SPH to complete acquisition of stake in Han Language Centre

(From left) Han Language Centre CEO Chiang Yaw Yii, SPH deputy chief executive Anthony Tan, Han Language Centre founder and principal Ann Jong Juan and SPH's Chinese Media Group head Lee Huay Leng at a meeting on Monday where plans for the centre wer
(From left) Han Language Centre CEO Chiang Yaw Yii, SPH deputy chief executive Anthony Tan, Han Language Centre founder and principal Ann Jong Juan and SPH's Chinese Media Group head Lee Huay Leng at a meeting on Monday where plans for the centre were unveiled.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will be completing its acquisition of a 75 per cent stake in Han Language Centre today, laying the ground for its Chinese Media Group (CMG) to co-develop educational programmes and events for students and adults with the language centre.

With the completion of this acquisition, plans for which were announced in August, SPH will have direct oversight of operations at Han Language Centre, which was founded in 1993 and now has close to 3,000 students enrolled in 18 education centres islandwide.

On top of tuition classes for primary and secondary students, it also co-organises events with Lianhe Zaobao's Student Publications to cultivate children's interest in Chinese language and culture.

The centre's founder and principal Ann Jong Juan, who is a Cultural Medallion recipient, will hold the remaining stake.

While Han Language Centre has been largely perceived by the public as a tuition centre over the last two decades or so, it is more than that, said Mr Ann.

"(People believed that) you came here only if your Mandarin was weak. But we want to slowly change that perception, and be seen as a centre for learning and deepening one's interest in the Chinese language," he added.

Education materials at Han Language Centre are developed based on the latest Ministry of Education (MOE) syllabus.

Staff strength at the centre has been beefed up to 108 after the acquisition, with 10 new hires in the centre's management team comprising educators who have had prior experience in developing and teaching the MOE curriculum.

A new advisory board has also been assembled. It includes a representative from the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and Dr Foo Suan Fong, executive director of the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language.

CMG head Lee Huay Leng said that they are exploring the possibility of providing adult education classes and customised training programmes for corporations in consultation with partners like the SBF in the years ahead, given CMG's intimate knowledge of developments in China and connections with organisations there.

These bite-sized courses can help working professionals become more familiarised with political developments and the business environment of modern China, or help companies that are looking to expand to China get a sense of how media relations work there.

Said Ms Lee: "In this rapidly changing economy, we can tap resources and expertise that CMG has accumulated over the years to provide some foundational understanding of China for professionals. Rather than rapid expansion, we want to focus on maintaining and uplifting the quality of programmes that we offer."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2017, with the headline 'SPH to complete acquisition of stake in Han Language Centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe