Coding school Byte Academy closes its doors in Singapore

 Students attending a programming class at Byte Academy Singapore in December 2016.
Students attending a programming class at Byte Academy Singapore in December 2016.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/BYTE ACADEMY

SINGAPORE - A New York-headquartered programming school specialising in financial technology and data science courses has closed down. This comes just a few months after its expansion to Singapore in November.

Byte Academy Singapore, which was under the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) Tech Immersion and Placement Programme, terminated its registration with the Committee for Private Education (CPE) in March.

Singapore seed-stage investment firm Tri5 Ventures, which had pumped in $3 million to bring the school to Singapore, said that it has ceased its partnership with Byte Academy Singapore due to disagreements between Tri5 and the school's parent entity, Byte Academy United States.

Tri5's managing partner Christopher Quek said that they are unable to elaborate on the disagreements for confidentiality reasons.

He declined to reveal the total enrolment of students in the school when it closed, but said that all fees, including deposits, registration and tuition fees, have been refunded to students when the closure was confirmed.

Byte Academy had aimed to groom up to 2,000 financial technology and data science programmers in Singapore, and also guaranteed students a refund of tuition fees - which come up to $10,000 before subsidies - if they cannot land a job six months after graduating from its full-time courses, which last for 12 weeks.

Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Communications and Information, who spoke at Byte's opening last November, said that "we need Byte Academy to be successful because we have a need for ICT professionals and the skills that you are going to develop".

Byte is among a slew of of schools that have set up here over the past year to offer boot camps or full-time courses in areas such as web development and data science. Of these, two coding schools - General Assembly and Alpha Camp - are IMDA partners and registered with CPE.

Mr Quek said that Byte Academy had conducted a short course on Python programming in December, but the course was cut short as the instructor had to return to the US for medical reasons. Students were also fully refunded for this course.

Two other schools which had announced expansions to Singapore last year (2016) - Next Academy, a Malaysia-based coding school, and the US-based Make School - have put their plans on hold after pilot runs, citing market constraints.

Mr Elton Kwek, 35, who had contacted Byte Academy about joining a web development course, said that he was surprised by its sudden closure.

"I was a little disappointed as Byte had opened with much fanfare and promise. They had many programmes lined up and I heard that the courses were filling up fast," said Mr Kwek, who runs a preschool business.

Industry players and the tech community here had previously warned prospective coding school students to take an extra dose of caution following the forced closure in November of Silicon Valley school Coding House, which had misrepresented employment and salary information of its graduates.

Tri5 said that they remain committed to supporting the national agenda of re-training Singaporeans to adapt to the growing tech programming industry.

"We have observed and continue to see the rising demand for tech skills across many industries, both in startups and established companies alike. Tri5 Ventures remains positive in investing in programming schools in Singapore and are on the lookout for more such schools that bring value to the ecosystem," said Mr Quek.

They are now working closely with HackWagon Academy, a Singaporean programming school, to offer courses in data science, Javascript and Ruby on Rails, a web application framework. HackWagon will start its short course bootcamps in July.