This month, I embarked on one of the most challenging chapters of my career so far: relocating to Singapore to launch Manning & Co’s sister company, Gemstar’s, first Young Entrepreneur’s Program in partnership with Murdoch University.
So far, this initiative has been a huge success – but the journey that led our family here was far from easy.
On my last day in Sydney, it was such a strange and surreal feeling, leaving my house and knowing that this is the beginning of a whole new adventure. I can hardly believe that I’m now here in Singapore, settled in my new home and routine, and working from the Gemstar Innovation Centre of Excellence.
As the mother of two young girls, I couldn’t imagine a more educational, cultural and inspiring experience than to bring my daughters to Singapore with me – and they’re already loving it. The girls have visited Singapore with me on previous Gemstar Trade Missions, but this is their first time living overseas, and my youngest is only seven.
The challenges of finding affordable and accessible schooling in Singapore
When I first seriously considered the move to Singapore, I knew I would need to find a good school for my girls as quickly as possible. I made several phone calls to Singaporean schools and discovered an uncomfortable truth: it was a choice between a hugely expensive international school, or sitting an exam conducted by the Ministry of Education, which doesn’t guarantee a spot for your child, or a choice in which school she can attend.
For me to send the girls to an international school here, it would cost me between $60-$90K for both of them. As a business owner running two businesses including a start-up, there is no way I could justify the cost, as I’m not a big multinational employer.
I briefly considered the local schooling option, but unfortunately, you can’t just move to Singapore and enrol your child at the local school as you can in Australia. Being a small nation, Singapore reserves very few spots for international children. So if international schools aren’t an option, like in my case, schooling is very difficult to access.
To make my move happen, I have had to go down the path of home schooling the girls through distant education. If it wasn’t for me finding the wonderful Sydney-based SDEP of my own accord, I don’t think I would have been able to move over here for the business with my girls. It’s a bit daunting, as on top of everything else, I’m also the girls’ teacher, but I will get some help here to be able to assist the girls with tutoring and homework.
How can we pave the way for other mumpreneurs to relocate and have access to affordable education?
If I didn’t have children to consider, the move here would still have been tricky but nowhere near as prolonged and difficult. I know people who have moved here for their business, but they are men – not women. I don’t know one other woman in my situation who has managed it.
In fact, something I found very surprising was that when I phoned the Australia New Zealand Association here for advice, they couldn’t offer me any – they said that they haven’t heard of many situations like mine. This is because most mothers come with their husbands who are allocated expat salaries that include an international school package.
Those women who do run businesses in Singapore, typically start the business here once their children are in school (catered for the expat salary of their husbands). Clearly, there aren’t many female entrepreneurs who move overseas for their own businesses, have school-age children, and must face the difficulties this presents in a country like Singapore.
It appears that I am a rarity in this respect. Many people are shocked when they ask which international school my girls are going to and I reply: “They aren’t. They will be home schooled.”
Meanwhile, the Singapore Government is beginning to introduce more reasonably-priced international schools (i.e. $15k a year per student). However, these schools are typically new and only cater for Kindy and Year 1 – not Year 2 and Year 5 as I require.
Change is slow, and I hope that by drawing attention to this issue, I can help other female entrepreneurs with children to achieve their dreams and aspirations regionally and globally.
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