In a phone interview with Channel NewsAsia, Mr. George Tan, executive director of the Council for Private Education (CPE), said that tuition centres get to choose their tutors and teachers but they must act responsibly when selecting them.
He added that parents can also check the CPE's website to see if the tuition centre is registered – another way of protecting themselves from being scammed.
"We take a proactive approach in dealing with complaints received, and we will follow up on any cases," he said. "We have also worked with the police to take action against unlicensed tuition centres."
But Ms Lim said that the CPE takes "a very long time" to act on complaints. She added: "It's a classic story of 'too big to fail'. It's been going on for years, and it will continue."
The Ministry of Education (MOE) told Channel NewsAsia that there were about 500 tuition centres registered with it in 2015.
"We would encourage parents to deal only with registered tuition centres. So, that they are assured that the centre is staffed by qualified teachers, and meets relevant standards laid down by the MOE," said MOE in an email.
"Parents should also bear in mind that when choosing a tuition centre for their child, the tuition centre will usually assign them a teacher. Parents can check if the teacher has MOE registration. So, the parents are aware of the tutor qualification"
The tuition fee standardization.
The ministry also said that the government does not recognise any tuition centres that charge fixed rates for tuition. "Parents should be wary of such centres," it said.
Many parents who spoke to Channel NewsAsia felt that, a minimum fee standard would protect them from the tuition centres scam. But they understood why MOE does not want to enforce this.
"MOE doesn't want to set a cap because they want parents to have a choice of different tuition centres," said Mr Mohamad Nasser, whose son attends private school.
"For example, my son is not a science student, but his tuition centre gives him science tuition anyway."
"But I believe if there is a rate standard, it will lessen the need for parents to get involved in the nitty-gritty details of how much they should pay," he added. "It will save them time and effort."
Mr Ong believes that there should be a standardised rate so parents can easily compare prices. "It will also give parents an indication of what a fair price is," he said.
Ms Lim said that while a cap will not help curb unscrupulous tuition centre operators, it's the only measure parents can take to protect themselves from being cheated.
"And it's important to understand that these tuition centres are not bad people," she added. "They're just doing their job for as long as they can get away with it."
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