Private high school denies allegations of being ‘credit mill’

Toronto Collegiate Institute (TCI) was open during its 8-to-5 business hours last week when an Observer reporter showed up to interview the principal.

Students were heard talking in class, instructors were photocopying papers, the receptionist was waving visitors in, a volunteer was waiting to speak with the principal.

But a week later, on Oct. 3, a return visit found locked doors.

The Toronto Star recently published an investigative series exposing several high schools, including TCI, as credit mills.

Credit mills are private schools where students can take courses towards their high school degree and get higher scores than they would in public school.

But in the Observer interview, TCI principal and owner Sivam Mahalingam denied the charges.

“We are doing very good,” Mahalingam said. “We are not cheating like they said.”

Star reporter Jennifer Yang had gone undercover as a student at the Institute. She reported receiving a high grade in chemistry despite not completing required hours and homework.

According to Mahalingam, the grade had been adjusted to reflect the lower level of the chemistry course.

“She took grade 11 and 12 chemistry already back in Alberta,” he said. “So when she ended up with the mark, there’s an adjustment made for the college level. That’s why she got the mark she got. [The Star] didn’t mention anything about that.”

The teacher of that course has since resigned, Mahalingam said.

He maintained the school is running on schedule and other students recognize their disciplines.

“We didn’t boost the mark, ask any student, they know,” he said. “They say, ‘You are so strict, you want marks.’ People cry like that.”

Mahalingam said that he was advised by his lawyer to continue what he is doing and leave his situation in the hands of the law.

A high school student waiting to speak with Sivam said she volunteers there to complete her hours.

“He’s the one who told me to go into pharmacy,” she said, asking to remain unnamed.