Mon, Apr 19, 2010
The Straits Times
'Referrer' for private school goes missing

By Liew Hanqing

A MAN involved in a racket selling student pass at a private school has gone missing.

Mr Dennis Tan, executive director of Arium School of Management and Technology, said the man, Mr Wang Fang, has been uncontactable since news of the racket broke in The Straits Times on Monday.

The school's marketing manager, Mr Loh Ben-ni, said no one from the school knew where Mr Wang lived in Singapore. Mr Wang, a Chinese national, had not shown up at the school since Monday, he added. His mobile phone has been switched off.

Mr Loh lodged a police report on behalf of the school on April 8 about the alleged misrepresentation by Mr Wang. He said he had informed the police that Mr Wang was uncontactable when an officer called him on Thursday about the case.

The Straits Times had earlier arranged a meeting with Mr Wang and a Mr Huang Jianwu at the school's Upper Boon Keng Road campus. There, Mr Wang claimed the school could obtain valid student passes for foreign students for $7,000 a year without them having to spend any significant time in school.

A further $11,000, they claimed, could get a foreigner a student pass valid for a year, a degree and a full set of transcripts - all without having to attend classes.

While Mr Tan had earlier said he had no idea who the men were, and said they had misrepresented the school, he said he later found out they were registered students of another private school, but declined to say which one.

The school was also quick to distance themselves from both these men.

While Mr Loh admitted that Mr Wang was one of five 'referrers' who worked with him, he said these 'referrers' were not agents of the school, and were not on their payroll.

Mr Wang, he added, had not successfully referred any client to the school and had not received any money from Arium.

Referrers usually receive a flat fee of between $300 and $500 for every student they convince to sign up with the school.

As for Mr Huang, he was neither a registered agent nor a referrer, said Mr Loh.

Repeated calls by The Straits Times to Mr Huang's mobile phone since Monday have gone unanswered.

When The Straits Times pointed out that Mr Wang carried an Arium business card and brought prospective students to the school, Mr Loh said all 'referrers' were allowed to show prospective students around the school premises.

'They would then bring the students to me and I would carry out the pre- course counselling,' he said, adding that Mr Wang had been given a desk and phone extension to share with other 'referrers' while he was in school.

Mr Tan added that the school has only 10 registered agents, who are required to sign a contract and adhere to a strict code of conduct.

Mr Tan, his younger brother Sunny, and business partner Guo Qiao Li are

Arium's joint owners. They also own Shines Education Group and Cambridge Business School, which share the Upper Boon Keng Road campus.

Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), said the association received 16 complaints related to Arium, Shines and Cambridge last year. Over the same period, a total of 1,843 complaints were made against 236 private institutions, including tuition centres.

Most of the complaints against Arium, Shines and Cambridge were from students who claimed the schools' courses were not accredited as claimed, and that they were made to pay full course fees even though they enrolled midway.

'We have assisted the students who filed their cases with us and they were able to resolve the matter with the schools,' Mr Seah said.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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