The Deceit Behind Cram Schools
“We promise students can achieve H1[s] for all assignments, sell students exclusive lecture notes and help students revise for final exams!”
“We provide students with exclusive past exam papers!”
“We want you to be successful in your last exams!”
Approaching the last few weeks in each semester, posters with conspicuous slogans may show up everywhere on campus such as information boards or the backdoors of toilets. Several different ‘cram schools’ are beating their brains in the final weeks to promote themselves to struggling students. Lecture notes or past exam papers for sale are only the tip of the iceberg. Cram schools, literally, will ‘cram’ students with information before exams by providing extra-curriculum tutorials, selling related exam papers or some even altering final marks.
According to The Age, some students at the University of Melbourne had paid for the services of an independent cram school in cash to pass their final exams. With the red pen crossing out the previous marks, grades were changed and fails became passes. This shocking service came under fire for its potential inside job.
The fact that low-achieving students are struggling for a pass in some subjects offered by the University is leveraged by certain cram schools to compete for more customers by all means. These cram schools claim that they hire some current university tutors and can change final marks for students if they request it. Although altering marks is offered for a high price, this ‘trade’ has existed among students for a long time.
However, students invest a large amount of money for this service, which actually does not work. Although the alteration job was done deftly, its scrawled markings raised suspicion and eventually exposed the truth to university officials. Those students who were found to be involved in the case were confronted with penalisation by the University.
Sharon, a tutor in Faculty of Business and Economic at the University of Melbourne, said that it was possible some staff related to the University started up the cram school and provided certain disreputable services. However, she emphasised that the University would not tolerate this and once the University figures it out, the involved people would be expelled.
She also highlighted that all the exam papers would have a double review by the lecturer after the tutors assessed them.
“Students who seek for wrongful means to gain higher marks are also at risk being expelled from the University,” she said.
Generally, students who miss all the lectures for an entire semester but still want to advance rapidly in the final exams will seek out the cram schools for help. They will not take any risk changing marks, but lecture notes or related exam papers is always an option for them.
Zak is a graduate Commerce student at the University of Melbourne. He was attracted by the impressive promises presented by certain cram schools and attended for one subject in his third year.
“I feel like I was deceived,” he said.
“The tutor who claimed to be the current tutor in the University was stuck when he analysed our assignment.”
As for the promised exam papers or the lecture notes, Zak complained that the notes were scrawled but were sold for between $200 to $300. The promised past exam papers were more unreliable, for they were merely the same materials provided by the lecturer and could be accessible on LMS.
Zak is not the only deceived student. Some cram schools even promise that they have access to the materials closely related to the coming final exams, which turns out to be another fake advertisement. Sam, another Commerce student who attended cram schools to gain upcoming exam papers promised by the cram school in the advertisement, said that the cram school claimed to have upcoming exam papers because they hired current university tutors. However, what the cram school claimed to be true was actually unrelated to what they learned in that semester.
Whether the cram schools can alter marks or sell exam papers, they are propelled mostly by interests. Claiming to have excellent tutors or being portrayed by attractive words, the cram schools can charge more than $200 for merely one tutorial per person before exams. Advertising is advertising after all.
Once the University figures out the exam paper is possibly leaked, the entire paper will be replaced. Students who are found to be involved will no doubt be failed. In terms of tutors, “At least in the University of Melbourne, private tutoring or current tutors teaching outside the university is not allowed,” Sharon told Farrago.
In the second semester of 2015, the Faculty of Business and Economics also emailed students, advising them not to trust these independent institutions which were “purported to be able to provide access to or insight into upcoming exams” outside the university. If students indeed need help, tutors and lectures are available for assistance all the time.