Future IT Entrepreneurs Start With RE2 International Computer School ‘WOWWIZ’ programme
RE2 International Computer School may not ring a bell to many. But if you’re from the vicinity of the former mining town of Ipoh, where this school is located, it’s the No.1 choice to send the young ones for a comprehensive ICT education. Using National ICT Curriculum in the USA, UK, and Australia as the base to formulate its ICT curriculum, RE2 has produced students who are both adept in operating the latest technology and ones filled with self-esteem and leadership qualities.
With news of its students’ admirable achievements travelling far and wide, it is only expected for RE2 to be inundated by constant appeals from parents to open branches in other states as well. After operating for the past ten years, RE2 has finally made a decision to franchise its operation this year. Franchise Asia spoke with Catherine Teh, CEO of RE2 in Ipoh recently to find out more.
Can you briefly tell us the background of RE2 International Computer School? What was the vision in setting up this school?
It is not unusual to see parents focusing very much on academic results for their children invariably to prepare them to fit into either the employee or employer categories. We did some extensive research on schools in the USA, UK, and Australia and found students there were taught four primary modules that parents emphasise on the most – English, Science, Math and ICT.
We found Malaysian students here lack the foundation knowledge of ICT even in the current IT era. Technology is now such an important part of children’s everyday lives that a learning environment without it would be completely out of touch with their own realities. ICT learning can be a stimulus to enhance creative learning and build self esteem. So, the key is to ensure that children have access to ICT education which offers them opportunities to develop general skills and also extends their specific knowledge of that technology. RE2 offers the opportunity. So we aimed to produce IT entrepreneurs who can master different areas of technology irrespective of what profession they want to specialise in later. We believe students grounded in a broad understanding of an ICT work environment will fare well in all areas of work.
What are the ICT programmes covered at RE2 International Computer School?
Our programmes are offered to students between ages of 6 and 18 (primary to secondary school), and are divided into four stages with specific objectives; Essential, Project, Career, and Innovation. Some parents just want to equip their child with the basic understanding of ICT while other parents want their children to design projects and prepare them for school and university levels. Before enrolment we explain the course structure to the parents and also request students to sit for an enrolment assessment to evaluate their proficiency. It takes two years to complete each stage with two hours of classes per week. Hence it takes seven years to complete the whole course from Essential level to Innovation level – alongside their school education. Our complete course is called the WOWWIZ programme. As RE2 stands for Rare Education for 2nd Generation, we want our students to become wizards of sorts to ‘wow’ the world with their ICT knowledge!
There are many institutes offering ICT programmes in the country. What makes RE2 any different from the rest?
There are some computer learning centre conducting normal computer classes right now, but our school curriculum mainly focuses on one objective – “For future IT Entrepreneurs”. We aim to prepare a child with a tool which is a must in their career life. Therefore, the Career and Innovation stages are very crucial levels for students. Students will be exposed to advanced technologies such as Data and Security which is very important in corporates since most of the data and workspace collaboration is on cloud-based systems now. Besides that, e-commerce and online transaction, enterprise accounting are highly sought after by the parents. On top of that, we have expanded the students’ learning experience by using latest technologies such as iPad, Macbook and also Mac Pro both inside and outside the classroom. iPad isn’t just the best device of its kind — it’s a whole new kind of device. And it’s poised to change the learning landscape. Many can claim that they can offer or exceed our standards. In the end, it’s the results that count. With our ten years of experience in offering ICT education, we have come to control almost 80 to 90 percent of the market share for the whole of Ipoh. Parents and consumers are getting smarter nowadays. In RE2, teachers introduce more rigorous curriculums focused on interactive, project-based learning across all stages. Rather than listening to lectures, making notes, and taking pencil-and-paper tests, now teachers learn by participating in interactive group research projects. After receiving a digital lesson from teachers, teams select a topic and use their Macs to plan, create, and present reports in a variety of formats including content and media-rich movies, podcasts, wikis, and blogs. And with iMovie, Garageband, Keynote, Pages, and iChat, students are able to work independently. They are able to be as creative as possible with the results. We stand out for the high qualities that we emphasise from every angle – quality teachers, quality curriculum, and more importantly, a unique school culture; something which you can’t see but encompasses the way the school operates. New parents sense this subtle liveliness the instant they step into our school.
Many educated parents know the difference between RE2’s ICT education and others. We have spent millions on the infrastructure alone. Many of our 3,000 students have become among top scholars in the whole country. And many parents know this. They enroll their children with us knowing we can assure a constructive step-by-step pathway to develop them into independent thinkers. We have countless numbers of compliments from parents for helping to equip their children with the right ICT knowledge which has come extremely handy while pursuing studies locally and overseas, e.g., preparing presentations, graphs and statistics with minimum effort and time compared to other students who had to huff and puff and given the run around to get these things done.
How different can RE2 make the learning for Internet and tech-savvy kids?
Although many students will pick up how to use basic skills in digital communication, browsing, chatting, computer games and surfing social networking sites quickly, but you will find that simple things like file management, basic formatting will still be foreign to them. Children may be well-versed with entertainment and digital social skills but not many can say confidently that they’re comfortable with anything beyond these common skills. They are experts only on the surface. When it comes to details, like preparing a school project or professional presentation, they usually fail. Do you know there are also many other software our students have access to create breathtaking presentations? (Shows some professionally executed student works). Our placement test will access and propose them accordingly to their stage of competence.
The ICT and IT technology is under constant change. How can RE2 have its students engaged with the latest information as lessons can become obsolete quite fast?
Our syllabus draws on textbooks that are currently used in ICT schools in the USA and are reviewed every two years. Whenever there are updates to the lesson plans, we transfer the changes directly to our students’ iPad, so their course material stays up-to-date at all times. On top of that, even if a student is not in the school compound, he or she still gets direct assistance from teachers through the online remote support system.
How does RE2 train the educators to be well equipped to train the students?
All our educators are either IT graduates, or at least diploma holders in similar fields. We also have Microsoft Certified Trainers over here. Having ICT knowledge is one thing but delivering it in a pleasant manner, especially to students, is quite another. Hence all teachers are mandatorily required to present new subjects to the training act manager first. To instill the passion, a good working environment and to build closer ties between students and educators, all our educators are employed full-time, working on two different shifts. Our staff turnover is pretty low.
As your courses are mainly taught to children, what safety measures are taken to protect them from e.g., cyber stalkers, cyber bullies, explicit sites, etc to put an ease to parents’ concerns, and what happens when the students become too good for the system?
Net safety, social, and ethnic lessons are taught in class. We also implement appropriate net safety measures within the hardware and software to protect the students. To update parents, we hold complementary workshops every month on net safety and protective measure, e.g., how to monitor children’s activities even when they are not at home, etc.
RE2 has plans to expand to other parts of the country, and also overseas. How close is RE2 in reaching this goal?
What spurred us to consider opening RE2 in other cities is the constant prodding from parents from other cities who envision similar ICT education for their children. We are more concerned of getting the right franchise candidates than just opening more outlets. We’ve recently opened one outlet in Johor Bharu, and plan to have another in Penang by end of this year. We’ve plans to open ten schools within the next three years.
“WOWWIZ” is the school’s catchphrase. Can you explain more on this?
The WOWWIZ programme is all about training kids to be well-rounded individuals, not just in academic terms but also in other areas, be it soft skills, values and ICT knowledge. Besides the essential four stages of ICT education provided here, the WOWWIZ programme also incorporates skills to develop leadership and social qualities in our students. We organise many exciting programmes where our students can be creatively involved.
For instance, we organise the ‘King of Typist’ contest annually where we unearth the fastest typists from all over Malaysia. And incidentally, an RE2 student, Nicole Wong, age 12, holds the Malaysian Book of Records as the fastest typist with 134 wpm with 95% to 100% accuracy.
There’s also ‘The Star of the Month’ reward programme which we organise every month. The criteria are to simply chalk up 100% attendance, complete all lessons and homework, and they stand a chance to win an iPad, laptop, digital camera and any items in their wish list. The competition is quite popular and attracts all student entries.
Every year we also organise an outbound learning programme where we take students overseas as part of our enrichment programme. We just visited Australia in April this year and plan to visit UK next year.
RE2 education is different and our students know this.
RE2 has now embarked in recruiting franchisees. What can prospective franchisees expect when collaborating with RE2 International Computer School?
We’ll only consider opening more outlets when we get the right educators rather than investors. Meaning, we’re looking for candidates who has the love and passion of teaching rather than one with the sole aim of making money. Besides these compulsory criteria, the franchise candidate must be between the ages of 25 and 40, with an ICT qualification and strong financial backing.
As RE2 is based in Ipoh, how do you plan to support your licensees from other parts of the country?
Our Franchise Development Team takes an active role in supporting franchisees in both the administration of programmes and school growth and development. Student materials are continually reviewed, updated and supplied to our franchisee. Both internal communications and customer communications are produced and disseminated regularly. Continuing training, meetings and seminars are widely attended by RE2 franchisees. The solid 10 years of outstanding experience and result shown in ICT education makes franchisees confident with our school system and support.