Setting up an STU Cooperative : EDUCARE
We have, over the last twenty-five years or so, developed several educational services and activities. OurSpecial Tutorial and Enrichment Programme (STEP) has been running since 1980, and we now have twenty - two STEP Centres. We have run "O" Level English Workshops for the last seven years and each year the enrolment has increased. We now serve more than 4000 students annually. Our KAGAN Workshops have also been running for the past seven years, and we have served an average of 1000 teachers each year.
We were Consultants to the
International School for six
years and, when we withdrew in 2001, their enrolment was more than 600 (from 18
students when we started). Other groups who want us to help them in China and
other places have since approached us. We launched
in October 2003 in partnership with VIMARKS,
and after a slow start the sales are picking up.
In addition to these major
projects, we run a number of professional courses every year where we bring in
experts from overseas to help us. These are also generating income. This year, besides the KAGAN Workshops from the USA, we are bringing in 7 other experts from the United Kingdom and Australia to conduct educational activities here for our members. We are also looking at the possibility of doing Certification Courses for teachers in areas such as the Teaching of Philosophy to Children in collaboration with the P4C Network in Australia. Another possibility is the setting up, over the next couple of years, of an International Students’ Hostel, with partners from China and Singapore. Our Singapore partner will be SEACARE the cooperative and business a r m of the Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS). Up until now, we have channelled the surpluses from our educational activities and services into our Education Fund, which now stands at over 2.5 million dollars.
Why set up
We have, thus far, been using our staff to run all our professional activities and services, and they are all being unduly stretched. We will now have to face greater competition as several other organisations are setting up Companies to provide educational services and activities for teachers. Most of the other educational service providers are not able to help parents in their coaching of their own children on their schoolwork. Parents are now children and they also want to know about the new methods of teaching and learning. This is a big area, and we should now begin to see 3 sets of clientele for EDUCARE – teachers, students and parents. We have the expertise, the network and the experience to compete, but we do not have the necessary framework with the infrastructure to focus on and maximise our potential in this regard. We should have a business wing of our own, to take over our current educational activities and services, expand into other areas and generate income for the Union. We are confident that EDUCARE will enable us to do this.
Our main concern is : How will STU Members benefit from the
setting up of EDUCARE?
Firstly, and most importantly, we will be better positioned and able to provide meaningful and enhanced professional development activities and services to our members.
Secondly, we will be able to do more in other areas of service to members, like in industrial relations and social and recreational activities, as we will free staff from one major area of work.
Thirdly, we will be generating more income for the STU and much of this will be ploughed back in the form of activities and services.
Fourthly, EDUCARE can provide other services to our members that the STU cannot provide under our Rules and Constitution. For example, in the long term, EDUCARE may be in a position to provide scholarships, bursaries and research grants to members and their family.
How do we intend to set up EDUCARE?
We are proposing that the STU set up a Cooperative, which will be wholly owned by the Union. To do so we will have to consider, act upon and/or put in place the following:
1. Register EDUCARE as our Cooperative;
2. Provide EDUCARE with its
startup capital by channelling a part of our Education Fund to EDUCARE
in the form of an outright grant and/or loan;
3. Lease/rent land and/or office space to EDUCARE to conduct its business;
4. Recruit professionals to run EDUCARE;
5. Ensure that the STU has adequate control of EDUCARE without interfering with its operations;
6. Ensure that EDUCARE generates income that is shared with STU;
7. Draw proper guidelines
to better educated and are helping their separate the work of EDUCARE from the
on-going professional activities of the STU;
8. Draw proper guidelines
to separate the duties and responsibilities of our officials and staff vis-ŕ-vis
EDUCARE and the STU.
What kind of Timeframe are we looking at for the setting up of EDUCARE?
We should move along the following time-lines:
• Obtain the support
and endorsement of our Delegates in May 2004. This will include providing the
up capital for EDUCARE. We will set aside up to 2 million dollars from our Education Fund to invest in
EDUCARE. Initially we will invest 1 million dollars, and get other interested Unions and Cooperatives to
invest up to $500,000/- more.
• Register EDUCARE by
the third quarter of 2004. This will include setting up its office and
staff. Their offices will be in the Teachers’ Centre, and EDUCARE will rent office space from STU.
• EDUCARE should be
operational by January 2005 or earlier. This will include the transfer of our
educational activities and services to EDUCARE.
What we have done for a start
We have studied the operations of the Cooperatives set up by other Unions like
AUPE, SMOU and
2 We have done a Business Plan to ensure that our Cooperative can and will be viable.
3 We have
consulted the experts in the NTUC and the Singapore National Cooperatives
(SNCF) to discuss the plans and get their advice on our proposed Cooperative. Their feedback and
advice have been most encouraging and they have given our proposal the "thumbs up".
Are we competing with the existing Singapore Teachers’ Cooperative?
No, we are not. Their
strength is in providing loans and savings while EDUCARE will be providing
educational services and activities. In fact, we have met and discussed plans to work together with their