David Chiem is the founder of MindChamps PreSchool, a network of 38 pre-schools in Singapore and a growing number overseas. Chiem has worked with a team of experts from education, psychology, neuroscience and theatre to develop and deliver a trailblazing mind development programme in early years education.
WhichSchoolAdvisor met with Chiem to find out how he has left behind a career as an actor, producer, scriptwriter, writer and director to spur a revolution in education that will “prepare the children of today for 2038”.
How did you graduate from being an actor to the founder of a hugely successful network of pre-schools?
I got my epiphany when I was in film school. On the first day, the head of the school came in and said: 'Congratulations, you're here because you have talent. Now that you're here, we're not interested in your talent. You're here to learn the craft, and it's the craft that will lift your talents to heights that you've never imagined.'
That started me thinking about what I saw as a global gap in education. We learn what to learn but very rarely do we learn how to learn. Also, I realised that our mindset was never really nurtured to love learning for life – and that’s a monumental gap. When a child says I’m bad at maths or I hate maths, that’s all in the mindset of the learner. And it all starts in the early years.
No matter what story I tell in the art world, nothing could be as big as that. Nothing could impact society like that. So, I decided that I needed to tell this story in my own unique way.
Read our review of MindChamps @ One Raffles Place in Singapore here.
How is MindChamps and its educational ethos addressing this gap in education across its network of more than 30 pre-schools?
We have developed educational pedagogies drawn from research in the fields of psychology, education, neuroscience, and theatre. We have applied a learning-how-to-learn methodology to our early childhood curriculum and focus on unlocking confidence, imagination and a love for learning.
At MindChamps, children are encouraged to become rather than just mimic. If education becomes part of you, then you can apply it to different aspects of life. If you just learn facts through repetition and drills, you are just memorising without actively understanding. Einstein said that ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’. One thing we do at MindChamps is to nurture the thinking behind the thinking, and teach students to ask, ‘What is this really about?’
Too many students are learning in silos. English, science, maths etc are taught separately and there’s no integration. Teaching in silos is not nurturing the students to learn in the most brain-effective way. The brain learns by making connections, which is on what we focus on at MindChamps. Our teachers are trained to teach in multiple ways, and we teach children to learn in so many different ways.
How are you preparing children for primary school and beyond?
We are preparing students for 20 years’ time – for 2038. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to take about 50% of the jobs we see today, that’s a fact. IB came along in the 20th century and said, ‘we’re going to teach thinking’. While a thinking curriculum is critical, it will not be enough for the 21st century where AI will be able to outsmart and out-think us – and do it so much faster.
We need to prepare children for the future by nurturing the mindset of the learner. With the right mindset, you can learn and do anything.
The Champion Mindset and the 3-Mind philosophy, which was introduced by Professor Allan Snyder, moves away from a traditional educational system and nurtures mindset resilience, amongst other things. How is this helping children to realise their full potential?
The Champion Mindset is not about beating others or winning gold medals. It’s about celebrating what’s unique in you to be the best that you can be. We studied champions from five walks of life – the arts, politics, science, sport and business – to identify what ingredient separates them, and what made them stand out from the rest of the pack. And then, how can we steal that ingredient?! We discovered that have an abhorrence to being ‘just ordinary’. They want to put their own unique thumbprint on everything they do, and they can’t stand copying others.
Champions need to celebrate what’s unique about themselves and bring something unique into the mix, and this has never been more important. AI can reproduce things faster than we can, so we need the human mind to bring something unique to every situation. And that’s perfectly encapsulated in our philosophy.
MindChamps has 31 franchises across Singapore, and has a rising number of pre-schools worldwide. How do you ensure there is consistency in the delivery and teaching of the MindChamps brand of education?
All our teachers, whether working for a franchisee or not, have to compete 200 hours of training, regardless of their qualifications. First and foremost, we train our teachers to engage and to do far more than simply teach the content. We teach them what it is about, how it relates to them, and what the relationships are between each of the concepts within the content.
How can you track the success of the MindChamps programme?
We give children the right mindset to shine after leading MindChamps. When our children go on to primary school, they aren’t afraid to stand up in the classroom and ask the teacher what they don’t know. We have nurtured them to be creative and confident, and our children respect multiple perspectives and understand different emotions.
You’re taking MindChamps global with centres opening in Vietnam, China, the UAE, Australia, the US and the UK. Are there plans to expand into primary education?
We’ve focused on early years education because this is when most of the learning habits and negative attitudes are formed, and when a child can develop their future love for learning. Looking ahead, we are launching MindChamps schools in Malaysia where children will be able to transition from our pre-school to primary school and eventually through to Grade 12.