Last Saturday, I was invited to be a speaker at a parenting forum organized by Singapore-based education institute, MindChamps.
I had enough basic information about the school. But hearing Roger Collantes—author of the bestselling book “Beyond Survival: How To Thrive Amidst Life’s Inevitable Crisis,” and motivational speaker— talk passionately about MindChamps gave me a better insight into why this institute has become popular in Singapore.
Roger, a former Asia-Pacific learning and development director for Citibank, has shifted to a new career path as master franchiser of MindChamps in the Philippines to train young minds.
He opened the first flagship campus of MindChamps International Preschool at the penthouse of Jeco Prime Building in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, last June.
A second campus is set to open in November in Greenhills, San Juan, to be run by a group of friends—Penk Ching, Ana M. Ling, Shen Ratilla, Eunette Ong and Lucy Sy.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Shen and Penk to talk about the school.
She says that MindChamps is an “award-winning education institute dedicated to developing the learning capacity of all young people, from preschool to tertiary level.”
It was launched as a research center in Australia in 1998, established its World Head Institute in Singapore in 2002, then went on to become a leader in Singapore education in the years that followed.
The MindChamps International Preschool offers early childhood education for those aged 18 months to six years old. It is said to hold the top spot among premium Singapore preschools. It runs 27 centers in Singapore.
Shen adds that, rather than focus on details and memory work, MindChamps students are trained in the “art of learning how to learn” and the development of their “Champion Mindset.”
What other schools teach children today may not necessarily be what they will need to know tomorrow, Shen points out. “Because of this, it is essential that children develop a love for learning and a mind-set that will allow them to be continuously open to a lifelong learning experience.”
MindChamp’s programs, says Cheng, are developed with “an emphasis on providing children with the tools to become enthusiastic learners, equip the students with the Champion Mindset, a personal attribute that is about being the best that one can be, discovering one’s strengths and turning one’s weaknesses into strengths.”
The Champion Mindset can be further understood from the words of MindChamps founder and CEO David Chiem: “There is no failure, only feedback, and in conjunction with concrete, practical and realistic techniques in self-motivation, we promote a healthier, solidly-grounded self-belief and an eagerness to learn from the challenges that life sets before us.”
Using the bamboo plant as symbol of early education, Roger describes how it takes years for the bamboo to spread its roots and anchor it deep into the ground. However, once its roots are secure and have built a solid foundation, it shoots up at a tremendous speed and becomes one of the most resilient plants that can withstand typhoons, floods and other natural disasters.
Using the metaphor of the bamboo, MindChamps has come up with 10 patented “key roots” which serve as the “learning and development strategies which will underpin a young child’s mind, social and intellectual growth throughout childhood and into adulthood”:
1) Champion values and emotional intelligence building strategies
2) Creativity and theatrical strategies
3) Associative thinking and cognitive strategies
4) Communication strategies
5) Narrative intelligence strategies
6) Language and reading strategies
7) Numeracy strategies
8) Nature and environmental awareness strategies
9) Movement for the mind strategies
10) Music for learning and life strategies
Roger recounts seeing “little champs” after visiting campuses in Singapore, and observing classes in the main campus. “I was blown away by the dynamic energy of the organization and how excited the young champs were about their learning,” he said. “This convinced him that the time had come to bring in a premium brand of preschool education to the Philippines.
‘Cutting edge’ programs
Penk says MindChamps teachers undergo rigorous training. First they must have a degree in Early Childhood Education. It is not enough to simply like children. Once they pass the screening process, they must fulfill 200 hours worth of training—100 hours of seminars and workshops and another 100 hours of hands-on interaction with the students.
“MindChamps prides itself in the creation of proprietary ‘cutting edge’ programs which incorporate groundbreaking scientific findings from neuroscience, early childhood education, psychology and theater,” Penk points out. MindChamps synthesizes these into ‘brain-friendly’ techniques and effective pedagogy.”
Perhaps the most notable detail about MindChamps is that it is “the only institute in the world to possess the proprietary application of the scientific research findings by professor Allan Snyder (a fellow of the Royal Society) and the Centre of the Mind (a venture of the University of Sydney, of which Snyder is a founding director).”
As our discussion winds down, we return to a persistent question that many parents today ask: “How important is preschool?”
Today there is much emphasis on the importance of early childhood education that one can’t help but wonder if, perhaps, it is becoming overhyped or reaching exaggerated levels.
Roger can only shake his head at all the wasted potential in children ages 0 to 5 who do not receive the right exposure to early education. He cites scientifically proven facts about a baby’s brain to methods and repercussions, but what strikes me most is his statement that 90 percent of a child’s critical brain development happens within the first five years.
From age 0 to 3, children grow and learn at the most rapid rate and create an amazing amount of connections among their brain neurons called synapses. However, as children grow, many of these synapses will be “trimmed off,” some pushed back while others will be strengthened, depending on the stimulation that a child gets.
Because of this, Roger wants parents to realize the importance of maximizing the potential of children at this very short stage.
Shen is quick to dispute the fallacy of preschool education being overhyped. She says, “Preschool education provides young children the foundation they need to be able to progress successfully through their social, academic and emotional developmental milestones. It develops a young child’s ability to relate to others, how to behave appropriately, shows him or her the importance of following instructions and nurturing his or her higher order thinking skills.
She notes: “Preschool education supports young children as they move from dependency toward independence and continuously inspire them to reach their individual excellence.”
Academically, she adds, “MindChamps presents children with the roots for their various areas of development, which includes literacy development through phonics and language comprehension skills. From a developmental perspective, preschool plays a crucial role in nurturing a child to become a well-rounded individual with core values, such as ‘I am compassionate,’ ‘I am confident,’ ‘I see beauty in others,’ and ‘I embrace setbacks as setups for success.’”
Education of “young champs,” according to its proponents, is a “shared responsibility, and fostering partnerships between families, educators and the school community is key to their foundation years. Preschool education is to be embraced as a celebration of the collaborative relationships, special moments, beautiful memories and most importantly, honoring each child’s learning journey.”