Monday, August 3, 2009

New campus gives boost to education hub goal

Stamford American Int'l School will provide up to 2,500 places in long run

BARELY two years after taking over the Australian International School of Singapore, international education group Cognita is now busy counting down the days to the birth of its newest baby - the Stamford American International School.

As the finishing touches are applied to the campus in Lorong Chuan ahead of the big day on Aug 17, the availability of up to 2,500 places in the long run will be a boon to the Republic's goal to be an education hub in the region, said Cognita chief executive (Asia-Pacific) Brian Rogove.

In a recent interview with BT, he said Stamford will have an initial intake of about 500-600 students - from nursery level to the fifth grade - for the first three years.

And once it moves to a permanent home in Upper Serangoon Road, the school will cater to a maximum of 2,500 students spread out in small class sizes of around 20.

This, said Mr Rogove, will help ease the perennially tight supply of places in schools here that offer a US-style education. Stamford will offer an American-style curriculum, with a strong focus on languages.

Last November, the Economic Development Board awarded UK-based Cognita a state site at the former Upper Serangoon secondary school in what was the government's first request-for- interest exercise for foreign system schools. Cognita was chosen from almost 30 proposals received during the exercise.

'In the past couple of months, the level of interest in our American school has increased tremendously, especially from overseas,' Mr Rogove said. 'The EDB has been incredibly supportive of us from day one, and has helped us achieve our target opening date.'

Singapore remains a key market for Cognita because of its strategic location, he said. 'As it is a market where we see many opportunities, we will continue to explore the possibility of future expansion.'

Having opened its Asia-Pacific headquarters at The Central at Clarke Quay, Mr Rogove said the group plans to expand its existing portfolio of more than 50 schools worldwide, including in the UK and Spain.

In May this year it announced its first foray into Thailand with the acquisition of the St Andrews International School, with plans to pour in money to build a new secondary school as well.

It has been a non-stop journey for the group's financiers since they set up the company just five years ago. Chairman Chris Woodhead, former chief inspector of schools in the UK, has said Cognita is on track to own up to 100 schools by 2013.

Asked about the other countries that Cognita has its eye on, Mr Rogove was guarded but gave an inkling into what he sees as the more lucrative markets

'We are just getting into China,' he said. 'In the next couple of months we will announce some acquisitions in South-east Asia. Countries that we are keen on are Vietnam, Australia, Malaysia, China, to name a few.'

Source: Business Times, 3 Aug 2009

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