Patrica Koh appointed CEO of G8 Education Singapore

SINGAPORE – The founder of well-known pre-school chain Pat’s Schoolhouse has left her eponymous brand to join an Australian childcare company in Singapore.

Mrs Patricia Koh, 61, is now chief executive of G8 Education – which runs the beleaguered Cherie Hearts childcare centre, among others.

Two months ago, Cherie Hearts emerged from a legal tussle over a business acquisition contract.

G8 Education also owns pre-school brands Bright Juniors and Our Juniors’ Schoolhouse.

Mrs Koh, a former primary school teacher with a master’s degree in child development, started with one Pat’s Schoolhouse in 1988, later expanding to 15 centres. She sold her chain to global education group Knowledge Universe five years ago.

Last month, she left Knowledge Universe for G8 Education, which announced her appointment in a letter to parents yesterday.

Leaving after 20 years at the helm of Pat’s Schoolhouse was a “very sad” decision to make, said Mrs Koh. “But like any child, if you hang on too tight to anything that is precious, you might kill it,” she said.

The reason for her departure is a desire to work with children from different backgrounds. She said: “I want to do something for more children and meet the needs of different groups of parents – not just from the top tier.”

These families may not spend a lot of money on fees, she said, but will still get a good foundation for their children.

This means going back to the basics, such as indulging children’s love of music, literature and expression, said Mrs Koh.

“When children are encouraged to sing, dance and dramatise, they will naturally learn to read and write and everything makes sense to them,” she said.

Which is why, in her new role, aspiring pre-school teachers will be asked to sing and tell stories during their job interview.

Centres and facilities under the brand will also be spruced up. Children will get more pianos and keyboards and will have “pretend” play areas, where they can play dress-up.

“Rather than using iPads, animation and loud sounds that will only attract a child’s attention, I want to teach children so that their imagination can go further, they feel the emotions of a story.”