Education entrepreneur Adam Khoo draws flak over inappropriate comments and teaching tactics

Adam Khoo conducting a workshop (left); Screenshot of Facebook post from his page.
Adam Khoo conducting a workshop (left); Screenshot of Facebook post from his page.

If you were one of those students whose kiasu parents made you go for learning camps that became popular in the early 2000s, chances are, you would’ve heard of Adam Khoo. The education entrepreneur/life coach/author/whatever other hats he wears these days was the go-to guy for tuition courses that seemed to generate solid results, and Singaporeans flocked to him in droves to improve their kids’ grades.

Apart from helming the Adam Khoo Learning Centre, which also has outlets in Malaysia and Indonesia, Khoo currently runs a separate series of workshops under the Adam Khoo Learning Technologies Group that he founded with his business partner Patrick Cheo in 2002, according to the website. The “I Am Gifted!” program has been his trademark workshop since 2003, on top of the ones where he coaches people on trading and investing skills.

But alas, the date is 2019, and the tides have now turned. Now the subject of criticism, the 45-year-old Khoo has been the center of controversy in recent times. Apparently, he published on Tuesday a cringe-worthy Facebook post about his experience being patted down by a “fortunately attractive” female airport security staff, and how she was apparently “enjoying herself” while doing it. He then went on to ask why male security staff were not allowed to do the same to women.

“Why the double standards? Why should only the lady security officers get to enjoy their job? Normally people will have to pay to touch me,” he said in his post, which he subsequently took off Facebook when the backlash began.

Screenshot of Adam Khoo's Facebook post. Image: Wake Up, Singapore/fb
Screenshot of Adam Khoo’s Facebook post. Image: Wake Up, Singapore/fb

Many netizens, especially those aware of Khoo’s popular tuition firm that teaches children as young as six, thought that the post was wildly inappropriate, even though it was an attempt at a joke.

Comment on Wake Up, Singapore Facebook page. Comment on Wake Up, Singapore Facebook page.

Eventually, Khoo responded to the criticisms by penning another Facebook post describing netizens as a bunch of people with an “inflexible mind” because they didn’t know how to “take a joke.”

A screenshot of Khoo’s original post was also shared on Reddit, where it sparked a discussion on Khoo’s questionable learning tactics. Many came forward to claim that one of Khoo’s alleged methods was to make students imagine their parents’ death so that they could be motivated to study harder and avoid disappointing them.

Khoo reportedly taught this during multi-day workshops held at secondary or primary schools, according to those on Reddit, and some commenters recalled seeing their schoolmates cry, especially those who had lost their parents.

Here’s a snapshot of the discussion from the Reddit thread:

Comment on Reddit thread "Adam Khoo is indeed a POS." " Comment on Reddit thread "Adam Khoo is indeed a POS." " Comment on Reddit thread "Adam Khoo is indeed a POS." "However, it seems like this wasn’t the first time Khoo has been the subject of criticism. Several Adam Khoo workshop alumni had shared their experiences attending the workshops in another Reddit thread that was published three years ago.

One person said that it felt like he or she was going for a session led by City Harvest Church leader Kong Hee — except with mindmaps.

Reddit comment on Adam Khoo Reddit comment on Adam Khoo

In defense of his “I Am Gifted!” programs, Khoo told Coconuts Singapore that while some people would see his sessions as a form of “guilt-tripping,” others view it as a “timely reminder” to improve family bonds.

In his lengthy statement, Khoo elaborated that the program was designed to not only improve students’ grades but their family relationships as well — this, after observing how the “kids of this generation” are becoming “self-centered” and “taking their parents for granted.”

He also said that the program had always kept the children’s “well-being” at heart.

Khoo wrote: “So the core value of our lessons is in helping children become aware of how precious and fragile life is, and why they need to cherish their parents while they are still around.”

“What we do in this session is to help children see how their actions today will lead to the consequences of tomorrow. Rather than just lecturing, one effective way to help them realize this is by guiding them to imagine their future in their minds,” he added.

In response to Coconuts Singapore’s queries, the Ministry of Education did not confirm or comment on Khoo’s school programs. They did, however, acknowledged that schools in Singapore do engage with external vendors to conduct enrichment programs.

Teachers will evaluate the quality of the programs and take the feedback of students into account for future engagement decisions,” their statement said. 

More news from the Little Red Dot at Coconuts.co/Singapore.

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