, Singapore

Cultural diversity and inclusiveness to empower students: The GUILD International College founder

The GUILD International College is a first-of-its-kind educational institution catering to the diverse needs of students in Southeast Asia.

A serial, educator-turned-entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience in teaching, Singaporean Jayne Nadarajoo has been designing and running some of the most innovative schools from preschool to college-level in Singapore.

In September 2021, Jayne established The GUILD International College, a transformational experience for students 18-24 who seek alternatives to traditional academic programmes or who are differently-abled.

Singapore Business Review spoke with Jayne on how she set out to create a new educational model that is inclusive, experiential and focused on personalisation around the individual student.

Jayne Nadarajoo, Founding Director, The GUILD International College

Jayne Nadarajoo, Founding Director, The GUILD International College

The GUILD International College is a first-of-its-kind educational institution catering to the diverse needs of students in Southeast Asia. What were the driving factors behind the GUILD’s creation?

I believe that every student deserves a great education—experiences and learning that fits them and unlock potential, confidence, and real opportunity in life. Good education should be an entitlement and not a privilege.

Inclusion means community and The GUILD is a community of like-minded professionals who have come together to showcase respectful community living. We acknowledge the need to think broadly and make changes to meet the needs of students who will thrive in a non-academic school environment.

Our students are our future and they will inherit our world so we need to help them acquire the skills and tools to live independently. We want our students to discover their abilities and not just focus on their disabilities. We want to make learning fun for students to be happier and reduce stress. We know that through habituation on positivity, belief in themselves our students will know that they can make a difference.

There’s a rising interest in vocational and holistic education in the APAC region to meet the needs of students requiring a well-rounded and comprehensive education. How does the GUILD factor in these essentials?

We did our own research and have launched a program that will help students manage their needs. It is based on experiential learning to acquire skills to live independently and relate to people as well as be part of a larger community as it’s a lifelong process. We help them learn skills and empower them to co-create their future.

We want The GUILD learning experiences to give confidence not just to students but to teachers and parents as well, as we want them to know that learning is a beautiful process to help equip them with skills needed to live independent lives and be responsible members of the community.

We listen to the students and help create a mindset that helps students look at the world with hope, fairness and more importantly enthusiasm. This is all about being mindful and knowing that they too have a right and place in our community.

You have had extensive experience in the educational sector as well children-centred projects such as the ‘Street Child project’ in India and is a member of the International Association of Special Education. What are the biggest areas of impact for you which can bring in mainstream positive change?

I hope to create a mindset and a way of life that helps us represent not just our cultural diversity and different races in Singapore, but learn how to take care of each other better regardless of our abilities.

I want our students to be empowered, have opportunities and experiences without judgment. I see it in my mind as a vision for the future where we move on and proudly say that Singapore is a model community that is respectful and welcoming of all.

I have always been impressed with how people are happier in third-world countries regardless of their personal situations. This is what I wish for all of us in Singapore. To be grateful and happy.

Whilst there have been widespread debates at different international forums and substantial social media interest to meet the needs of differently-abled children, much of the efforts still remain in the pipeline or don’t see the daylight. According to you, how can this gap between planning and implementation be bridged?

I am sad to say that much of the problem lies in the lack of confidence in making the changes. Much time is spent on research, development, and discussions but there is a lack of confidence to try it out. Fear and fear of what we don’t know, fear of change, fear of complaints, fear to take accountability and create that bridge as it’s easier to segregate instead of amalgamating.

The intent is good but sadly execution is not great. In Singapore, people respond to mandates so perhaps we need a mandate that provides education as a pathway to help bridge that gap. I will be launching a model early childhood social-emotional learning programme soon as part of my vision to empower change through education, and to showcase community living from a young age. There is too much fluff about early childhood education and its marketisation it. We need to be authentic, go back to the basics of being kind, respectful and having a strong self-belief.

As an educator and child empowerment supporter, where do you believe the most impactful initiatives arise from? To achieve significant results, does the execution need to be more institutional or can it come from the private sector?

As an educator and entrepreneurs, I believe that we have a responsibility to value add to the community. We can effect changes through education, communication and connection with the community. It does not have to be driven from a personal space as we should share our similarities and celebrate our differences. It starts from self, moving away from expectations, sense of entitlement to being an active member of the community as we are in a continuous state of growth and development. We need to be grateful for what we have and work towards how we can come together to support the needs of the larger community. We are stronger, together.

I have been supporting charities abroad and the COVID situation showcased the need to focus on the needs of the community at home. I have been educating students for 30+ years and ran a successful education business for two decades. Recently, I have moved on to running a social enterprise as I believe that everyone can contribute to society in some way. The pandemic has taught us that we do better when we collaborate so I hope that colleges like The GUILD will be welcomed to be part of the Ministry of Education in Singapore. We are showcasing best practices from countries like Finland, and providing high-quality education right here in Singapore. More importantly, we are working towards the common goal of empowering our youths of today, leaders of tomorrow.

With the rapidly changing technological environment, the jobs of the future are difficult to ascertain. As such, how does the GUILD prepare students for such a dynamic job market?

During these unprecedented times, vocational and technical education is an alternate route to meet the needs of the workforce without being dependent on foreign employment. We focus on sectors that students can successfully seek employment in like retail, administration, service, carpentry, etc. We promote learning to acquire skills to increase their chances of employability and live independently so there is much focus on life skills like financial management, home management, self-care, etc as well.

Plus we focus on successful completion of the courses to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary skills to transition to work and live independently. There are other pathways that do not require heavy-duty academics to ensure success and are not all based on a Bachelor's programme. The GUILD is dedicated to preparing young people to lead successful lives. We believe that giving everyone good career education is better than sending them off without a set of job skills and a plan for the future.

The GUILD International College has debuted a more inclusive platform of education. Are there any collaborations or expansion plans for the near future, especially in the Asian region?

We have many requests from Malaysia as I launched the childcare centres there before. Over the years, we have built strong relations with the international schools as well as the parent communities. There are many expressions of interest from Indonesia and Vietnam too. Our plan is to share our good work with other like-minded business owners who are committed to providing good quality arts and trade-based education.

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