could buy them! It was only business.
There was also a last resort confidential technique that was conducted by Mr. Tan himself in the hall close to the exam dates. It was done in a closed session in the class hall, with the doors closed, and not even one of the teachers or staff in it; just Mr. Tan and the students.
Knowing very well that our education system was (and still is) such that one SRP or SPM could really change your entire future, and a state of desperation could come to such a point during those exams, Mr. Tan taught us how to cheat cleanly during the exams. Forget about writing on your palms or having a note inside your shoes. You needed an accomplice. Someone sitting next to you: to your left, right, front, or rear.
You’d have to use one of those writing papers given to you during the exams. Scribble down the question numbers that you had trouble answering. (All of SRP questions, and most of SPM’s, were of multiple choice type.) Be certain that the invigilators were not looking, then quickly pass that one piece of paper to your accomplice. The accomplice would then write the answers on that paper, and pass back to you, again making sure that the invigilators weren’t looking. That was it. Clean.
We were told not to make a big noise about the technique, for we were the ones who would lose. And it was a LAST RESORT thing.
Mr. Tan was like the supreme god there. He was the Boss. He was the business man. He was also a stand-by teacher, who could teach any of the subjects (or so it seemed), at any given time, whenever there was an emergency lack of teachers. He would present the subject matter like a very good story teller cum comedian. He would leave the students laughing into stitches for the entire period, for any subject that he taught.
His younger brother also taught Tawarikh/Sejarah (History) there. Using pretty much the same style, which I think actually suit the subject of Tawarikh/Sejarah. Which was the very reason why I was there in the first place.
The way Tawarikh was taught at my school, I was flunking that only subject month after month. In January’s Monthly Exam, I got 32, per 100! In February, I got 16. In March, I got 14. In April, I got 12. Per 100! For the life of me, I just couldn’t go on simply having to memorize what year a particular Sultan of Malacca died for no very good reason at all. In May, I registered at Ming Institute, and passed Tawarikh for the first time. Never was a history buff, I finally got C3 in Tawarikh for my SRP. All I actually needed was to be shown how to learn the subject.
Sadly, there were many of those who took tuition classes there who didn’t get the first grade of the SPM, or the SRP. In the SPM of one particular year, Sekolah Menengah Padang Tembak, Kuala Lumpur, had only TWO students who got first grade. And those two were Indians. Yet I knew many Malay students from that school who took their tuition classes at SAC/Ming Institute. What a waste! Feel free to correct these statistics, as they came only from rusty memory.
The tuition centres became so big that it was like a school by itself. I saw a lot students who went there that didn’t really go there to study or to learn anything. They went there to socialize, and to pick-up girls/boys. Before classes began (or after), couples would seclude themselves in every nooks and corners available. There were also some who won’t even bother with humility. Some would come to tuition classes wearing the latest fashion their parents could afford, and some with the most glaring of make-up on their faces. Most of those were not even from rich families. What a waste!
Interestingly, top students, those who scored all or mostly As, didn’t take any tuition classes. Go figure! Even nowadays.
SAC/Ming Institute offered classes for all levels from Form 1 to Form 6! There were six classes for Form 1 alone, with each class averaging 20 to 30 students. There were six subjects for SRP and SPM. I think the centers charged around rm15 to rm20 per month for one subject. But there was a package of rm34 a month for the entire 6 subjects. Most students (or parents) would go for the package. What a deal!
Then, of course, when you estimated a rough amount: rm34 x 25 students (average) x 6 classes x 5 (Form 1 until Form 5) = rm25,500 a month! That was rm426,000 a year back in around ’77-’82, minimum! What a deal!!!
Naturally, M. S. Tan made a huge fortune from that tuition business alone. He drove the latest Mercedez-Benz. He treated all of his SRP and SPM students after the exams ended. In 1978, the SRP students were treated to a concert by a band from the Philipines at the Nirvana Ballroom, Hilton Hotel Kuala Lumpur. In 1980, SPM students were treated to a 7-course Chinese dinner at the same Ballroom. All FREE of charge.
Considering the roughly half-million ringgit gross annual income from these two tuition centers alone, the free dinners and free concerts were spare change. Deducted as promotional event to get more customers, oh ooopps, students.
M. S. Tan was able to make students laughing to stitches for an entire period. But those students paid him back in kind by making him laugh all the way to the bank.
It’s only business.