Tuition teacher convicted of helping students cheat in 2016 O-Level exams

Tuition teacher convicted of helping students cheat in 2016 O-Level exams

crime judge gavel file 4
(File photo: AFP)

SINGAPORE: A 32-year-old tuition teacher was convicted on Monday (Apr 16) for helping at least six Chinese nationals cheat in their GCE O-Level exams in 2016.

Tan Jia Yan pleaded guilty to 27 counts of cheating. Twenty-six charges were for conspiring with three others to cheat the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB), while the remaining charge was for abetting 20-year-old student Chen Yi to cheat in an English exam on Oct 24, 2016. 

Tan pleaded guilty on what was to be day one of her trial. Her three accomplices - Zeus Education Centre’s principal Poh Yuan Nie and fellow teachers Fiona Poh Min and Feng Riwen - continue to challenge the charges against them and will go on trial on Tuesday. 

“HIGHLY SOPHISTICATED” METHOD OF CHEATING: PROSECUTOR

The students had help cheating in the English, Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics papers.

The “cheating operations”, led by principal Poh, were “highly sophisticated”, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Vadivalagan Shanmuga.

On the day of each exam, tuition teachers Tan, Poh and Feng attached Bluetooth devices to the students’ clothing. The devices were linked to mobile phones which were also hidden under their clothes, and each student wore a skin-coloured ear piece.

Tan, who had also registered for the GCE O-Levels as a private candidate, would sit for the exams as well. She had an iPhone attached to the front of her blouse with scotch tape and wore a jacket to hide it. Once the exam had started, Tan would connect via Facetime with the principal, Poh and Feng, who were stationed at Zeus’ premises, giving them a live feed of the exam questions. 

At the tuition centre, the trio would scramble to find answers to the questions, then call each of the six students and read the answers to them.

This went on from Oct 19 to Oct 24, 2016, when an invigilator noticed “unusual sounds” coming from student Chen Yi, who was sitting for English Paper 1 at Tampines Secondary School.

He was taken aside after the exam and asked to remove his vest, under which a mobile phone was found. A Bluetooth device and a skin-coloured ear piece were also found on him. 

According to the prosecutor, investigations revealed that the students were the subject of contracts between principal Poh and Dong Xin, the 30-year-old director of a company called Nou Cheng. Dong, a Chinese national, had referred his compatriots to Poh’s tuition centre to prepare them for the exams.

Principal Poh, also known as Pony, would receive S$8,000 in “deposit” and S$1,000 in “admissions fees”, fully refundable if the students failed their exams or failed to get a place in a polytechnic here, said the prosecutor. As a tuition teacher, Tan earned about S$3,000 a month, on top of S$1,000 per student she provided accommodation for, he added.

Tan’s conviction on Monday is the second linking Pony to scams which involve helping Chinese students cheat in exams. In February, Pony’s 39-year-old girlfriend Wong Mee Keow pleaded guilty to two charges of lying to the police in 2006. A third charge of obstructing the course of justice – by pretending she did not know Pony – was taken into account during sentencing. 

Wong’s lies derailed an investigation into Poh for a decade, until she was arrested for the 2016 GCE O-Level scam. She is due to go on trial on Tuesday. 

Tan, who is expected to testify against her accomplices, will be sentenced at a later date.

Source: CNA/vc/(gs)

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