With its progressive approach to education, the Galileo Enrichment Learning Program believes that equipping children with the right skills and attitude towards school will help pave the way to a better economy

Ignorance isn’t bliss—education is. Filipinos put a premium on quality education. The fact of the matter is, a good education equates to upward social and economic mobility. Ask any Filipino parent to list down the things he would want to impart upon his child and chances are that providing the best education would figure highly in that list.

However, more than just sending the next generation of leaders to the best schools, today’s parents are realizing that the challenge lies in developing the children’s attitude towards learning. “The key is to start education at a level the child is comfortable in,” shares Ma. Rowena J. Matti, chief executive officer of the Galileo Enrichment Learning Program (Galileo). “When I helped my mom run Sacred Heart School, I saw that the common problem was always Math and English.”

When a child goes to school, he is put in a group of children who all have different paces of learning. Since the school needs to follow a certain timetable and curriculum, there tends to be a gap between what the child knows and what he is expected to know. An educator herself, Matti saw the need to come up with an after-school program that will supplement what children are learning in school.

Educating the Market

The business of enrichment is relatively new in the Philippine education industry. Most people still associate it with tutorial programs, which is actually not the case. “What makes enrichment programs different is that we start at the level the child is in,” says Matti. “A tutorial starts where the child is having a hard time in. They help with a child’s homework or to study for a test that’s going to be tomorrow.”

Enrichment, according to Matti, is more progressive. “Educators are actually pushing more enrichment programs than tutorial because sometimes kids become dependent on tutors that they don’t even listen to class anymore. In Galileo, what we do is make them enthusiastic and interested in learning. We follow a ‘telescopic approach’ wherein we assess the level the child is in, and from there come up with a program that will bring out the star within each child.”

With today’s schools competing with the likes of Nickelodeon and Disney Channel in vying for kids’ attentions, Matti realized the need to teach in a manner kids would find fun. “I worked with educators and came up with a cast of characters we call the All Star Team led by Galileo the inventor, and they all play specific roles in the program. When a child enrolls in the program, all these characters come alive and the kids really know each of them,” Matti shares. “We also have five multiple intelligence centers wherein every time a child learns about a certain topic, he learns it in five different ways.”

The Business of Education

When Matti opened Galileo in 2004 at the Sacred Heart School, she saw that more than just being an educator and developing the right program and curriculum, she needed to have an entrepreneurial mindset and see to the business side of the center. This became even more apparent the moment her team decided to expand.

To date, Galileo has 21 branches mostly in Metro Manila—five are sister companies, and the rest are operated by partners. “The arrangement is franchising, but we call them ‘partners’. We decided to pattern it after the franchise business model because enrichment is something new, and we needed to speak in a language they would understand,” Matti shares. “So that’s how we do it—they pay for each child, and we transfer the technology and they get all the materials from us. To ensure the same standard of education in all centers, we require the teachers to attend our quarterly training workshops.”

The challenge, Matti says, was really in teaching educators the business side of running an educational institution. “As a partner, you can’t just buy the program, put it in a school and expect people to come. You have to raise the awareness of parents about the service you offer—there’s a lot of school marketing involved,” she says. “Sometimes educators forget that they’re also running a business. There’s management, accounting, and of course creating and developing an effective curriculum that will maximize learning opportunities.”

This article was published in the Business Agenda section of the  Manila Bulletin, September 12, 2010