Tutor used tech devices to help O-level students cheat

Woman admits to role in plot to feed answers to six Chinese nationals sitting 2016 exam

A Singaporean tutor has confessed to her role in an elaborate plot to remotely feed answers to O-level exam papers in English, Mathematics and Science (Physics/Chemistry) to six Chinese nationals here.

The students smuggled carefully concealed mobile phones and Bluetooth devices into exam halls in 2016, and the answers were whispered to them over the skin-coloured earphones they wore.

Tan Jia Yan, the Singaporean tutor, would also sit the exam as a private candidate and beam a live feed of the paper to her accomplices, using FaceTime. The accomplices, in turn, would supply the answers to the students from China.

Yesterday , Tan, 32, admitted before a district court that she - along with three others - had helped the students cheat.

Tan was employed at Zeus Education Centre in Tampines Street 34. Among those accused of being her accomplices are the centre's principal, Poh Yuan Nie, 52, also known as Pony Poh, and her niece, Fiona Poh Min, 30, who also taught at the centre. Both are Singaporeans while the third person who allegedly took part in the operation was Chinese national Feng Riwen, 25.

The court heard that another Chinese national, Mr Dong Xin, 30, referred the six students to Zeus to prepare them for the 2016 O-level examination. Mr Dong and Zeus had signed contracts stating that for every student he referred to the tuition centre, Poh Yuan Nie would receive $8,000 in deposit and $1,000 in admission fees. The catch was that the money was to be fully refunded if the students failed.

The court heard that when the exams began in 2016, Fiona Poh, Tan and Feng attached wearable Bluetooth devices, linked to mobile phones, to the students' bodies.

 
 

Deputy Public Prosecutor Vadivalagan Shanmuga said: "These mobile phones were also well concealed under the students' clothing. The trio had also helped to place a skin-coloured 'in-ear' earphone on all of the students."

Tan would have a camera phone stuck to her chest, under her clothes. She would then take the exam as a private candidate, and use FaceTime to beam images of the paper to her accomplices at Zeus.

Fiona Poh and Feng would work out the answers and convey them to the students, aged between 17 and 20. They have been identified as Zhou Zice, Chen Xiang, Xiao Junze, Wang Fangfei, Chen Yi and Zhang Jinlu.

DPP Vadivalagan said the "sophisticated cheating operations" ran from Oct 19, 2016.On Oct 24, an alert invigilator thought she could hear transmission sounds coming from one of the students, Chen Yi, and reported the matter to her superiors.

The student was allowed to finish the paper but was later escorted to the invigilators' holding room, where he was asked to remove his vest. He came clean about his involvement with Tan and the three others after communication devices were found on his body.

Tan, who pleaded guilty to 27 cheating charges yesterday, will be back in court on May 15. A trial involving her three alleged accomplices will start today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2018, with the headline 'Tutor used tech devices to help O-level students cheat'. Print Edition | Subscribe