Gan Choon Keong
In 2017, Janus Education took its first steps to franchise its unique methodology which culminates in the child being able to author his/her very own book. Called the Unique English Classroom™ Learning Suite, it garnered the attention of Mr Gan Choon Keong, a savvy hands-on education entrepreneur who was on the lookout for a different way to master English. So excited was he that he might have found the right franchise, he drove all the way from Puchong, near Kuala Lumpur, for a face-to-face meeting with UEC’s founder, Catherine Khoo. The franchise agreement was signed, sealed and delivered just a month after the meeting. And UEC Malaysia was born!
The Malaysian franchise came just three months after the Philippines master franchise, who, like Mr Gan, was looking for the programme to master communication skills. Ms Audrey Lee, head of UEC Philippines, believes that the UEC franchise “is more than an after-school programme which has become a tool for these children to be creative, to confidently communicate and to collaborate.”
So what exactly is the Unique English Classroom™? What makes it so amazingly relevant to a child’s literacy and creative development? We sit down with UEC’s two country heads to find out.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to speak to us! First of all, what makes UEC unique?
Mr Gan: UEC is unique as it is not traditional learning. I don’t believe in using an instrumental approach to teaching, so UEC is something different. Through interactive games, students will improve in their language skills.
Enrich Asia Philippines
Ms Lee: I agree! Instead of your generic reading and writing programme, UEC has found interesting ways to transfer knowledge to our students. It has been in Singapore for 21 years and have been taught in government-approved primary schools – which is a mark of quality in itself. Singapore’s Ministry of Education doesn’t joke around when it comes to quality education that they accept as programmes.
In your experience, how does UEC help in building students?
Mr Gan: For me, that the fun and engaging lessons help our students enjoy the programmes, encouraging the learning process during these classes. UEC emphasizes on stories and fun activities, which are enjoyable for all students. The teachers play a great part in engaging students with their love for stories!
Ms Lee: I have seen from my experience that UEC builds confident communicators. While UEC, on the surface, seems like an ordinary English programme, it is special because of the confidence that it instils in my Philippine students. Our entire class is packed with games, laughter and fun to make sure all students are enjoying themselves while they are learning.
I see! So how does UEC differ from the ordinary class curriculum?
Mr Gan: Our students don’t need to be constantly reminded of having to “learn.” Instead, they come to our classes to enjoy the lessons. Ordinary classes emphasize on learning to score in assessments and exams. They don’t focus on the creative process of writing. If a student enjoys the lessons, they will learn what we are trying to deliver.
Ms Lee: That’s right, I’m sure every teacher in an ordinary class curriculum would want to incorporate fun and games in every lesson. Unfortunately, in an ordinary class curriculum, the teachers also need to train their children to score in exams. For us, our focus is not so much on how many marks you score in exams, but how many life skills you can pick up for your life outside the classroom.
Why do you think this course is essential to building the foundation for children in English?
Mr Gan: UEC is able to help develop essential life-long skills for the children. Developing and strengthening communication, creativity and critical thinking skills can help them to survive in future.
Ms Lee: English can be a dry and abstract subject that is difficult to grasp for some children. Every step of the UEC programme has many different objectives, designed to achieve different results. But the one thing they have in common is to make English come alive for our students!
With such an interesting focus, UEC must have very passionate facilitators! Could you tell us what goes into training teachers that support the programme?
Mr Gan: Yes, indeed. Teachers play an important role to ensure their students learn by carrying out what we designed and also understand the learning outcome. To accomplish our goals, our teachers have to think out-of-the-box and have the right passion to educate. After all, being a creative educator in UEC is more than just an ordinary teaching job. We ensure that all teachers that we hire go through on-the-job training and sharing with other teachers so that they know how to curate their lessons for the students. All students learn differently, after all.
Ms Lee: We train them with a lot of scrutiny *laughs*. Actually, we pick facilitators that are very creative, outspoken and have the knack of drawing out students. So my facilitators go through a “gruelling” four-day training, whereby they are given tasks to create a lesson plan that incorporates fun and role-playing. We ensure that every facilitator that walks out our door embodies the UEC standard before we let them leave. We will lock them inside the office if we have to! Just kidding!
That sounds exciting! So what is the most rewarding thing about seeing these classes in session?
Mr Gan: The most rewarding thing for me is seeing students try their best to participate and when they try their best not to miss classes. Also when parents tell us that their kids enjoy these classes. When you notice kids starting to love to read, and able to elaborate their experiences and imagination with pen and paper, you know you are on the right path. You will feel happy when you see your students start to love the language and are willing to continue the learning journey with you.
Ms Lee: For me, the most rewarding is when we see the child blossom under our care. They start to speak better, be more confident in their communication, and be able to speak their mind without being afraid – they become confident communicators, whether they are speaking or writing.
If there was one thing you wish you could let all parents know about UEC, what will it be?
Mr Gan: Although creative writing is not the emphasis of school curriculum, the language skills your children will develop through enjoying English will be of great benefit in the long run!
Ms Lee: Don’t focus too much on grades, the world is changing rapidly. Creativity and the ability to communicate effectively are now one of the highest sought-after skills in the work force. Your child’s life may seem like it begins in school and how much they score will seem very important. But it truly begins once they are out of school. UEC’s soft-skill training and programmes ensure that even after schooling, your child has the skills to take on life after school. Trust the process and trust us! Nothing can be achieved overnight.
Lastly, what are the plans you have moving forward with UEC?
Mr Gan: We are looking to working with schools next, so as to allow more students to develop their creative English skills through UEC.
Ms Lee: Our plan for UEC in the Philippines is to be the go-to English programme for children and young youths, aiming to foster creativity, confidence in communicating ideas and keeping true to the Unique English Classroom™ vision. In fact, we recently partnered with a Dungeons & Dragons programme to allow our students to create characters and stories through the game!