I just received a call which left me appalled and angry. We had just recently sent Shayne for classes at a nearby learning centre at our place (I won't state the name of it, but its initials are SLC. Just to make it clear, it's not Stalford Learning Centre) and I've received a call which went something like this...
SLC staff: Hi, is this Shayne's Mummy?
SLC: Shayne has been coming for classes here for this past 1 month or so, but he won't be able to continue anymore as my management has just found out that your husband and you actually own a tuition centre and you even have a law degree. I know that Shayne has been a good and well-behaved student so far, but we cannot accept him anymore because there is a conflict of interest if he continues studying at our centre. May I ask, why did you send your child to study at our centre when you are more than well-qualified to do so? You own 3 tuition centres and even have a law degree; you're more than capable to teach your child on your own.
Me (trying to control my anger and emotions): Yes, my husband and I own 3 tuition centres but they're far from my place and it's inconvenient for Shayne to travel back and fro as he's still young. I chose your centre because of the location, it's just a 2-3mins walk from my place. I didn't choose your centre just because my husband and I own a centre. I don't know what reason you may be thinking of, but I chose your centre because I wanted my son to study and it's nearby. That's all.
SLC: Ok, but because you already have your own tuition centre, we can't accept Shayne anymore. And you also have a law degree, you can actually teach him on your own.
ME (feeling VERY angry now): I work 6 to 7 times a week, I'm not free every day. I teach my son when I'm free, but I can't do that all the time, that's why I send him for extra lessons. Do you also have other parents who are in the education industry and you actually tell them to teach their children on their own too? What about parents who are school teachers? Do you also reject their children??
SLC: We do have parents who are tutors and even lecturers, but yours is different. You own a tuition centre with your husband, so there's a conflict of interest and Shayne is not allowed to study here anymore.
ME: In the first place, you should have told me all these when I registered for him. You should have a clause that states "Enrollment is based on parent's background" or something like that. You didn't even ask for my occupation, how did you find out so much about my working background?! And it's unreasonable for you to ostracise and reject my son just because of my working background. I understand if you can't accept Shayne because he's diagnosed with ADHD or some sort of "learning disability". But right now, you're rejecting my child because of my husband's and my working background and job. You may think the reason for rejecting my child is valid, but to me, it's invalid. My occupation should not interfere with my child's academic learning. I send him for classes because I want him to learn, and now you're telling me he can't study because of MY job which has nothing to do with him.
SLC: My management team is actually very stringent and resourceful in their background check of parents and if they find there's a conflict of interest with their business, they will turn down the child.
Me: This is ridiculous. It's not like we're going to copy all your materials and worksheets; we have our own and in the first place, BrightMinds consists of a team of tutors and admin staff. It's not 100% controlled by me only. By sending my son to your centre, it doesn't mean that I will change the entire worksheets of BrightMinds or the tutors will change their lesson plans. The only reason why I send Shayne to your centre is because of it's convenient location. But right now, your management is rejecting my son solely based on my job and law degree. It has nothing to do with him. That may sound reasonable to you, but to me, it's biased and unjustifiable.
SLC: Ok, but there's is a conflict of interest if Shayne continues to study here.
After I heard the phrase "conflict on interest" for the 4th time (which honestly I felt was just a loose legal term used to justify their rejection), I was so mad that I just immediately hung up the call because I knew that it was pointless continuing the conversation.
To me, the whole situation is akin to something like "We can't accept your child into SMU because you're a SIM lecturer." or "We can't operate on your child because you're a doctor of another hospital and you're Head of the department."
The whole situation is just so biased. Shayne had enrolled into other tuition centres previously but none of them have actually rejected him based on my working background. Moreover, his previous pre-school is also fully aware that my husband and I own a tuition centre which provides classes for kindergarten kids, but they didn't reject him because of that. It's just absurd and ludicrous to me that a tuition centre is intimidated (I guess?) by a parent's occupation and thus decide to discriminate and reject a student based on that.
Besides, the learning centre which I co-founded with my husband has even accepted students whose parents are full-time private tutors (which is very common nowadays) and you know what, my husband has even helped to solve a few challenging problem sums which those parents couldn't solve! I mean end of the day, we're all just earning a living and we all want our children to excel academically.
Moreover, we once accepted and taught a child whose parents are owners of a KUMON franchise. We taught her for nearly 2 years, until her PSLE exams were over. We didn't reject her just because of her parent's background. In fact, her parents even told us that they have tried teaching their own child at their centre but it didn't work out because she was too familiar with her parents and didn't take the lessons seriously. I feel that as an education centre, SLC should have been more professional about the situation and at least discussed with me before "pulling the plug" on my child without my consent (at least that's what it felt like to me at that moment).
According to the Singlish Dictionary, kiasu refers to “one who is afraid to lose out to someone else, often to the point of selfishness; an over-cautious person” and also being “afraid of losing out to someone else, and therefore often behaving selfishly and disregarding others.” I believe SLC was being "kiasu" in this case, to the detriment of its customers. In our society, because of our "kaisu-ism", we have learnt to ignored the plight of others as we learn to strive forward for ourselves. Because we are scared to lose, we lose sight of others and trample over others so that we can preserve our economic value. But really, is this the right thing to do?
If SLC was confident of its own centre, I believe they won't get flustered and immediately stop my son from continuing his lessons. Like what I always believe, if you're truly confident in yourself and your business, you won't get shaken or intimidated by people who may seem like "competition" to you.
Furthermore, I would even have gladly signed an agreement with them not to re-use, photocopy, or distribute their materials without written permission or something like that. The fact that they actually accepted my child without asking for my occupation, and then somehow managed to find out about my working and education background because their "management is very stringent and resourceful in their background check of parents", and then reject my child after a month+ of lessons just reeks of extreme un-professionalism and discrimination to me.
I am still appalled and frustrated by the entire conversation and situation. I've heard of centres rejecting children based on their poor learning ability (which is also discriminating and unreasonable) but never have I come across centres that have "sacked" their students based solely on their parent's background. They even had the audacity to ask why does Shayne need extra help since I have a law degree. W.T.F. (it's very out of my character to curse on my blog, but I just had to type it.)
I sincerely hope that this does not happen to anyone out there. And to those parents whose children were or are discriminated based on their own working background, I feel you. I really do. :(
UPDATE 14th July: Okay this is just downright shocking to me. We received an official letter stating that we had "business interests" in their centre and they were hence "exposed to undesirable commercial impact" due to Shayne's enrollment in their centre. These are baseless accusations and we have tried contacting them regarding these ridiculous accusations, but of course, they didn't bother to even listen to us. Oh well. Feel so mad right now.