Creativity, resilience, and passion - these were the traits the founders and early leadership team embraced in order to sow the seeds of the EtonHouse dream. Had it not been for the early pioneers and visionaries who took significant risks to do what they believed was right for the children, we would not have realised this dream, which has touched the lives of thousands of young children and their families.
Mr Ng Hark Seng, Managing Director of E-Bridge Pre-Schools, is never known to mince words. Sharp-witted with the ability to see things ahead of time, Mr Ng is the voice of reason and brings his repertoire of business acuity to the organisation. In this article, Mr Ng shares his belief that schools can be affordable and outstanding at the same time.
“If a school is not good enough for my children or my grandchildren, I will not run it” quips Mr Ng Hark Seng.
Upon returning from England, when his wife Mrs Ng decided to open a school that they felt would change the face of education in Singapore and the region, Mr Ng put his money where his mouth was.
“There’s a lot to learn from different cultures. In the west, adults speak to children with respect, engage with them at their eye level and interact with them as equals. When there is respect, children will organically engage with adults in a respectful manner and learning will naturally become fun and effortless”, Mr Ng shares. A father of three, he acknowledges how different his children are. It is about celebrating their individuality and nurturing them to realise their true potential. You can’t put a round peg in a square hole”, he remarks.
Mr Ng helped build EtonHouse in the early years, bringing with him years of knowledge and experience from the international corporate world. Always ready to help, he even took up a class on budgeting with a group of school leaders. So profound was his influence on them that one of the principals recalls how it made a significant difference to her life and credits him for being a successful school leader.
In 2014, Mr Ng spearheaded the launch of E-Bridge Pre-Schools under the Anchor Operator Scheme (AOP). As the name suggests, it was the bridge between EtonHouse and the community, a way to reach out to more families and children through the EtonHouse approach to education. It wasn’t easy to create a whole new proposition within the group. E-Bridge had to adapt the programme and the business structure in order to be responsive to the families it serves.
“Pre-schools are for preparing children for Primary 1. They had to be able to read and write, and in their mother tongue too. We wanted to do more. We wanted our children to be well-rounded confident citizens of the world. Our curriculum fostered social and emotional competence as well as the artistic development of our students. Through rich learning environments and a more responsive curriculum delivered through a better child-to-teacher ratio than most private pre-schools, the E-Bridge schools reached full enrolment very quickly. The government asked us to take on more schools and we expanded to 18 centres very quickly,” he reveals. E-Bridge currently runs two Large Child Care Centres (LCCC), and is with a capacity of 500 in Punggol and a second at Sengkang with a capacity of 800.
At E-Bridge, the curriculum approach is strategic and intentional. Developmental goals for students are defined in advance. If a child is not able to meet expectations, the school intervenes with additional support. No child is left behind. “The early years lay the foundation for life. In fact, good early childhood education is the surest way to build for future success and we want all children to be able to access this, irrespective of their backgrounds,” he stresses.
In that same vein, E-Bridge schools are inclusive environments where all families are welcome. “We seek to serve different segments of the community. We go out to assist families with financial problems. The EtonHouse Community Fund (ECF), an independent IPC charity helped us to support disadvantaged families. Through the ECF, E-Bridge has a strong CSR component that directly benefits families who need assistance both in E-Bridge and outside,” he elaborates.
Mr Ng shares that he hopes to further strengthen the E-Bridge brand name and its unique selling points. He encourages young educators, who are often discouraged by demanding parents, to continue their passion in early childhood. At E-Bridge, teachers have access to a community of veteran educators who are supported by a strong team of pedagogues. Backed by this strong support network, teachers are able to carry out their duties confidently while progressing on their professional development tracks. Through several team-building initiatives for the leadership team and the educators in general, he hopes to continue enhancing the work environment and motivation levels in the schools. He sometimes discreetly attends parent-teacher conferences and is very heartened by how appreciative parents’ responses are.
“Mercedes-Benz employees are able to buy their cars with rebate. This encouraged them to work on each car as if they were car owners. Likewise, I run E-Bridge as if my own grandchildren are attending this school,” he comments.
This article was first published in 25 Tales, the Story of EtonHouse.