MindChamps Grows In China

From the Straits Times:

Singapore pre-school operator MindChamps is making a foray into China, where it is in talks to take over a handful of pre-schools in the Chinese capital.

“We’ve been quite selective and focusing on Beijing first, there are some targets we are looking at,” said MindChamps executive chairman David Chiem, adding that the firm was in talks with “three or four” pre-schools and would be making a firm announcement soon.

The typical school strategy in China is to launch in the big cities. The thought is that Chinese parents will trust the brand that way.

Mr Chiem, who was speaking to The Straits Times at an education symposium – MindChamps’ launch event – in Beijing yesterday, said his aim is to capture 5 per cent of the premium pre-school market in China. He estimated that there are about 30,000 such schools in China.

“Launching into China is a very important move… strategically for us, China is part of our global expansion,” he said.

Currently, MindChamps has close to 100 pre-schools in Singapore, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Mr Chiem said he believed MindChamps is in a strong position, and it hopes to lift standards of pre-schools in China.

“The physical schools are already here, what we are bringing is the software – this is our research, the curriculum, the teacher training and management system,” he said.

This is their curriculum. The metaphor is bamboo, with 10 roots.

In the USA, school “brands” typically have lofty sounding missions. For example:

As the birthplace of public education in this nation, the Boston Public Schools is committed to transforming the lives of all children through exemplary teaching in a world-class system of innovative, welcoming schools. We partner with the community, families, and students to develop in every learner the knowledge, skill, and character to excel in college, career, and life.

I struggle with some of this aspirational branding language. “World class?” 80% of the kids won’t ever get a college degree, for example. But so it goes.

The for-profit schools, like MindChamps, tend to have more elaborate brands.

Two interesting things I saw in their messaging.

The vision of MindChamps is to build a world
of champions for the 21st Century, to enable
every individual to be the best they can be.

Champion is someone who defeats all others. We don’t typically see that sort of framing with little kids.

Mindchamps is the only educational institution to
collaborate with world-renowned neuroscientist Professor Emeritus Allan Snyder from the Centre for the Mind, University of Sydney. Professor Snyder studied the lives of world champions such as the late Nelson Mandela and Sir Edmund Hillary, which helped him identify and develop an understanding of the ‘Champion Mindset’ — a term which he coined — and a concept that is incorporated into the MindChamps curriculum.

I was surprised by this. Snyder is an advocate of electrical stimulation of the brain. He promotes electrical “Thinking Caps.”

There is some long-term promise in this idea. See here from Vanderbilt.

But I tend to agree with Snyder’s skeptics.

Everyone would agree that the possibility of brain stimulation unmasking or unlocking certain human abilities is an intriguing idea, so why should anyone object to Chi and Snyder’s claims?

Because an intriguing idea is not the same as a justified conclusion based on evidence. Unfortunately, none of the evidence presented by Chi and Snyder, or indeed any evidence published so far, supports their pronouncements that brain stimulation is ushering in a new era of “thinking caps”.

Instead, Chi and Snyder’s study suffers from a catalogue of confounding factors and logical flaws. The most important of these is the “Nostradamus” problem: that by failing to control for alternative explanations, their results – like the writings of the famous French prophet – are open to a multitude of possible interpretations.

I can’t imagine that parents would want any association of zapping their 3-year-olds brain with a pre-school!

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