It was reported in the Straits Times that a small but growing group of “super tutors” are earning at least 1 million dollars in revenue. According to the tutors interviewed by the Straits Times, some of them are charging up to $420 for four 1.5-hour sessions a month, and earn up to $1.1 million in fees per year!

The amount earned by some of these private tutors place them among the top 10 earning professions in Singapore. Yes, among the ranks of some top CEOs, surgeons, lawyers and university professors.

Talk about lucrative jobs.

Here’s three quick thoughts on this phenomena:

1. Teach less, Learn More

Doesn’t this tuition syndrome in Singapore make a mockery of MOE’s “Teach Less, Learn More” mantra? What’s the point of it all when you have so many kiasu parents and students contributing to this a billion-dollar tuition industry?

We wonder if MOE is doing such a lousy job of teaching that so many students have to turn to private tuition.

2. Meritocracy

But more seriously, this tuition syndrome totally undermines the meritocratic model. Cause the rich will have more resources to get ripped off invest and pay exorbitant money to engage the “best” tutors who can guarantee results. One of the tutors interviewed by the Straits Times said that most of his students come from the upper-middle income group, and include the children of business owners, medical professions, senior civil servants and academics.

What about the kids of poor peasants? No surprise then that more than half of the prestigious PSC government scholarships go to kids who grew up on private property, when 80% of the population live in HDB flats.

3. Are all private tutors paying taxes?

The high income of some private tutors also beg this question – are all of them paying taxes? I’m sure some of them do, especially those who are earning so much that makes it difficult for them to escape the tax authorities.

But what about the more low profile ones who are probably getting away with under declaring, or even not paying, their taxes? I know a few of such private tutors personally. They are earning up to 6 to 12k monthly, but declare only a fraction of their income – the bare minimum required for them to apply for a credit card.

Call me sour grapes, but I think it is only fair that all of us contribute to nation building, hur hur. IRAS should look into stepping enforcement, especially since the private tuition industry is a very lucrative one.