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Tuition teacher guilty of helping students cheat during O-Levels with smartphones, FaceTime

SINGAPORE — A former tuition teacher pleaded guilty on Monday (April 16) to helping six Chinese nationals cheat in their 2016 GCE O-Level examinations through an elaborate scheme with the use of smartphones.

SINGAPORE — A former tuition teacher pleaded guilty on Monday (April 16) to helping six Chinese nationals cheat in their 2016 GCE O-Level examinations through an elaborate scheme with the use of smartphones.

Tan Jia Yan, 32, who used to work at tuition centre Zeus Education Centre, was convicted of 27 charges of cheating. Ten more similar charges will be taken into consideration for sentencing, which has been adjourned to a later date.

Her three alleged accomplices — Zeus Education Centre’s principal Poh Yuan Nie, also known as Pony; tuition teacher Fiona Poh Min; and Feng Riwen, who conducted some classes there — have decided to claim trial, which will start on Tuesday.

On Monday, the court heard that Tan, Pony Poh, Fiona Poh, and Feng were allegedly involved in a scheme to help six Chinese students to cheat in their O-Level examinations in 2016 for the Mathematics, English, and Physics/Chemistry subjects.

On the day of the exams, Tan, Fiona Poh and Feng helped the students to attach wearable Bluetooth devices onto their bodies and a skin-coloured in-ear earphone before going into the exam centres. These devices were linked to mobile phones, which were concealed under the students’ clothing.

Either Tan or Fiona Poh also attended the exams, having registered separately as private candidates, with a hidden iPhone affixed to their chests.

Once the exams began, they purportedly used the video-calling app FaceTime to broadcast the exam papers back to their accomplices stationed at the tuition agency.

Once the three accomplices had the answers to the exam questions, they would call the students individually, and read out the answers to them.

The students, who received the instructions through their earphones, would then write the answers in their respective exam papers.

The cheating went on undetected for almost a week in 2016, from Oct 19 until Oct 24, when an invigilator caught one of the students, 20-year-old Chinese national Chen Yi, after hearing unusual electronic transmission sounds coming from him.

The invigilator reported her suspicions to the chief presiding examiner and presiding examiner. Chen was allowed to finish the English Paper 1 exam, before being escorted to the holding room, where they found the smartphone devices on him.

Chen then told them about the arrangement with Zeus Education Centre, and the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board was subsequently informed of his cheating attempt.

Five other Chinese nationals were found to be involved in the same cheating scheme, although it was not clear how they were discovered. They are Cheng Xiang, 19; Zhou Zice, 17; Xiao Junze, 19; Zhang Jinlu, 20; and Wang Fangfei, 19.

Investigations also revealed that these six students were the subjects of contracts struck between Zeus and Dong Xin, the director of a company called Nou Cheng.

Dong had referred the students to Zeus to prepare them for the O-Level exams. It is not known what Nou Cheng is.

For every student Dong sent to Zeus, Pony Poh would receive about S$8,000 in deposit money and about S$1,000 in admissions fees. The money was to be refunded if the students failed to pass the O-Level exams and subsequently failed to get a place in a polytechnic.

For her part in the scheme, Tan received a monthly salary of about S$3,000 from Pony Poh, and S$1,000 per student for providing them with lodging services.

For each charge of cheating, Tan could be jailed up to three years and/or fined.

In a related case, the owner of Pivot Tuition Centre, Wong Mee Keow, was fined S$2,000 in February for lying to the police in 2006 to protect Pony Poh. The pair are in a relationship.

In that case, Pony Poh was suspected of helping Chinese nationals gain entry into a secondary school here without sitting for an entrance exam.

However, the investigation against Pony Poh was dropped as Wong lied about not knowing her and the police ran out of leads.

When Pony Poh, Fiona Poh, Tan and Feng were arrested for their alleged roles in the recent exam cheating scam, Wong again lied about not knowing Pony Poh, deleting photographs of her from her mobile phone to prevent the police from identifying her.

Pony Poh currently faces 38 charges of cheating.

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