From 1 to 450 Students, How Winnie Khine Started a School in Myanmar with No Capital
The Entrepreneur Campfire invites Winnie Khine to the Campfire today.
Winnie is the founder of Streamline Training-Learning Centre (STLC), a private school in Yangon, Myanmar. STLC offers holistic education to pre-school and primary school students at an affordable fee.
The idea of STLC came about when Winnie returned home from a volunteer trip. “I volunteered to teach poor children in the suburbs of Myanmar,” says Winnie.
“There I was able to see the gap between the two layers of the society – the rich and the poor. Compared to the rich, the education and thinking skills of the children in the suburbs were very weak. I became worried for our future generations.
That was when I decided to open a school which offered good education at an affordable fee.”
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Winnie’s first obstacle was capital. Only a 19-year old student at Dagon University at the time, she had no money to start a school. To raise capital, she approached her parents, owners of a textile company in Myanmar, to invest.
They rejected her.
“They felt I was too young and inexperienced,” says Winnie.
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Disappointed but not beaten, Winnie went on to start her first class with just one student.
“I did not wait for their investment. I started from where I can.
I started teaching kids from the international school at home, like tuition classes. At first I only had one student. After six months, I had eight.”
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Today, STLC has over 450 students.
In addition to teaching its students English, Chinese, Maths, General Knowledge and Myanmar language, STLC students are also taught in Music, Ethics, Manners, Arts and Science.
“I want to give them a holistic education so they are skilled in all areas,” says Winnie.
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Though STLC can only accommodate up to primary school students now, Winnie plans to expand the school to accommodate high school students as well.
With her efforts, Winnie hopes to produce a new generation of Myanmar youths who can compete in an international level.
My vision is to see Myanmar people stand out and shine in the world, with full confidence. I want to train and guide them to become sophisticated and disciplined students for our country. – Winnie Khine
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In this interview, learn:
- Why Winnie’s parents later decided to invest in her school
- The three biggest challenges Winnie experiences when trying to expand her school
- The marketing method that got her to grow STLC from 1 to 100 students
- Why Winnie decided to start a school even though she has no experience in the education sector
- The two types of people Winnie often sees fail
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Enter Lu Wee and Winnie Khine
Turning a Vision for Education into Reality
How did the forming of Streamline Training-Learning Centre come about?
While I was doing my first degree at Dagon University, I volunteered to teach poor children in the suburbs. There I was able to see the gap between the two layers of society – the rich and the poor.
Compared to the rich, the education and thinking skills of the children in the suburbs were very weak. I became worried for our future generations.
That was when I decided to open a school which offered good education at an affordable fee.
At this point I was in my final year as an English major. When I shared the idea of opening a school with my parents and asked for the investment, they rejected me. They did not trust me at all.
So I did not wait for their investment. I started from where I can.
I started teaching kids from international school at home in tuition classes. At first I only had one student. After 6 months, I had about 8 students.
Seeing my progress, my parents later asked me if I really wanted to start a school. I said, “Yes, and this is proof that I can do it.” They finally trusted me enough to invest in my school.
After 2 years, the school had grown to 100 students and I had gotten back my return on investment.
What is your vision for STLC?
My vision for STLC is to promote Myanmar people to be outstanding on a world stage, to go out with full confidence. I would like to train and guide them to become sophisticated and disciplined students for our country.
What subjects did you start with and why?
As our country’s education system used to be very poor, people have little knowledge. They do not like to think but live an easy life.
Their limited knowledge also lead them into wrong directions. They get easily influenced, and are weak in confidence.
Thus, I started a preschool. That is the best time to nurture and shape our future leaders and the next generation of our country. The preschool focused on English, Chinese, Maths, General Knowledge and Myanmar. For a holistic education, I include Music, Ethics, Manners, Arts and Science classes also.
Would you consider your school unique? Are there any other schools just like yours in Myanmar?
There aren’t many schools like STLC in Yangon. Our target market is the middle and upper middle class, with very reasonable fees.
We teach both the international and local curriculum. The combination of local and international targets a market that is not currently well-served.
Who makes up the majority of your students?
Our target is middle class level. our mission is to train outstanding students those are competent to international level.
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From 1 to 300: Growing a Private School in Myanmar
Is it challenging to start a school in Myanmar? Do you need special qualifications?
It is not challenging to start a school but it is very challenging to have skilled and fluent english speaking teachers.
Yes, we need a certification from ministry of social welfare for preschool and school license from Ministry of Education.
You have grown the number of students in your school from 1 to 100 students in two years. What has been the best way for you to get students?
We get most of our students by word of mouth. I believe it is because our teachers teach with passion and people appreciate that and tell their friends about us.
Other than that, my school campus is huge so people who see it are easily impressed by it. The school is also in a convenient location for parents to drop and pick up their children.
What has been the three most challenging aspects of running this school?
1. Space and financing
Our five-year plan is to transform STLC into a well-equipped school for 1,000 students. At the moment, we have already expanded into five buildings. But in order to achieve our goal, we need more space. Getting more space in Myanmar is a challenge because land prices and interest rates are very high.
2. Skilled teachers
Many schools are opening in response to Myanmar’s rapidly growing economy. As our school’s language medium is English, we are facing challenges in getting skilled workers and teachers who are fluent in English. It is very difficult to do so.
3. School policy
At the moment, there is no clear policy or law for private and international schools in Myanmar. This is a big challenge for all school operators now.
As you have mentioned one of your biggest challenges is in getting skilled and fluent speaking English teachers. However, as you plan to continue growing the school, you will need more and more of them. Where will you get them from?
We start training our teachers in school by hiring international experts.
What have you been most proud of achieving in terms of students’ performance since you started the school?
Parents’ feedback about their children’s English fluency, thinking skills and decision making, independence and self management, disciplinary and teaching their parents back at home etc. Some students received awards at competitions with other schools for art, language and maths.
Myanmar is going through a lot of changes politically as we speak. How will this impact the school?
Better changes for better improvements. We hope this new government makes a proper school policy and laws for international and private schools.
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Doing More with Less
Apart from running your family textile business you are also an active member of various associations in Myanmar. What is your method of staying on top of everything that you are doing?
It’s very simple. Whatever I do, I always do my best. Whether it is paid or unpaid, beneficial for me or not, doesn’t matter. I apply the same principle.
I never expect anything in return. I just want the best result. I don’t want to regret for not doing something I could. I have gotten mostly good results from doing this.
What do you think are the top three characteristics that makes a person successful in what they do?
Belief in yourself, be a good learner and stay focused until you reach your goal.
You do not to have any formal qualifications in Education. What made you confident about wanting to start a school?
I started from where I was good at. Since everyone can teach ABC, I started with a preschool. I don’t need formal education for that. But yes, I got a certificate from the government.
However, I do not only want to teach kids academics. I also want to teach them manners, discipline and confidence. These are the skills our children are lacking because their parents don’t have them. Because of our poor education system, many do not know the true value of a human being.
I built all these into the school, confident that it will work.
Now my school is famous for offering holistic education to kids. They are competent everywhere, both locally and internationally. It’s all about seeing the gap that both the customers and market have not yet seen.
It is obviously not easy to start and run a school. What do you think are the three key factors that can make a school successful?
Selling quality service, building strong relationships with customers (parents), Keeping with the trend for continuous improvements
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To Succeed, Don’t Be These Two Types of People
What, in your opinion, are the reasons why someone will fail in a goal they set out to do?
I see only two types of people:
1) Weak and insecure people who give up on things easily. They want things to be easy for them. They give reasons and blame others when things go wrong.
2) Over confident people who never listens to others. They think they are always right and always better than everyone. This stops them from learning.
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Streamline Training-Learning Centre (STLC) is a private school with a holistic approach to education. You can find out more about STLC at its website www.streamlinetlc.com
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