Posted by: Gurindam Jiwa | Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What is with all these tuition thing?

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.


  1. salam En Mazlan,

    Saya tidak pernah menghadiri tusyen semasa sekolah baik di sekolah atau di luar.
    Sekarang saya risau sebab patutkah saya hantar anak2 saya ke tusyen. Kesian mereka. my eldest hanya menghadiri tusyen di sekolah saja.

    Wa’alaikumussalaam Pn,

    Tahniah Puan berjaya tanpa perlu tuisyen. Adik-beradik isteri saya pun semuanya tidak pernah pergi tuisyen. Semuanya berjaya melepasi universiti. Tetapi ada antara anak-anak mereka yang kini bertuisyen. Mungkin masa kini sudah berubah. Hmm…

    Anak-anak saya setakat Tahun 3 ni saya belum lagi hantar tuisyen. Tak tau lah di masa depan.

    Di Tahun 1 dahulu, SRAI BBB ada menghantar pemberitahuan mengenai kelas tuisyen untuk Tahun 1. Kalau tak silap yurannya ialah rm10 sahaja sebulan. Saya pun ke pejabat sekolah untuk bertanya. Tetapi Guru Besar di kala itu menyediakan sebuah kubu yang begitu kebal di pejabatnya. Kerani di situ tidak mengizinkan langsung untuk saya bertemu dengan Guru Besar. Dengan guru lain pun tak boleh. Dia kata, “Kalau ada apa-apa soalan, boleh tanya saya sahaja.”

    OKlah. Saya pun bertanya, “Apakah rasionalnya mengadakan kelas tuisyen untuk pelajar Tahun 1?” Saya ada soalan selanjutnya, tetapi ia bergantung kepada jawapan kepada soalan pertama itu.

    Kerani itu diam sebentar, kemudian berkata, “Sekejap ya.” Lalu dia bangun dan terus masuk ke bilik sebelah. Kemudian dia keluar dan memberitahu saya untuk membuat temujanji dengan guru kelas anak saya.

    Saya ucapkan terima kasih kepada kerani itu, kerana begitu taat dengan arahan majikannya, lalu saya pun beredar pulang. Saya lupakan saja tawaran tentang temujanji itu.

    Kerani itu tidak lagi bekerja di SRAI BBB. Guru Besar itu pun tidak lagi bertugas di situ. Saya agak terkilan. Tak sempat nak beramah mesra. 😉

    Sepatutnya, apa yang diajar di dalam kelas adalah mencukupi untuk menghadapi peperiksaan. Kecuali semua soalan-soalan di dalam peperiksaan adalah mengenai perkara yang tak pernah disebut di dalam kelas. Kalau begitu, apa gunanya pergi kelas?

    Kalau kita lihat semua pelajar cemerlang—yang dapat 15A, 20A, 30A, 142A … —tidak pergi tuisyen. Tak cukup masa nak pergi tuisyen.

    Walau bagaimanapun, mungkin ada beberapa situasi yang mengecualikan. Tapi tak dapat saya fikirkan sekarang apakah situasi tersebut. Mungkin para pejuang tuisyen dapat menjawabnya.

    Bagi SRAI BBB yang setakat saya tahu, semua kelas tuisyen adalah di atas permintaan ibubapa/PIBG, bukan permintaan guru.

    Di dunia luar juga, pusat-pusat tuisyen swasta menawarkan pelbagai perkhidmatan tuisyen, di atas permintaan ibubapa. Bukan permintaan para guru.

    Ada pihak yang menyalahkan guru apabila guru memperoleh wang tambahan dengan mengajar tuisyen. Walau bagaimanapun, siapakah sebenarnya yang memaksa guru-guru tersebut mengajar tuisyen? Pihak Kementerian juga cuba untuk menghukum guru-gurunya yang berlebih memberi tuisyen.

    Ada seorang guru KAFA di SRAI BBB yang gajinya ditokok PIBG kerana tidak lumayan, mampu membeli sebuah Perdana, disamping SAGA yang sedia ada, hasil usaha gigih sampingannya, yang antaranya ialah memberi tuisyen di luar waktu kerja rasminya. Adakah dia bersalah?

    Seorang AJK PIBG ada bertanya, “Kenapa hendak sangat tuisyen? Jumlah A dalam UPSR hanyalah 5 sahaja!” Betul juga. Kalau ada 65½ A yang ditawarkan tu lainlah juga ya.

  2. Abang Mazlan,

    Zaman aku pula hanyalah pusat tuisyen kasturi. Banyak masa dan duit dihabiskan di sana.

    😀 glad to hear your side of story

    Saya tak pernah dengarlah Kesturi itu. Tapi saya lihat papan tanda Ming Institute itu masih ada di bangunan itu. Walau bagaimanapun mungkin tidak lagi se gah dahulu, memandangkan persaingan perkhidmatan tuisyen kini mengkecamukkan minda (mind boggling). Mungkin sudah ke tahap tepu.

    Terima kasih datang ke sini.

  3. I pergi tusiyen hanya sebulan sahaja di Koperasi Polis, KL. I tengok I perlukan 2 jam untuk naik bas pergi dan balik. Lepas tu 15 minit borak2 dengan kawan2. Might as well spent 2.25 hours reading the books.
    Cuma bila buat add math, kalau tak faham, kena ingat je macam mana nak jawab walau tak faham. Masa tu tak ada orang2 kg Kerinci ambil kertas add math dan talipon tak ada.
    Cuma kena rajin buat kertas soalan tahun2 lepas.

    Sekarang ni ramai juga yang pergi tuisyen ibubapa yang hantar. Ada yang tunggu di situ sampai kelas habis. Mungkin elok jika ibubapa tu pun masuk tuisyen tu sekali.

    Macam saya hantar anak saya mengaji taekwondo. Kadang saya kena tunggu sampai latihannya habis. Mungkin elok jika saya pun berlatih taekwondo tu sekali dengan dia.

  4. It shows that, education is a good business in malaysia. My friend has set up a college after 15 years in malaysia.

    I think that is what many people tend to miss. Education now IS business.

  5. Mazle,
    Pak Zawi tak mampu pergi tuisyen. Belajar sama kawan kawan je la di asrama SIS Pasir Mas. Nasib baik la dapat juga Gred 1 dalam SC dan MCE bersama 13 rakan lain.

    Zaman Pok Zed dulu dulu, tuisyen tu boleh kira macam tak ade lagi le… Tak tau lah kalau untuk anak Raja.

    Saya dah masuk sekolah menengah baru dengar perkataan tuisyen tuh.

    Saya dapat Gred 1 SPM dulu pun Mak saya dah bersyukur. Tak tanya pun buleh berapa A.

    Baru ni ada waris tu dapat Gred 1 dalam SPMnya, tapi tak de A, ibunya berasa sangat malu. Kesian waris tu. Saudara mara semua sudah diberi amaran supaya jangan telefon untuk tanya anak dia SPM macam mana. Nanti kena sakit jantung, susah.

    Agaknya inilah kos pembangunan pendidikan kita…

  6. I love your encounter with the school’s officer. It is typical. Once I received a letter from the education department to go and confirm my child’s enrollment in Std 1. When I met the school’s officer, she asked me about the original birth certificate. I did not bring since it was not stated in the letter. Furthermore, I already brought it upon registration a couple years earlier and on top of that already handed over the copy of the birth cert to the school.

    Me: Tapi surat ni suruh datang confirm saja. Tak cakap pun suruh bawa surat beranak.
    Officer : Yelah memang tak tulis. Tapi kalau nak buat apa2 urusan kat mana2 pun mestilah ada surat beranak. Kena faham lah.

    I could have gone on and on until the cow comes home. I did some basic arithmetic, it will take me about 20 minutes to go back and get the birth cert which I did. And save the time trying to rationalize irrational things. After all, this is the system in which you have to bring electricity bill for your kids registration into primary school.

    Never argue with fools. Or you’ll become one.

    I once helped my wife applied for a job. We followed to the letter the instruction in the newspaper advertisement. Upon reaching the counter, the officer asked for her University’s transcript. I told the officer that the advertisement NEVER mentioned anything about transcript. He said the transcript requirement was understood, so there was no need for it to be mentioned in the advertisement. If you really needed the job, you’d bring your transcript.

    Huh! What I really needed then, he wouldn’t want to know.

  7. And compare those to this. In 1983 on returning to Binghamton after summer holidays, I received a letter (addressed to Goethe St) of acceptance from Syracuse Univ , only that I was supposed to report by a date which was already passed since I was in Malaysia when the letter was sent. I was devastated since that means I have to spend another semester at BCC with little credit to complete. Trying my luck, I called SU admission office telling my side of the story. The answer ; “When can you come for registration”. The rest is history.

    So you went to SU by luck? Some luck you have. SU Basketball won the Eastern Conference recently.

    Our friend Hishamuddin, whom Halim met at the Shah Alam Lake the other day, never made it back to Binghamton after his second year holiday in 1985. Just out of the blue about ten years later, he sent an e-mail to the Binghamton Savings Bank from his home in Kluang, and explained his situation. A few months later, he received a bank draft from the bank along with a letter confirming the closing of his account.

    I once had a Savings Account at Bank Simpanan Nasional that I inherited from the days of Bank Simpanan Pejabat Pos. Then my briefcase (with the Bank Book in it) was stolen. I reported to the bank that my bank book was missing. I had to fill out a form, go get a tax stamp (Stem Hasil), and wait for three months to get a new book. Until then, my account was frozen. The day I got my book back, I went to the bank and immediately closed my account. I always wanted to do that due to its interest bearing feature, but never got around to do it. That event somehow gave me an even better reason.

    Bank Bumiputra on the other hand replaced my bank book on the spot after filling out a simple form and had that tax stamp crossed at an IRB office. Got to give them a credit for that.

    We all may still have a few pennies in some banks in the United States. May be its time to send them an e-mail, huh?

  8. True. I have lots of luck on my side throughout my career. Alhamdulillah, cannot ask for more. Really.
    Tapi tak tahulah hari esok, lebih-lebih lagi in the afterlife…

  9. Lan,
    You did it again. I was also at Ming while in Form 3 and Form 5. I was there because of the previous years exams and answer notes as well as the prediction. Yes MS Tan, the guy whom I was told only completed form 5 at a Chinese school.
    After SRP we had JJ and Carefree at Ming Court Hotel, “Rindu Bayangan” lagi. Couldn’t remember where we had set Chinese lunch after SPM, but I remembered savouring it.

    I wish I had JJ and Carefree. I remember Rindu Bayangan topped the charts for months.

    During my year, one student had the honor to sing Babe with that Philippine band; that famous song by Styx.

  10. Salam,

    Lama tak ke sini. Seronok pula baca cerita tuisyen ni.

    Waktu di tingkatan 3, saya masuk kelas tuisyen. Berkobar-kobar hendak lulus SRP, he he he. Tapi waktu kelas, saya tidur, sama seperti di sekolah. Kawan-kawan nasihatkan saya, tak payahlah tuisyen, habiskan duit mak bapak je, kata mereka. Jadi saya berhenti. Alhamdulillah saya dapat keputusan SRP sesuai dengan agregat yang saya mahukan.

    Kalau saya tuisyen betul-betul (sebenarnya rahsia faham pelajaran – kena beri perhatian dalam kelas bagi yang fitrahnya begitu, atau rajin mengulang kaji, bagi yang fitrahnya mesti baca semula apa cikgu ajar) mungkin saya dapat keputusan lebih baik. Kalau begitu, besar kemungkinan saya ditukarkan sekolah; sesuatu yang saya paling tak mahu. Jadi kesimpulan cerita, semuanya berakhir sesuai dengan kemahuan saya. Alhamdulillah.

    Lama tak ke sini? Oh, ingatkan hari-hari ke sini. He he…

    Rahsia faham pelajaran tu memang betul sekali. Tak perlu tuisyen. Yang nak tuisyen sangat ni sebab bila kat rumah asyik nak tengok TV ajer.

    Tapi ade juge la kes-kes terkecuali tu.

    ps: Saya pun selalu tidur juga masa tuisyen dulu, he he…

  11. You follow the news. He has long been Dato MS Tan who was the former owner of Taylor’s College, Garden International School and Metropolitan College. The other teacher is Oliver Tan.

    Very thoughtful of you in terms of memoirs of these years.

    • My goodness Bern. After my SPM, I went for some soul searching for some 13 years, and didn’t follow much of Malaysian news.

      Oliver Tan! That’s it! Thanks Bern. I actually learned from Oliver Tan more than what he taught me. Thank you Oliver.

      I remember him loving that Paul Anka song “I don’t like to sleep alone.”

      As for Datuk M. S. Tan, to you I salute.

    • Yes..I met Dato MS Tan..once..I didn’t know he was a Dato’..I called him..Mr MS Tan..he.he..then I heard everybody else called him Dato’.I apologised..n he’s Ok..You were my former student at Ming Institute..kan?He is still as jovial as before..n not aging..

      He is a Tan Sri now.

  12. Today Mr Tan is honoured by the King as Tan Sri.
    As for Oliver, he is now a Phd holder and master of numbers. You can google search him. Yes, he still sing that song sometimes.

    Holy Bern! I’m really sorry I missed your comment. Thanks for the update. Congratulations to Tan Sri.

    About Oliver, yes I googled. Is that really he? Hard to believe. I see some negative comments about that number’s stuff.

    But MS Tan is not easy to google.

    I can’t believe that “google” is a verb, or noun is it?

  13. Tan Sri M.S Tan….I wonder how old is he now. Such a nice person. Very humble. I used to have meetings with him about 20yrs ago. I was an architect, designing the Garden International School, Cheras by then. At that time he is already 50 or late 40’s I guest..

    Small world, Hj. Mat.

  14. no he is now 50s…..that time maybe 30s

    MS Tan now 50s? How can that be? I am closer to 50! When I was 14, he was already a very successful businessman.

  15. maybe that time he was 20 or early 20s. so you figure out.

    That’s alright Bern. I salute him, anyhow.

  16. Instead of criticising write the variants is better.

    Thanks spammer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: