A NEW bilingual pre-school championed by former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew has received overwhelming response.
About 300 young parents thronged the first open house for Hampton@Tanjong Pagar, which aims to give pupils a head start in learning two languages.
Lee announced the launch of the new centre last month at a National Day Dinner with residents in his Tanjong Pagar ward.
Yesterday's open house – which attracted parents mainly from the Tiong Bahru area – was held off-site in Bishan as the pre-school will not be ready until December.
Hampton@Tanjong Pagar will be run by private operator EtonHouse and the PAP Community Foundation.
It will have an infant care centre and run kindergarten classes.
Just two weeks after registration opened on Aug 19, the 98 childcare places and 12 infant care vacancies were several times over-subscribed. More than 200 applications for childcare and 100 for infant care had been submitted as of yesterday.
Balloting will be held this month, said EtonHouse group managing director Ng Gim Choo.
The centre, which will start classes for its first batch in January, offers a bilingual English-Mandarin curriculum. Two teachers, one who speaks English and the other, Mandarin, will be present in the classroom at all times. To help the children develop cultural sensitivity and a natural love for Mandarin, they will be exposed to Chinese art, music, theatre and literature every day.
Procurement manager Jackson Lim, 32, who has applied for a place for his one-year-old son, said it was important for his child to be exposed to both English and Mandarin. "Kids absorb languages easily at a very early age. It's good to expose them to English, a business language, and Mandarin which is often used in conversations in Asia," he said.
Lee has previously said Singapore's bilingualism policy makes learning difficult unless the child starts both languages at an early age. He said research by American social scientists had debunked the belief that teaching young children multiple languages would only confuse them. —The Straits Times / Asia News Network
SHE may be taking a back seat in the latest marketing campaign, but top brass at Singapore Airlines say the SIA Girl is far from over the hill.
They said her role has become more critical as the carrier increasingly relies on top-quality service.
"The essence of the Singapore Girl and her gentle, caring ways remain especially relevant today," said SIA executive vice- president (commercial) Mak Swee Wah.
"In this ever-changing world, it is even more important for service excellence to be the key differentiator."
This contrasts with days gone by, when SIA led the pack with superior hardware, new planes, flat beds and the latest in-flight movies. Now, these are offered by all top-tier carriers, including Emirates and Cathay Pacific.
In this more competitive environment, the iconic Singapore Girl remains a feature of every branding drive.
"What has changed is the way she is portrayed," said SIA acting senior vice-president (sales and marketing) Chin Yau Seng.
The airline's latest S$5mil (RM12.6mil) campaign, being launched today, took more than a year to make and cuts across print, television and digital platforms in more than 120 countries. There are three commercials shot in China, Italy and Scotland – all feature the Singapore Girl.
But unlike in the last branding exercise, the spotlight is not on her.
"We are putting the whole focus on the customer," said Chin. "The SIA Girl, who obviously plays a very big role in all the ads, is a symbol of the lengths we go to for our customers."
Critics have called the Singapore Girl outdated. But Chin said not many brands have a living, breathing icon. "No matter what, this remains a very strong point in our own marketing and we don't intend to move away from it because it is very rare."
Professor Jochen Wirtz of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored a book on SIA called Flying High In A Competitive Industry: Secrets Of The World's Leading Airline, said it made sense for to capitalise on the Singapore Girl image.
"Featuring new routes, new technologies or new products can be done periodically to position an airline as a leader in the industry, but it is not a powerful positioning in the long run," he said. "There has to be the superior overall experience on board delivered by crew supported by superior products and processes."
Singapore Management University associate professor of marketing education Seshan Ramaswami said the iconic Singapore Girl has served the airline well. But, he added that the image of an attentive Asian woman "may convey a negative stereotype of Asian women not in keeping with the tremendous strides in professional success of women the world over, and in Asia too". —The Straits Times / Asia News Network
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