Picture a young, well-dressed man, who earns over $1 million dollars a year, owns several exotic sport’s cars, dresses in the best suits money can buy and is idolized by tens of thousands of teenagers. You might think this person is a pop star, professional athlete, or famous actor, but you probably wouldn’t expect to find out this person actually a tutor from Hong Kong. Asia is the home to an interesting phenomenon where tutors can earn over a million dollars a year and are treated like celebrities.
In Hong Kong, big name tutors are multimillionaires, and even average celebrity tutors earn more than US$120,000 a year. Government teachers take home less than half that. In South Korea celebrity tutors can make more than $4 million per year. This phenomenon has been driven by a number of variables but a major one is the strong desire students have to perform well on high-stakes entrance examinations that can determine the future success of an individual. The following article looks at several tutors from countries such as Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore who have turned their tutoring careers into a source of wealth and celebrity.
Rose Lee English Teacher, South Korea
Korea is home to many celebrity tutors who have become wealthy in large part to the growth of online tutoring. Companies in South Korea such as MegaStudy allow South Korean students to buy access to videos of tutoring classes through their website. This has enabled the top tutors in the country to reach tens of thousands of tutors, and take a share of the revenue. One celebrity tutor benefiting from online tutoring sales is South Korean English teacher Rose Lee. Rose Lee is one of the most successful, and famous English teachers in Korea. She goes buy the title “Queen of English” and makes most of her money through online classes. In 2009 the “Queen of English” expected to make about 7 million dollars.
Richard Eng English, Hong Kong
Richard Eng is one of the first celebrity tutors from Hong Kong and ultimately helped launch the trend in the Hong Kong tutoring market. Twenty years ago Eng began working as a teacher. He would teach his school students during the day and at night he worked as a tutor. Over time he was able to grow his evening classes through word-of-mouth, and eventually opened up his on tutorial school. It was around this time that Eng ramped up his expansion efforts and began advertising in local newspapers and on television.
Richard Eng recognized the fascination and obsession with celebrities of many young people and began marketing his tutoring business with this in mind. Using billboards, glossy brochures, eye-catching TV commercials and model photo shoots to promote his business and his tutors, Eng was able to change the image of his tutoring company. Eng and his tutors wore designer clothing, had fashionable hairstyles and began to resemble pop stars promoting their latest album more than tutors searching for students.
Eng’s unorthodox strategy paid off, his company Beacon College now has 12 schools in Hong Kong and has just opened one in Tokyo. He has a total of 50,000 students, employs 300 staff and brings home about 1.5 million dollars a year.
Phang Yu Hon Physics, Singapore
Named one of Singapore’s most sought-after “Super Tutors”, Phang Yu Hon is now also the highest-earning private tutor in Singapore. Mr Phang Yu Hon was previously a research engineer and began teaching in 1997. In his first year he had 8 students and earned less than $10,000 which was a huge pay cut from his previous job. Despite his friends thinking he was wasting his education by pursuing this career Phang Yu Hon persevered, and it paid off. By 2010 he had 200 students and earned $520,000, expecting to earn $600,000 – $700,000 the following year.
Woo Hyeong-Cheol Math Teacher, South Korea
Another tutor from South Korea that has benefited from the country’s education obsession and the online tutoring trend is Woo Hyeong-cheol, one of South Korea’s most well-known and highest-paid math tutors. Woo is not affiliated with any institution that is part of the official school system, but is considered one of the best cram school tutors and makes $4 million per year. Although he teaches in cram schools (South Korea’s exam preparation schools) the majority of his income comes from his tutorials on the Internet, where they are accessed by about 50,000 paying subscribers.
Karson Oten Fan Karno English, Hong Kong
Known as K. Oten and the “Tutor King”, this well-known Hong Kong tutor is both a celebrity tutor and even has a side career rapping with local pop singers. He uses his stage name “K. Oten” in both the classroom and the recording studio. At one point in his tutoring career K. Oten earned as much as HK$2.65 million ($340,000 USD) for 40 days of work in 2006. Evidence of his loyal fans was seen in 2006 when Fan was fired by King’s Glory (one of Hong Kong’s top tutoring companies) and began teaching in Modern Education. He conducted an extensive advertising campaign and invited his students from his former employer to transfer to Modern Education. As a result of Fan’s departure, King’s Glory claimed student numbers fell by about 7,000.