Toa Payoh holds a special place in my heart. My primary school (Pei Chun) was in Toa Payoh, my home was in Lorong 8 Toa Payoh and my family’s provisional shop was in Lorong 4 Toa Payoh. My childhood days were filled with the most exciting of activities which included running around the cosy neighbourhood buying popsicle ice pops at just 10 cents and bubble tea at $1.20 a cup. Although many years have since passed and I no longer live in Toa Payoh, I will always proudly proclaim that I am a true blue Toa Payoh kid. After all, those carefree days were some of the fondest days of my life.
Fast forward about 20 years and I found myself graduating from the Lee Kong Chian Scholarship Programme at the Singapore Management University with a double degree in Economics and Finance. After graduation, I also managed to secure a coveted position in the Graduate Talent Programme with one of Europe’s largest private banks. Indeed, I was on top of the world and I thought I had achieved the pinnacle of success.
But I was wrong. Years passed and I felt empty. There was a burning desire in me to do something more purposeful and meaningful. I felt that life has been very kind to me and somehow I wanted to find a way to contribute to society in a more impactful way. I wanted to create change and leave a mark. And that was when I thought of education. My next step dropped jaws as I quit my lucrative career in finance, much to the surprise of my colleagues and the chagrin of my family. I accepted a contract teaching position at a top Junior College and it was during my tenure there that I discovered how much I enjoyed interacting and teaching students.
Life works in very mysterious ways. While I was still teaching Economics at the Junior College, I learnt that my old pals, Algene and Boon, were thinking about venturing into the private education space. Algene had also just left his job as a lawyer and was teaching General Paper and Project Work at a Junior College. Boon on the other hand was about to complete his PhD studies in Solar Engineering at the National University of Singapore. Was this mere coincidence? Or was this fate?
We got together one night for a couple of drinks. We talked about our common interests in education and what we wanted to achieve through education. We reconnected like a house on fire as we shared a similar vision of revolutionising the private education scene in Singapore. There was no chance we were going to leave our promising careers and not endeavour to leave an indelible mark in society.
Our first start-up was Think Teach Academy. At Think Teach, we offer a curriculum that challenges and excites. Our teachers are trained to teach smart and our students are empowered to think smart. In a matter of a few years, raging demand saw us expand our operations to Upper Thomson, Bukit Timah, Kovan and Siglap.
Over the years, we have touched and transformed the lives of thousands of students and parents, cementing Think Teach Academy’s reputation as a top-tier education centre. Yet, something has always been niggling at us. It is no secret that Think Teach Academy is positioned at the higher end of the market. Every now and then we would get calls from parents asking if we could lower our prices. They were willing to travel from the ends of Singapore to have their children attend lessons at Think Teach, but they could not afford our fees. This hit home hard. Every child deserves quality education and we want to give every child the opportunity to experience learning with us. But the reality was that this was not going to be achievable through Think Teach alone. There are just so many underserved neighbourhoods in Singapore and the only way we can cater to them is through a separate brand which operates at a lower cost but still retains the same educational philosophy as Think Teach.
So, in 2021, we decided to leverage the success of Think Teach Academy’s expertise and curriculum to create Mega Minds Academy, with the aim of reaching out to as many students in these underserved neighbourhoods as we can.
This time when Algene, Boon and I were deciding on where the first Mega Minds Academy should be set up, the little boy in me insisted that it was only fitting for it to be in Toa Payoh. While I was doing my research into Toa Payoh, I realised that Toa Payoh lacks quality tuition centres. Yes, you do get many small centres sporadically across Toa Payoh, but the big reputable brands are not there. I reasoned that this was because Toa Payoh is a mature estate and young families are moving out instead of moving in. In other words, it does not make business sense for the big players to set up shop there. With that, my inclination towards having the first Mega Minds Academy in Toa Payoh became stronger. With some convincing, we decided that helping the students of Toa Payoh shall be our priority!
Nothing brings me greater pride than to see our first Mega Minds centre nestled snugly in Toa Payoh Lorong 1. It has only been a short year but we have already impacted more than three hundred students.What we have achieved at Think Teach Academy, we are starting to witness the same at Toa Payoh. I’m personally glad that we made this move into Toa Payoh. I truly believe that we are on the right path to making quality education accessible to everyone. I have finally come full circle and I do not plan to slow down anytime soon!