Troubled Schools’ Local Staff Says All Is Well

Despite reports that all Sing­apore International Teaching Con­sul­tancy schools have closed across Vietnam, and that Viet­nam­ese authorities and Interpol are search­ing for the institute’s director general, SITC staff in Phnom Penh said this week that they have been unaffected.

The Saigon Times Daily reported on Feb 9 that Vietnamese officials are try­ing to track down SITC Direc­tor General Michael Yu and an un­known number of his senior managers.

They fled after about 30,000 students and 1,000 employees discovered on Jan 22 that all 14 English schools and five management centers run by SITC had been closed with­out warning, the Saigon Times Daily reported.

“The Ministry of Public Security is working with Singapore agencies concerned and the Interpol to hunt down Michael Yu, general di­rector of the chain, and his senior managers who have fled,” the state-controlled newspaper reported.

Singapore’s online magazine To­day reported that officials found that in the 2003-2004 financial year, the SITC chain of schools in Viet­nam made an official, nominal prof­­­it of just $600.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment urged the at-large SITC managers to compensate stu­­­­dents and employees for lost course fees and earnings resulting from the lightning closure, according to Today magazine.

Justin Chiv, public relations man­ager for the SITC Inter­na­tion­al Institute Cambodia and Preston Uni­­versity USA, which operate from the same building on Phnom Penh’s Charles De Gaulle Boule­vard, said that SITC’s two Cambo­dian branches, owned by Michael Yu, were not affected by the scandal in Vietnam.

“The story from Vietnam, this is related to Michael, it has no con­nec­tion to the school at all,” said Chiv, a Canadian national, on Mon­day.

“[Michael Yu] needs to stand up and solve the problem,” he add­ed

In a Feb 10 e-mail message, Yu de­clined to respond to questions about whether he was being sought by Vietnamese authorities, though he said he had been given total control of SITC’s Cambodia op­erations, located in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, in August.

Mak Nang, deputy director of the higher education department at Cambodia’s Ministry of Edu­ca­tion, said SITC was licensed by the min­istry but that she was preparing to contact Yu about his operations in the country given the developments in Vietnam.

SITC’s building in Phnom Penh formerly housed the beleaguered American University of Hawaii. In April 2004, a US court ruled that AUH could not offer degrees or ac­­cept tuition after it was found not to be meeting the re­quire­ments for an unaccredited in­sti­tution in the state of Hawaii, leaving the academic awards of hun­dreds of Cam­bo­dian students in question.

AUH closed following the US court ruling, but students were able to transfer their credits to Pres­ton University, which began oper­at­ing out of the same building in 2004, according to Jerry Haenisch, the owner and chancellor of Pres­ton, which operates in various oth­er countries including Burma and Malaysia.

A formal affiliation agreement between SITC and Preston is currently being negotiated, he added.

Both Haenisch and Chiv spoke highly of Preston, which Chiv said is one of the best private universities in Cambodia.

“Our primary concern is for the educational opportunity and academic success of the students,” Haenisch wrote in an e-mail.

Preston is based in the US state of Wyoming, where it is licensed, Jim McBride, the state’s superin­ten­dent of education, wrote in an e-mail.

However, “neither the State Board nor the [state education de­partment] accredits or endorses any course of study offered by Pres­ton,” McBride wrote.

He added that he was not aware of Preston having been accredited by any agency recognized by the US Department of Education. “Cre­d­­its from an unaccredited uni­versity are generally not accepted by an accredited university. Nei­th­er are the degrees,” he added.

Despite the storm of controversy enveloping Yu in Vietnam, Chiv said that Yu will now be focusing his attentions on SITC’s higher education efforts in Cambodia, and that he is a frequent visitor to the Phnom Penh office.

“For him, running and opening an English program is a piece of cake,” Chiv said. “So, what he wants is to concentrate on the uni­ver­sity. It’s a big challenge for him.”

 

 

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