SFA Eduhearts International School: SME Excellence Business Award 2022/2023
In a world of ever-increasing diversity, Singapore’s foreign workforce plays a key role in the economy and industry alongside her own citizens. Foreigners recruited for their expertise often come for the long-term, and some even bring their families over to Singapore to create a brighter future for them. In order to cater to this demand, international schools were established all around Singapore to provide the children of expatriates with a standard of learning similar to that of the Singaporean quality of education. However not all children may be able to get into a local school of a higher class, and thus some businesses were set up to provide middle-class education standards for this group of people.
SFA Eduhearts International School is one such educational entity, set up by Mr. Ace Ashraf Milan. Established in 2016, SFA Eduhearts was set up with the intent to offer quality education mirroring that of the mainstream to foreign children who were unable to secure a place in a local school, or whose parents were unable to afford the prices of the more renowned international schools.
As a learning centre, SFA Eduhearts mainly caters to children between ages 7 to 16, covering their education from Primary 1 all the way to their ‘O’ Levels. Additionally, they provide B2B services while owning sub-branches in the form of learning campuses, as well as online learning networks which will be launched in February, and is currently working on a new scheme called the ‘Student Care’ for future endeavours.
Previously, Mr. Ashraf was a master trainer at a gym, running it on his own while conducting fitness training and lectures for clients. An opportunity approached his wife who is a teacher at an international school at that time, some parents requesting if she was able to conduct lessons for some students. Taking up a gamble, the husband and wife couple took a gamble and started off with four students, after which the number began to increase to ten, during which they realized they needed a permit to hold lessons for more than that number of students.
Trying to apply for the permit with the Ministry of Education and the Committee for Private Education (CPE), Mr. Ashraf and his wife sold most of their assets for the capital to start the company and their permit, after which they managed to establish Eduhearts in 2016. Starting off with the subjects of English, Math and Science for the Primary 1 kids, Mr. Ashraf’s wife handled the teaching while Mr. Ashraf himself did the transporting of kids from the school back home, as well as continuing with his gym work.
On why he was willing to sacrifice so much in order to set up SFA Eduhearts, Mr. Ashraf shares his belief in giving an opportunity to others around them, at the very least with a decent education. Growing up where finances were tight around him, Mr. Ashraf explains that the international schools around Singapore may not be affordable for every expatriate family, and some may not be able to afford the fees. With this in mind, he believes in providing education at the most affordable price he could offer, thus being able to provide an education for the children of these families.
Additional difficulties he faced were the number of rules and regulations, as well as one’s personal educational background. Opening an international school requires a high level of justification, to prove to the authorities that he was able to open up such an institution as well as meet the many criteria. As freelancers, getting bank loans was practically impossible, with a salary barely able to support them, and Mr. Ashraf had to take up another three jobs to support the business as they were not taking any pay for about a year. However, even with all these obstacles and the knowledge that they could only earn a permit via the CPE due to the qualifications they do not have, Eduhearts managed to pull through this hardest period due to the passion they continued to have for the students.
As a business owner, Mr. Ashraf’s day-to-day responsibilities were shared with his wife. For him, Mr. Ashraf handles the business model, and finances, while his wife ensures that the system is stable, and handles the educational side of the business as well. Mr. Ashraf handles the feedback given to the school, as well as maintains contact with the branches to see if there is any feedback for improvement. Nowadays, his wife handles monthly workshops for teachers, as well as being in charge of the monthly and weekly curriculums.
As Eduhearts was founded with care for the community in mind, the school collaborates with the local MP of Mr. Ashraf’s constituency, occasionally handing out foodstuffs like rice, oil, Milo, biscuits, and other goodies to the households in the area. They also helped prepare the kids for a transition to a local or international school with the tools for schooling they need, making the change as smooth as possible.
What makes Eduhearts unique from the others was being registered with the MOE instead of the usual method of an international school teaching the syllabus of a country they are linked with. This way, what they teach is aligned fully with the local syllabus, which is an advantage for families who plan to stay in Singapore for the long term. While other schools may lack the documentation to prepare their students for higher learning in the MOE system, Eduhearts’ permits allow their students to transit along the educational route to Junior Colleges or beyond seamlessly.
When it comes to staffing, Eduhearts teachers place safety as the highest priority and are given a large amount of freedom in teaching methodology as long as they are able to comply with the teaching schedules which are to be strictly followed. Multiculturalism and diversity are promoted among the staff, which Mr. Ashraf emphasized is important in an international setting. When it comes to hiring staff, He believes that personal presentation is much more important than paper qualifications, andthe main qualities they look for are the person’s personality, conversational capability as well as a one-week trial to see if they are compatible with Eduhearts.
How SFA Eduhearts’ name came about was from the initials of Mr. Ashraf’, his wife, and sister-in-law’s names. It soon evolved to mean Soul, Freedom, and All-Rounders. Eduhearts came from the focus of learning from the heart of a person, instead of just the brain.
Mr. Ashraf takes pride in the high passing rate of Eduhearts’ students, with an extremely high passing rate of 98%. Also, when Eduhearts’ certificates are brought overseas by students studying in places like New Zealand, the student was able to skip a year of study and proceed onto more advanced syllabuses, a testament to Eduhearts’ high level of learning.
Determination is what Mr. Ashraf credits their success to, as without it Eduhearts may not have been able to get through with all the issues during their foundational years. Originally, Eduhearts aimed to expand their reach overseas; however, the pandemic has thrown a wrench into the works, forcing Mr. Ashraf to keep his business local. In the future, Mr. Ashraf aims to continue their expansion plan, bringing quality Singaporean education worldwide for overseas students to experience!
Eduhearts operates from five branches at Bedok, Tampines, Hougang Yishun and Jurong. They engage in social media advertisements on Facebook and is listed in Google, while also promoted by foreign media overseas.