Anne Tham Founder and CEO of ACE EdVenture group (The teacher)
Anne receiving the "Her World’s Woman of the Year 2016" award in Malaysia (The Entrepreneur)
Taking with Anne she observed a HUGE problem when she was teaching in college: the traditional/local education system wasn’t preparing students for the real world at all. Wanting better for her daughters, she started giving tuition classes from her humble dining room in 1995, this was the start of her journey to try and create an education system that meets the needs of all involved.
Fast forward 22 years, 8 language centres, a private tutoring centre, an edtech game to teach Chemistry (Chemcaper), with 19 more planned, and 2 international schools later (all largely self-funded), this progressive system must be doing something right having grown so many happy children and making a major impact in academia. Now, through partnerships she’s formed throughout the years (inc. 2 ex-students who are now directors of the ACE EdVenture group), she strongly believes that entrepreneurship and collaboration are essential next steps for the future and to create the future.
There are people/students who have the potential to be great entrepreneurs that solve great world problems, but this ability is usually suppressed in schools, the education system is still making reference to the past and not thinking about the future, a future that is more unpredictable than ever before. Therefore, we need to have as a society the appreciation that the future will be formed by the students who are in the education system today, they need to have the right skills and competences to form this future. Anne Tham’s Dwi Emas, school, branded Malaysia’s first Entrepreneurial school, who’s strap line is “more than a school” is now walking the talk in this context.
Changing attitudes in education is not easy, most education systems aim to have consistency and reliability, to of course provide some level of predictability. This made real sense when we lived in world where change was not so rapid and we could look out 5 to 10 years with confidence. That world has gone, and the skills we needed in that world are no longer relevant to the present world, even less so to the future world. So, the focus must be how to give students the skills and competences they will need to form and live in the present/future world.
Education is not just about the physical school building, it’s about teachers, students and parents, all are stakeholders in the success of education. In Anne’s school they have created an entrepreneurial ecosystem, where the teachers themselves are also entrepreneurs through their involvement with entrepreneurial activities that have been created through the school's entrepreneurial ecosystem. Many teachers have not come from a teaching background but have come back to teaching from other professions, so bring additional dimensions to their teaching.
What’s interesting now is that parents are also developing opportunities with each other through their connection to the school, and this also relates to parents and students where there are opportunities to explore new ideas. Being inclusive of everyone in their network like our parents, teachers, students, alumni, associates generates lots of crossover and new ideas. This is also then the culture that exists in the school, one where all students feel confident and empowered to try new things. One of the great examples I have personally seen and experienced around this context is the empowering of young girls who are becoming young entrepreneurs, something that is key to modern day society.
The goal of Dwi Emas is not make every student a little entrepreneur, but to give them all the entrepreneur mindset. So, whether they do create their own companies in the future or work inside other companies, they can add value. They would do this, not by thinking as an employee but thinking as an entrepreneur, so the added value to the company is much higher as is the intrinsic motivation to the employee.
What’s interesting also is in this culture of entrepreneur mindset in the school, they continue to excel at sports, performing arts and academically.
What next for Anne Tham and her way forward, Anne is now looking to develop international recognition for her approach, she is presently looking to establish a school in Hong Kong, and continue to develop and grow her partnerships and ecosystem to be able to grow students who create the future in an active way and not just passive observers.
You can see Anne talk in Helsinki at the Xcited event which is part of SLUSH Helsinki, you will also be able to hear from Shailaja, the 8yr old founder of her own tea company, one of Anne’s students. You can learn more about Shailaja at a previous Polkuni blog on the 19th November