23 October 2018
WMI Education opened in 2013, the same year the government stopped allowing non-local residents to give birth in Hong Kong. Photo: Facebook
WMI Education opened in 2013, the same year the government stopped allowing non-local residents to give birth in Hong Kong. Photo: Facebook

Why so many of our preschools are failing

We keep hearing about the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) and why it should be scrapped.

The public is against it because of its overemphasis on preparation which runs counter to the TSA’s mandate to provide a means to test academic ability.

I went through such spoon-feeding education when I was young.

When my friends and I became parents, we tried to find a “happy learning” way and decided to open a preschool organization, called WMI Education, two years ago.

WMI Education closed last month.

The failure of WMI Education taught us a number valuable lessons.

First is that we were too optimistic about the economic environment.

In 2012, we did a lot of research from population to market growth, as well as some competitiveness analysis.

The conclusions were quite positive, so we decided to launch the business in the fourth quarter of 2013.

But that year, the government stopped allowing non-local parents to give birth in Hong Kong.

The move had a great impact on the number of newborns but I did not notice it until the data was updated in 2014.

The business started to fail as the economic soured.

We all had full-time jobs, so not everyone could give 100 percent of their time to the business.

We should have spent more time with the teachers and students to refine the curriculum.

Another lesson is that competition for qualified foreign teachers is intense.

Local parents prefer native English speakers, even if they don’t have the proper educational background or teaching experience.

I insisted on hiring qualified foreign teachers to guarantee education quality in our school but as it turned out, they came and went frequently.

The disruptions affected the business and shook customer confidence.

Also, the low entry barrier for preschool institutions has created oversupply in the market.

Competitors offered cut-throat prices to win market share in the shortest possible time.

There was little chance to beat them without playing their game which would have been a bigger disaster.

Although we didn’t receive any financial return, we gained a deeper understanding of the business philosophy.

I am saddened by the state of preschool institutions.

Some have been accused of fraud. Others reportedly closed without paying their utility bills.

Yet, educators are supposed to always set a good example for students.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 8.

Translation by Myssie You

[Chinese version中文版]

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