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Montessori opens its first preschool in Vietnam

The school in the Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park at Thuan An Town is the company's largest overseas preschool campus to date

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Nestled in a plot of land of 22,000 square feet, the new preschool campus was built with an initial investment of US$2 million. MMI Vietnam first started operations in March 2016, with an initial intake of 100 students.

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Dr Chandroo says the company expands in Vietnam because of its enormous potential and liberal foreign investment policy.

Singapore

Modern Montessori International (MMI), a company in Singapore that specialises in early childhood education, launched its largest overseas preschool campus in Binh Duong province, Vietnam, yesterday.

Directly owned by MMI Singapore, the new preschool is the company's first in Vietnam, and is located in the Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) at Thuan An Town. VSIP is one of the largest integrated townships and industrial parks co-initiated by the Singapore and Vietnam governments, and jointly developed by Sembcorp Development Ltd and Becamex IDC.

Nestled in a plot of land of 22,000 square feet, the new preschool campus was built with an initial investment of US$2 million. MMI Vietnam first started operations in March 2016, with an initial intake of 100 students.

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The grand opening event was attended by Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran, who took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony with MMI Group CEO and chairman T Chandroo and Lawrence Yip, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer, International Marketing, Sembcorp Development Ltd.

Dr Chandroo told The Business Times that the reason behind the expansion in Vietnam was the market's enormous potential - early marriage trends and 75 per cent of the country's 100 million-strong population aged below 35 are promising statistics in terms of current and future demand for early childhood education.

"Vietnam recognises education as a national priority. It has expanded access to full-day preschool to 84 per cent of five-year-olds in just four years, up from 66 per cent in 2011," he added.

"In addition, rising income levels and growing affluence have led to an increase in young professionals with higher purchasing power, who wish to provide their children with the best learning opportunities."

Parents in Binh Duong, one of the fastest-developing provinces in Vietnam, are willing to pay premium fees for their children's education.

One month's preschool fees in MMI Vietnam equate to US$600. It is estimated that Vietnam's major cities have a preschool market value of between US$50 million and US$100 million a year.

"We intend to almost double our student number to 170 by September 2018," said Steven Kho, country manager of MMI Vietnam.

Dr Chandroo also pointed to Vietnam's liberal policy pertaining to foreign investment as being a large incentive for the company.

"We have 100 per cent ownership of MMI Vietnam - something impossible in many other countries, especially within the education sector. We are also allowed to repatriate 100 per cent of our profits," he said.

Such policies, along with a forward-looking government focused on economic and infrastructural development, and an open-minded population receptive to modern values and education, helped MMI Singapore feel "very comfortable" in investing in Vietnam", bypassing a franchising business model and instead deciding on direct ownership from the start.

Apart from some minor administrative and regulatory issues during the construction process, no major challenges were faced, said the company. Dr Chandroo credited VSIP for ensuring a smooth and successful expansion.

"The VSIP authorities, staff and managers were especially wonderful. They helped us with a myriad of issues, including documentation and curriculum consultancy. We owe them a mountain of gratitude. They really helped us to see this project through," he said.

The group aims for an expansion push in Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia, and expects double-digit growth over the next few years.

"We are targeting to develop five preschools in the next five years, with our target student body being 1,000 in five years," said Dr Chandroo.

Plans for a new preschool in Hai Phong will begin by the end of next year.

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