By Chuang Peck Ming
NTUC First Campus Co-operative's venture overseas is 'a natural development of its growth and expansion,' says its chief executive officer Chan Tee Seng.
After all, with 14 schools and over 1,000 pupils, Little Skool-House International, the company's premium preschool brand, pretty much has Singapore covered. The next logical step is to break into markets abroad - after all, Little Skool-House has to live up to its 'international' tag.
That happened late last year, when Little Skool- House International opened its first preschool in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
But why was Vietnam the first stop?
'Vietnam was identified and prioritised as a choice market, because we know that Vietnamese parents highly value good quality education for their children,' Mr Chan says.
Vietnam is also a big market - and looks up to the Singapore education system, in particular its English language curriculum and modern teaching techniques.
NTUC First Campus already has three decades of experience in dealing with preschool kids under its belt. It's the largest child-care operator in Singapore, boasting 70 child-care centres.
'The NTUC First Campus is a large community of professionals, with many years of experience, both in research, development and implementation of best early childhood education practices,' Mr Chan says.
The Little Skool-House prides itself as a pioneer of literature-based curriculum for its preschools.
'Our holistic curriculum promotes early literacy and communication skills through meaningful literature, which empowers our children to become inquirers, independent thinkers, creative innovators, risk-takers and effective communicators,' Mr Chan says.
International Enterprise Singapore was a big help in getting Little Skool-International through the door in Vietnam.
'IE Singapore shared valuable market information on the preschool education industry in Vietnam as well as introducing us to key people, such as the education ministries, local operators and potential partners,' Mr Chan recalls.
The preschool in Hanoi, which started class in September 2009 and can take up to 400 students, is a joint venture with Vietnamese partners. It currently has over 300 students.
Vietnam is only a start for NTUC First Campus in its venture abroad. 'It is a first overseas project that marks the beginning of our presence in the region,' Mr Chan says.
This article was first published in The Business Times.