Nurturing Bilingual Learners in China

Ada Wong’s (CS'01) passion for bilingualism brought her to Hangzhou in China, where she co-founded education centre Kidsglobal to provide all-rounded education for children there.

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From operating her own eatery to setting up a dating agency, Ada Wong (CS’01) has always had the entrepreneurial spirit in her. In 2012, after closing her dating agency, Wong took up her next challenge — opening an education centre in Hangzhou, China, specialising in bilingual lessons.

Founded together with her husband, Kidsglobal aims to provide enriching and hands-on learning for children between the ages of two and seven years old. They embarked on this venture upon noticing a growing demand for bilingual lessons in China. 

“There was a big market to reach out to,” said Wong. “At that time, parents in China were increasingly sending their children for English classes. If we were to start our company in Singapore, there would be no unique selling point as most Singaporeans are already bilingual because students have to learn English and their mother tongue.” 

She added: “My husband and I are passionate about education. We wanted to do something meaningful and we decided that educating children was the best way to leave a positive impact on someone’s life.” 

“We wanted to do something meaningful and we decided that educating children was the best way to leave a positive impact on someone’s life.”

Ada Wong (CS’01), co-founder of Kidsglobal

The couple decided to start Kidsglobal in Hangzhou because Wong’s husband was already familiar with the city. He had been working as a manager in a joint-venture firm between a Singapore company and a Chinese company, and frequently went on business trips there. 

Currently, Kidsglobal operates one education centre in Hangzhou and has an intake of 80 students per year. 

However, as China continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have been shut down and physical movement is restricted. 

To ensure that students can still attend lessons from their homes, Wong came up with online learning packages. 

Lesson recordings are uploaded on applications such as DingTalk and WeChat Work, specialised in online collaboration and communication. 

“We are currently working on fine-tuning the user experience because what works in a physical classroom may not work so well online,” Wong said. 

The Chinese government has mandated that primary and tertiary schools provide free online lessons for students to ensure they can still receive education from their homes. While Kidsglobal does not fall under this requirement, Wong did not want her students to miss out and continues to conduct online classes for free for her students. 

“As Kidsglobal only caters to preschool children, it is not compulsory for us to provide lessons online. However, we do see a need to do so as we want all our students to continue learning despite the virus,” she said.  

Currently, Wong and her husband are stuck in Singapore as flights to China have been cancelled by most airlines. They came back earlier this year for the Chinese New Year holiday, and will return to Hangzhou once the coronavirus outbreak stabilises. 

Dealing with the unprecedented pandemic is just one of the challenges Wong faces in her journey as a businesswoman.

When Kidsglobal first started, Wong was thrown into a sea of the unknown as she did not have any prior experience in the education sector.  

“The growth mindset I adopted in university enables me to be constantly learning and finding new ways to overcome setbacks.”

Ada Wong (CS’01), co-founder of Kidsglobal

But that did not faze her as Wong actively sought for an experienced kindergarten teacher in Singapore and flew her over to Hangzhou. Observing the way she conducted lessons, Wong picked up the basics of teaching, from lesson planning to communicating with children. 

“She showed me the ropes of early childhood education which helped to ease the transition from my previous job as the director of a dating agency to where I am now,” Wong said.

In the initial stage of Kidsglobal’s operations, most funding came out of Wong and her husband’s own pockets. But as their business grew, they received investments from friends who believed in their cause. 

Additionally, to fully equip themselves with the necessary skills to provide quality education, Wong and her husband sought mentorship from the Association For Early Childhood Educators

Together with AECES, the couple went on self-funded study trips across the world to brush up on professional knowledge and develop a deeper understanding of teaching.  

“Ultimately, we want to know everything from hands-on learning to developing our own learning materials. We also learned how to train teachers to provide good quality education,” Wong said. 

Six years after Kidsglobal was founded, Wong and her husband decided to open two more schools in Shanghai. However, both schools closed within the same year due to a failed business partnership. 

“Getting the right people to do a job is the most difficult thing as a business owner. You will realise that the only thing you can control is yourself. We have to keep learning and growing despite failures,” Wong said. 

“Even though the materials I learnt in school as a broadcast major may not be applicable to my job, the growth mindset I adopted in university enables me to be constantly learning and finding new ways to overcome setbacks.” 

As the pandemic continues to affect daily activities, Wong is looking for ways to enhance their current approach to online learning. 

She said: “We are currently researching better ways to ensure that we provide good quality lessons online. The future right now looks rather uncertain but we are determined to push through this trying period and fulfil our purpose of starting Kidsglobal, which is to enrich lives through our education programmes.”