IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Disgraced tutor Kelvin Ong now linked to new centre

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 26, 2014

Disgraced tutor Kelvin Ong, who two years ago was exposed for faking his credentials, is now being linked to a new tuition centre operating out of his home.

Ace Achievers, which was registered in May, touts itself as specialising in preparing children for the Gifted Education Programme (GEP).

Its four-day Primary 3 Intensive GEP Screening Workshop, which runs for 12 hours, for instance, costs $1,500. The fees for GEP preparatory classes for children in kindergarten to Primary 3 range from $200 to $320 for four lessons.

But similarities between the new centre and Mr Ong's shuttered AristoCare, which also focused on GEP tutoring, have set alarm bells ringing among some parents.

Ace Achievers' website had a profile of tutor Andy Wang, which mirrors Mr Ong's profile under AristoCare.

Both are described as "noted authors" who are members of the Mathematical Association of America and qualified Singapore Mathematical Olympiad trainers.

Mr Ong is supposed to have written "Gifted Education Program Preparatory Book for Primary School" and "Exam Smart Maths Methods", while Mr Wang authored "A Comprehensive Gifted Education Program Preparatory Book For Primary School" and "Smart Maths Methods".

On a page about Ace Achievers' GEP preparatory classes, a paragraph read: "To order the GEP Examination Paper, please call Mr Kelvin Ong (on)..."

The similarities have left some parents wondering on the KiasuParents website if Mr Wang, who was listed as Ace Achievers' chief executive, and Mr Ong are the same person.

Attempts to reach Mr Wang were unsuccessful.

But in recent weeks, their names, and that of the centre's founder Eunice Cheang, were removed from its website.

Checks by The Sunday Times found that Ace Achievers is owned by a Cheang Wai Lan and its registered place of business is a Lentor address, which is also listed as Mr Ong's residence.

During a visit to the landed property last Thursday, Mr Ong was spotted at the place.

When asked if he was associated with the new tuition centre, the 38-year-old said: "I've moved on, and I'm involved in food business now."

Mr Ong gained infamy after claiming he was a former GEP primary school pupil at Anglo-Chinese School before returning as a GEP teacher to his alma mater, where he supposedly taught for 12 years.

He also said he graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) with a Bachelor of Science degree and a major in "double mathematics".

But it was later revealed by the Ministry of Education, to the chagrin of parents who had paid thousands of dollars for lessons for their children, that he was never in the GEP programme as a pupil or teacher, and did not even have teaching qualifications.

NUS also said he had never studied there. Instead, Mr Ong, who then charged fees of up to $500 a pupil for a three-hour lesson, had a diploma in physiotherapy and was asked to leave National University Hospital in 2004 because of "integrity" issues.

After being exposed and widely condemned for his actions, Mr Ong told The Sunday Times then that the bad publicity had forced him to shut his school and he was making refunds to some parents. "I won't be teaching any more," he said.

The Sunday Times understands that Mr Wang has told parents that he does not teach at Ace Achievers but handles the centre's operations, contrary to what was stated on its website.

He also directed interested parents to go to a unit at Bukit Timah Shopping Centre to find out more. But this turned out to be The Knowledge Key Tuition Centre, which had no links to Ace Achievers.

Mr Aven Choo, the centre's principal and supervisor, told The Sunday Times that he has received three calls in recent weeks from parents asking about Ace Achievers' programmes.

"I'm very shocked that someone is using my centre's address," said Mr Choo, whose centre has been there for eight years. "We don't rent out rooms to anyone to teach and we don't have GEP preparation classes."

ateng@sph.com.sg