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Five minutes with.. Masterminds Education co-founder Tania Siddiqui

Five minutes with.. Masterminds Education co-founder Tania Siddiqui

Tania Siddiqui discusses education in the region and her firm’s expansion plans

Why have you decided to expand in the Middle East region?

The extended MENA region (including Turkey and Pakistan) covers a population of 585 million, 40 per cent of which consists of school going children below the age of 19. In the GCC alone, the private school market is projected to triple between 2010-20, making it one of the largest private school markets in the world, with the UAE comprising nearly a quarter of GCC market value. We felt that the environment was ripe for Masterminds Education’s innovative, outcome driven offering that delivers clear value to parents.

Based on over 60 years of research and practical application of sophisticated learning methodologies, developed and tested worldwide, our programmes offer children, between the ages of eighteen months and six years, a superior grasp of reading, maths, knowledge, language immersion, music, physical and social development.

What are your plans and do you expect to go beyond these initial cities in the future?

Based on the success of Masterminds Nursery, our flagship early years concept in Dubai, expansion within Dubai and the other emirates is a natural progression. We are currently looking at expansion in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha with our nursery and kindergarten concept as well as primary schools.

The licensing agreement with our US partner institute, which has been a pioneer in childhood development for over 60 years, gives us exclusive access to 18 markets across the expanded Middle East and North Africa region. Over time, we will be looking at expansion across other regional markets as well.

Do you think a greater emphasis is needed on educating children younger than six?

The first six years are when the brain is developing at the most rapid rate; hence this is the most critical period of opportunity for a child’s intellectual, physical and social development. Not only can young children learn anything but they are more adept to learning during the first six years of life than they will be at any other stage. What they learn at this age will stay with them for the rest of their life. Furthermore, the ability of a child is a product of stimulation and opportunity, not of a pre-set alarm clock or a predetermined genetic design and this stimulation should happen deliberately – not by accident. Young children would rather learn than do anything else – as long as the process is joyous and operates at the pace of the child.

Rising education fees are a commonly cited concern for parents. What is your stance on school fees and do you see annual price rises as the new reality for schooling in the region?

School fees are likely to increase in-line with costs. As more nursery and school options become available, parents need to carefully assess the value that a school offers in return for the fees, in terms of the breadth of the offering as well as the quality of delivery.

For example, our integrated curriculum includes English, French, and Arabic language immersion, learning to play the violin, gymnastics and swimming. As well as enrichment programmes that will ensure all children can read fluently, do maths and have exceptional knowledge, physical and social awareness by the age of six. We have an all-inclusive fee structure for these programmes that also includes meals. Furthermore, our teaching methodologies are based on over 60 years of research by Noble-prize-winning laureates and delivered by some of the best qualified and extensively trained teachers in Dubai. So while our absolute fees may be somewhat higher than other nurseries, the value that we offer for children and parents is unmatched.

More broadly, what are some of the key challenges the education industry in the Middle East faces?

Education, not just in the Middle East but also all over the world needs to adapt for the 21st century. Most curriculums taught in schools today were developed many decades ago and were designed for the industrial era. We now stand on the brink of the next digital revolution. When our children enter the workforce, they will face a world that is evolving at an unprecedented pace. We need to make sure that we equip them with enhanced comprehension, tremendous curiosity and a love of learning that drives adaptability and resilience and creates a virtuous cycle that supports their success and happiness throughout life.

Are there any areas in which you think regional education needs to improve?

There is room to streamline the regulatory environment across Middle East markets, particularly to support innovation.

Are you hiring?

We are always looking for enthusiastic, open-minded and innovative teachers to join our team. We have a robust recruitment process and only hire the best-of-the-best.

What is your leadership style?

I believe in creating an authentic and open environment where people are developed and empowered to be at their best. I believe in setting clear expectations upfront and then enabling the team to deliver outcomes.

In my spare time I like to…

It’s been challenging to find free time over the last few years. But when I can find some spare time, I like to read empowering books. I am currently reading Power of I Am which was gifted to me by one of the parents. I also love to spend time with my daughter and be near the ocean.

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