ChildFirst PreSchool: Leveraging on intellectual property to bring Singapore unique’s bilingual education to China

ChildFirst PreSchool: Leveraging on intellectual property to bring Singapore unique’s bilingual education to China

ChildFirst, a chain of premium preschools in China, founded by Dr Richard Yen and Ednovation Pte Ltd

With a strong background in education and a visionary’s perspective, Dr. Richard Yen founded Ednovation Pte Ltd in 1991 with the aim of invigorating traditional methods of teaching by harnessing the capabilities of new technology. One of the company’s products, EdnoLand, is a comprehensive online program that nurtures a child’s multiple intelligences and language skills with the help of technology.  Another intangible asset of the company is its intellectual capital (IC), including a product development team made up of specialists in early childhood, curriculum developers, programmers, designers, animation artists, marketers and more.


ChildFirst 2

Preschoolers at a ChildFirst Kindergarten learning with EdnoLand

The IC described above supports the company’s venture into premium preschool centres in China focusing on bilingual curriculum, where children spend an equal amount of time in English and Mandarin learning environments.  After careful planning and market research, Dr. Yen founded ChildFirst Kindergarten (才儿坊幼儿园), a chain of premium pre-school centres in Chong Qing (重庆), Cheng Du (成都)  Tian Jin (天津) and Xi Ning (西宁), which uses the e-learning platform to deliver its proprietary bi-lingual curriculum.  This IT-enabled teaching method delivers uniform, high-quality English lessons and reduces the burden on English teachers.  Parents are also able to closely monitor their child’s progress using an online portal.  Most importantly, it protects the core intellectual properties (IP) of the business – its curriculum, thus preserving the brand’s competitive edge during expansion in China.

For the founder, it was a matter of creating the right IP assets (ChildFirst brand and its business proposition), for the right market (cities within China), at the right time.   ChildFirst Preschool was a resounding success in China and growing at a steadfast pace.  To date, the chain consists of 15 centres across 4 major cities in China.

Lessons Learnt

1. Pick the right place to commercialise your IP. You have established a great business concept and are raring to go, but where to? The founder of ChildFirst took the time and effort to research which countries and cities had the most potential for its products & services. Dr. Richard Yen knew that doing a thorough market feasibility study in the intended territories is one of the most important things he can do for his business. Hence, find out as much as you can about the intended cities, including competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, what the local consumers value, and what prices are they willing to pay etc.  Then map your business proposition to these market and consumer needs to see if it fits the bill.

2. Carve a competitive advantage that truly differentiates.  For ChildFirst, the founder has identified that a truly bilingual curriculum, one that devotes equal amounts of time to Mandarin and English languages, will be a key benefit to its pre-schoolers, by giving them a headstart in their English capabilities from a young age.  In a market where Mandarin language curriculum still takes up the majority of teaching time, ‘true bilingualism’ also gives ChildFirst a clear competitive advantage and differentiates it from other preschool brands.  Similar to what ChildFirst has done, upon establishing your clear competitive advantage, you then need to ensure that it is supported by the appropriate operations infrastructure that helps you to deliver your proposition.

3. Leverage on technology.  China is a huge country that has tremendous market potential.  It is not uncommon to find preschool brands with hundreds of centres throughout the country.  The key questions here are how to ensure that teaching and service standards are kept to the determined levels, and how to control and manage intellectual properties such as curriculum materials? At ChildFirst, the founder uses technology in the form of animated videos, as much as possible, to standardise delivery of lessons.  Importantly, these videos also demonstrate how Mandarin and English words are pronounced, thereby standardising what children hear, learn and say.

4. Be simple to operate.  Well, operating a preschool is never truly easy.  However, the founder at ChildFirst has developed policies, standard operating procedures or guidelines for all aspects of the operations, as well as refining and updating them on regular basis.  Hence, whether the centres are owner-operated or franchised, they all follow the corresponding instructions.  Last but not least, there is a customized and proprietary IT operation system that supports and manages all aspects of the childcare centre operations, including interaction with parents.  With a strong infrastructure in place, childcare operations becomes a breeze and centre staff can then focus on the most crucial aspects of their jobs – teaching the children and caring for them.

Contributed by

Altiply Pte Ltd

Altiply Consulting is a strategic business consultancy dedicated to helping businesses grow. We adopt a focused approach in helping our clients to capitalise on their core competitive advantage and intellectual assets. We build franchise or licensing systems to enable them to scale their business effectively, plus franchise brokerage and IP registration services. Altiply Consulting is a subsidiary of Louken Group. Since the year 2000, Altiply has served as trusted advisor to diverse industries such as food and beverage, retail, education, wellness, services, technology and business-to-business companies.