Tutor admits to helping students cheat in 2016 O-level exams

(PHOTO: Getty Images)

A female tutor who was part of a sophisticated operation that helped six students cheat during their O-level examinations in 2016 pleaded guilty to 27 charges of cheating in court on Monday (16 April).

To commit the offences, Tan Jia Yan, 32, and three others from Zeus Education Centre – Pony Poh Yuan Nie, 52, Fiona Poh Min, 30, and Feng Riwen, 25 – used an elaborate set-up that included a concealed mobile phone, skin-coloured earphones as well as Bluetooth devices.

Pony Poh was the de facto principal of the Zeus tuition centre, where her niece Fiona also worked as a tutor.  Feng helped out at Zeus and sometimes ran classes there. The trio are currently contesting their charges.

Tan was convicted on 27 charges for being part of a conspiracy to conceal from the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) that six students – all Chinese nationals aged between 17 and 20 – had received assistance while taking their exams, thus inducing the board to accept the students’ scripts as legitimate. All six students were private candidates.

The cheating operations ran between 19 October and 24 October 2016 until one of the candidates, Chen Yi, was caught by an invigilator who heard unusual sounds being emitted from Chen. The papers involved included Mathematics Paper 1 and 2, English Paper 1 and 2, and the Science Physics/Chemistry Revised Practical Paper.

The students were part of a contract that involved Pony receiving monetary sums amounting to some $8,000 and admissions fees amounting to some $1,000 for each student referred to her tuition centre. As part of the terms of the contract, the money would be fully refundable if students failed their O-level exams and subsequently failed to get emplaced in a local polytechnic.

Tan received a month salary of $3,000 on top of $1,000 per student for providing them with lodgings.

On the day of the exams, the Zeus team would fit each student with Bluetooth devices that were linked to mobile phones hidden under their clothing. The team also equipped each student with a skin-coloured earphone.

As for Tan, she would have a smartphone affixed to her chest with Scotch tape and have the device hidden from view under a layer of clothing, like a jacket.

Tan would then attend the exams as a private candidate and use the Facetime app to send a live feed of the paper back to the other members of her team. From the live stream, the other team members would work out the answers and transmit them to the students via the disguised earphones.

The team’s operations were busted during the English Paper 1 exam on 24 October when an invigilator noticed Chen behaving suspiciously and heard noises coming from him. She then reported her suspicions to the presiding examiners.

After Chen completed the paper, he was escorted to the invigilators’ holding room where he was asked to remove his vest, which revealed the concealed mobile phone. The invigilator later discovered the other devices on Chen’s body after noticing the unusual bulges around his collarbone under his T-shirt.

Chen then confessed to what he had done and the SEAB was notified.

Tan is expected to be sentenced on 15 May. For each count of cheating, she faces a jail term of up to three years and/or a fine.

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