Coding school bytes the dust

A programming class at Byte Academy Singapore last December. The school had aimed to groom up to 2,000 financial technology and data science programmers in Singapore.
A programming class at Byte Academy Singapore last December. The school had aimed to groom up to 2,000 financial technology and data science programmers in Singapore. PHOTO: BYTE ACADEMY FACEBOOK

Byte Academy closes 5 months after opening here amid disagreements with parent US firm

A New York-headquartered programming school specialising in financial technology courses has closed its doors, just five months after expanding to Singapore, with big ambitions of plugging the gap in tech talent here.

Byte Academy Singapore, Byte's first overseas campus which opened to much fanfare last November, terminated its registration with the Committee for Private Education (CPE) in March.

It was a training partner under the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) Tech Immersion and Placement Programme, an initiative to help train non-ICT (information and communications technology) professionals to make a career switch to the ICT sector.

Singapore seed-stage investment firm TRi5 Ventures, which had pumped in $3 million to bring the school here, said it has ceased its partnership with Byte Academy Singapore due to disagreements with the school's parent entity, Byte Academy United States.

TRi5's managing partner Christopher Quek said they are unable to elaborate on the disagreements for confidentiality reasons.

He declined to reveal the total enrolmentfigure when it closed, but said that all fees, including deposits and registration and tuition fees, have been refunded to students.

Byte Academy had aimed to groom up to 2,000 financial technology and data science programmers in Singapore.

The school also guaranteed students a refund of tuition fees - which came up to $10,000 before subsidies of up to 70 per cent for Singaporeans - if they could not land a job six months after graduating from its full-time courses, which last for 12 weeks.

Companies in the financial sector had also formed a pro-bono advisory committee at Byte to help set best in-class standards for fintech development.

Byte is one of a slew of tech schools that set up here in the past few years offering intensive boot camps or part-time courses.

Senior Minister of State for Education and Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary, 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 (Byte is) going to develop".

Two other schools which had announced expansion plans in Singapore last year - Next Academy, a Malaysia-based coding school, and the US-based Make School - have put them 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.

"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 pre-school business.

Industry players and the tech community here had earlier signalled caution after last November's forced closure in the US of Silicon Valley school Coding House, which had misrepresented the employment and salary information of its graduates.

TRi5 said it remains committed to retraining Singaporeans to adapt to the growing tech programming industry, and will remain on the lookout for more programming schools that can contribute to the tech ecosystem here.

"We have observed and continue to see the rising demand for tech skills across many industries, both in start-ups and established companies alike, " said Mr Quek.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'Coding school bytes the dust'. Print Edition | Subscribe