Educating with heart and tech in the new normal

Taylor’s Education Group has come a long way from its origins in post-secondary education. The Malaysian private education group today has made its mark in Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore, and its University was recently recognised as the number one private university in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

The recent QS World University Rankings 2021 saw the institution jump 135 places to be placed #379 globally. Earlier this year, the university retained its Top 20 world ranking for the hotly contested Hospitality and Leisure Management subject in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020.

The university prides itself in its approach to learning that is broad-based, immersive, flexible and adaptive, says Taylor’s Education Group Group Executive Chairman Dato’ Loy Teik Ngan. They introduced the Taylor’s Curriculum Framework which gives students what Dato’ Loy calls a “highly flexible” degree, essentially allowing students to design and personalise their programmes based on their unique interests, strengths, aspirations, and career ambitions.

“This encourages students to be multi-skilled, future-ready and a global citizen upon graduation,” he says. “We are the first university in Malaysia to introduce courses in life skills, emotional intelligence, social innovation and design thinking. We promote self-directed learning to develop students into independent, life-long learners.”

Pivoting to the new normal

This strong focus on being future-ready no doubt served Taylor’s well over the last few months. As the rapid spread of COVID-19 forced cities all over the world to go into lockdown, education institutions have had to quickly adopt new measures to ensure students could continue learning outside of the traditional classroom setting.

“For our international schools, the biggest challenge was to conduct online learning effectively for the younger learners,” says Dato’ Loy. “They have very short attention spans and therefore it requires teachers to be a lot more creative in coming up with ideas to keep the young ones engaged.”

Meanwhile, on the higher education front, lecturers have been encouraged to consider alternative forms of module delivery, or create a simulated environment for practice, wherever possible. It no doubt helps that the university was already moving in this direction, although COVID-19 did speed up the adoption of technologies.

“We’ve always known that the way forward would be to incorporate digital approaches and independent learning in our pedagogy. It is also the reason we have invested RM50million in our Virtual Learning Environment after the SARS epidemic in 2003,” he says.

Taylor’s also invested in a state-of-the-art Learning Management System and Lecture Capture System, with remote communication tools and applications. With these expanded hardware capabilities, they have created over 1,000 course microsites for each course taught at the university.

Each course site has recorded lectures and features for e-tutoring, e-assessment, e-submission, and e-forums. A progress bar tracks students’ progress, and digital badges are awarded when students complete all the required activities.

“While universities and students are viewing these pivots to online learning with anxiety, we believe there is an upside to this experience and it will enhance students’ capability to operate in a globalised virtual world, resembling the way most businesses operate when they graduate. This is the perfect opportunity for students to build their collaborative, independent and self-directed learning abilities, which are key skills of the future,” says Dato’ Loy.

“While it serves its purpose now, online teaching doesn’t necessarily have to be a platform that we turn to only during emergencies. It should be incorporated as part and parcel of our pedagogical methods and curriculum, because learning should be on-demand, anytime, anywhere,” he says.

Banking on the right partner

This prescient foresight has pervaded all aspects of Taylor’s business. As the group expanded beyond Malaysia, it knew finding the right banking partner was crucial. Above all, they wanted a bank with an international footprint but also deep roots in Southeast Asia.

Standard Chartered’s Abrar A. Anwar, Managing Director and CEO, Standard Chartered Malaysia shared that the bank first established a relationship with the family business, MBf Group, which was founded by Tan Sri Loy Hean Heong in 1963. From being a key banking partner of the group, they established a closer relationship with the Loy family and subsequently started to provide banking services for Taylor’s.

“We started working with Taylor’s in 2010 when they ventured into Vietnam. After speaking with us, they realised they could map their desired footprint with our bank’s network. Taylor’s started in Malaysia but they knew the market is very saturated in Malaysia and they had to venture out if they wanted to grow,” says Mr Anwar. 

Dato’ Loy says: “When we started out in Vietnam, our higher education institution, British University Vietnam, explored various types of financing including a working capital facility. Given Standard Chartered Bank’s global network and their deep understanding of customer and market needs in the region, we decided to work with them on our financing needs.”

With the bank’s solutions-oriented approach and robust support, the group was also able to successfully issue a 12-year SGD 150m amortising bonds in December 2019 to finance their flagship school in Singapore, Nexus International School (Singapore). The AA rated bond by S&P is guaranteed by the Credit Guarantee and Investment Facility (CGIF), and was oversubscribed by both onshore and offshore investors.

CGIF was established by the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) together with the People’s Republic of China, Japan, Republic of Korea, and the Asian Development Bank.

Nexus International School, which the group describes as being designed to “capture how learning should take place in the 21st century” has proven a success. In 2015, the group won the Singapore government’s tender exercise - which was open to the top premiere schools globally - for the land to build their new flagship campus in Aljunied.

“The bank continuously shares with Taylor’s ideas in terms of consolidations, and acquisition targets that our M&A team comes up with. When they are ready to expand, we are also ready to support them.” says Mr Anwar.

Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction

Photo source: Taylor’s Education Group

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