It's our birthday! As we celebrate this special occasion, we take a walk down memory lane with people from our EtonHouse family since our humble beginnings. Read on as they share stories of the EtonHouse spirit, priceless learnings and a vision for the future where we continue to nurture and impact children and society.
Mrs Ng Gim Choo, Founder and Managing Director of EtonHouse International Education Group
“When I was a girl, there was nothing joyful about education,” Mrs Ng says. “We were at school to learn from our teachers. It was a top-down, non-negotiable, one-way process, no matter how difficult the subject was.”
It was only in 1978, when she gave birth to her daughter, that she realised that education could be different. However, when she sent her daughter to kindergarten, she found that schools had not changed very much.
In 1982, her whole family moved to London, and she found a new pre-school for her daughter. She was astonished to see how much her daughter loved it. “Every morning, I saw her wake up eager to go to school, and when I picked her up at three o’clock she always had plenty to say about her day, she remembers. “On Saturday mornings she would wake up, put on her school uniform, go to my room and say, ‘Mummy, wake up! I want to go to school!’ She would be so disappointed when I told her there was no school that day.”
Mrs Ng was so curious about the school that she began attending classes as a parent volunteer. For the first time, she saw how students could learn through play, and how teachers could show children respect by bending down to their eye level. “There was such a warm, happy atmosphere in the classroom,” she recalls. This gave her the idea of setting up a school of her own in Singapore.
In 1994, Mrs Ng’s brother, Mr Jimmy Oh called her up, saying, “Gim, I don’t think you should be a housewife forever. You went to university. The family invested in you. You’ve mentioned your plan for a school. Why don’t we make an offer for a site?” Together, they opened the first EtonHouse Pre-School in 1995.
Today, 27 years after founding the school, she is grateful for the team of passionate educators and professionals who worked with her when she first began her journey. She also feels thankful to the many parents who entrusted her with their children, long before EtonHouse was an established brand name.
“Every child is unique,” she says. “They want love and support and to be able to express themselves. I’m very grateful for having been able to touch so many young lives these past 27 years.”
Mr Ng Ding Hock, Caretaker of EtonHouse Broadrick
A well-known member of the EtonHouse family, Ding Hock was hired as the caretaker of EtonHouse’s first school on Broadrick Road, by Mrs Ng in 2002.
Over the course of two decades, the affable gent gradually became the school’s beloved and very capable handyman. Teachers, students, and parents greet him (everyone affectionately refers to him as “Mr Ding”) cheerfully every morning and turn to him whenever they can’t fix something on their own. During EtonHouse Broadrick’s early days, Mrs Ng vividly recalls how Mr Ding would stay in school to give her company, even after everyone else had gone home and helped to lock up after her.
More than just a superintendent, Mr Ding has seen the babies of many EtonHouse staff blossom into young adults. “I love talking to the children and their families frequently show their appreciation and gratitude to me,” he remarks. While he divulges that he’s learned open-mindedness from EtonHouse’s value system, he adds that even more can be learned from young people.
“When children have disputes with one another, they put these rough patches behind them very quickly. Not before long, you see them playing happily together again. Perhaps this is something we adults can learn from.”
Ms Atima Joshi, Senior Principal of Middleton International School
When Atima moved to Singapore, she made a chance acquaintance with an EtonHouse teacher, who encouraged her to apply as a language teacher at the Broadrick campus. “While dropping my application letter off at the school during my morning walk, I met the Vice Principal who interviewed me there and then. She said that I had a spark that bode well!” she laughs.
16 years on, the spark is still visible, as she talks passionately about changing lives and the life lessons that she has acquired over the years. “Every learner needs empathy and time, because they all have their unique learning journeys.”
An advocate of perseverance and innovation, she recalls a child who would get up and walk out of class because he struggled academically. “Many conversations ensued with him and his family. Different types of experiences were tried and reflected upon so he could find his ‘hook’. Over the course of a few months, he realised that we genuinely cared for him and his well-being. It turned out that he had an enormous passion for go-karting. He became so good at it that he was offered a go-karting scholarship. This meant that he would miss time in school. We helped by planning and sending his lessons and homework online, so that his learning wouldn’t suffer. Today, he is 17 and a successful go-kart racer with many accolades under his belt. It fills all of his teachers with pride seeing his remarkable journey. ”
In 2016, Atima was offered the opportunity to become the principal of a new school under EtonHouse, which would become Middleton International School. “The EtonHouse spirit was evident when we were preparing the new school for its launch on a tight timeline. Everyone, from our Executive Director Yi-Xian, to all department heads and school staff helped with the set–up. That is what EtonHouse is: One big family!”
Atima firmly believes that a positive school culture leads to a happy and healthy learning community. She is a firm advocate of connection before correction. “Students and staff need to feel safe and cared for before they can learn and grow. They need to feel that they are a part of a community that cares.”
Why are compassion and perseverance so important to Atima? “We are a young school and new challenges keep coming our way, but we are a resilient bunch. We never give up on an idea or a person – be it a child, colleague or a parent. In the age of artificial intelligence and smart machines, it is imperative to remember what it means to be human. It is empathy and resilience that ignite the human spirit.”
Mr Ng Yi-Xian, Executive Director and Group Chief Executive Officer of EtonHouse International Education Group
Yi-Xian took a leap of faith when he left his successful financial career in the US to join the family business. At that time, Yi-Xian had reached the incline of his career as a hedge fund analyst in Boston but a health scare episode of his mother made Yi-Xian think deep and hard about the future of EtonHouse and contemplate moving back to spend more time with his family.
In time, he became a firm believer in the EtonHouse philosophy of fostering a strong sense of community, where parents play a huge part in celebrating each child’s success. “A mom started tearing up once, when she recounted how teachers in EtonHouse knew every child’s name including hers and her child’s even though they’d just joined our school. Her child was quiet and had come from a mega school where he was not recognised. She was very grateful for teachers who knew her child well and could have a conversation with her about her child,” he recounts.
Yi-Xian also came to discover the EtonHouse open-ended way of allowing children, and teachers, the time and space to grow in an environment that creates magic every day. Yi-Xian recounts one particular incident that left an indelible impression on him: “I remember meeting a young French boy who presented his project about caves and caverns to me. He discussed at length about his passion for caves and I was very impressed. Afterwards, his principal, Ms Atima, told me that the boy didn’t speak English prior to joining our school six months before and it was the first time he had made a presentation to anyone!” What is magic to Yi-Xian? When an unexpected incident or realisation like this changes his outlook and blows his mind.
Looking forward, Yi-Xian reveals that he would like to establish EtonHouse as a world-class education group, which develops young people who are able to achieve success anywhere in the world. “Our ecosystem is international and we nurture a global outlook in our students, regardless of whether the topic is conservation or cave diving,” elaborates Yi-Xian, who is wholly dedicated to EtonHouse’s expansion from a preschool to a K12 school.
“I haven’t set any expectations, but I would like to bump into an alumnus in the future, who will credit EtonHouse for moulding him or her. That’s all I’m asking for."
On behalf of all of us at EtonHouse, thank you for being a part of this wonderful journey and sharing our passion to shape our future through education.