Across the globe – whether in a developed or emerging economy – parents are spending money on their kids, and educational and entertainment markets are growing at a consistent rate despite widespread and ongoing financial instability. In the US, for example, franchised educational establishments earned a combined $19,4 billion in revenue in 2008 at the height of the US financial crunch.
Even during a recession, the last thing parents cut from their budget is their spending on their kids. “The supplementary education industry has grown rapidly in recent years,” says Morné Cronjé, head of franchising at FNB. “Despite people not having a lot of disposable income, there’s an awareness of the importance of education.
“This has led to education-focused franchises like Kumon, Master Maths and Active English seeing a rise in business. Parents always want what’s best for their children, so they’ll sacrifice other luxuries in favour of their child’s education.”
Gaining an edge for life
Kids’ education services
From an international perspective, the vast majority of revenue in the kids’ education industry is derived from tuition. When looking at the US, for example,
tutoring in itself is a $4 billion a year industry as parents want their children to get ahead of the pack.
Rozanne Loney, deputy general manager at Kumon Education South Africa describes the tuition landscape locally. “In the past, extra classes have been viewed as ‘remedial’, or only for children who are struggling at school. It was initially a challenge to change parents’ perception, but in recent years parents have begun to realise that extra education activities can be beneficial and enriching for all children – not just the ones who need extra help.”
Now that the industry is gaining momentum though, a new challenge that faces consumers is what to choose.
“There are so many different products and programmes on offer that parents can be overwhelmed by the choices available.
“When Kumon initially came to South Africa in 1991, despite it being a proven and established brand internationally, it took time for customers to develop trust in it – people are generally wary when it comes to their children’s education, so they wanted to see how successful it is, that it benefits their children, and that they can place trust in the programme,” Loney says.
The state of education
Though matric pass rates are improving in South Africa, with the 2012 batch attaining a 73,9% aggregated pass rate (and improving by 3,7%), the quality of education remains a concern for many. In fact, according to the Global Information Technology Report 2013, South Africa ranks second last out of 144 countries for the quality of its education system.
“The challenges facing our education system has resulted in parents feeling somewhat anxious about their children’s future, and they are looking for solutions that will ensure quality education and adequate preparation for tertiary education and beyond. As such we’ve seen an increase in enrolments — which currently stand at 23 000.”
With the growing understanding and need for quality supplementary education, trends are emerging both locally and internationally, particularly in the realm of digital. “Children’s education is definitely moving into the digital sphere at a rapid rate, and offers innovative and engaging methods of teaching through games.”
While this may prove a challenging hurdle for some programmes to keep up with, Kumon believes there will always be a place for pencil and paper.
“Kumon is at its heart a pencil and paper programme. It engages the brain through tactile sensation and motor skills, but it also means that it’s accessible to any kind of learner in any environment – not just those with tablets and an Internet connection.”
All work and no play…
Important as education is, a recent study by researcher Dana Miller, looking at how young children learn through early play and exploring nature, suggests that playing in the mud, on swing sets and in tree houses helps define happiness for children – an important component of their development. “It shapes the potential to become future leaders as they enact different roles,” she says.
With this belief in mind, founder of Little Cooks Club, Christine Phillips developed a fun and educational franchise concept.
“Little Cooks Club was established in 2005 as a business when I was pregnant with my second child. As a qualified chef, I wanted to stay in the business of food but also wanted something conducive to family life,” she explains.
Back in 2005 there was nothing like Little Cooks Club in South Africa and Phillips received overwhelming response to the concept.
“Within a year of operating, I was fully booked and had a waiting list. People also kept asking if there were other branches near them, so the progression to franchising made a lot of sense.” Since then, the brand has expanded to 15 units.
Cooking up a feast
Phillips explains that although reality TV shows like Master Chef and the rise of celebrity chefs have generated interest and influenced the growth of concepts like hers, she says kids have always loved being in the kitchen. “It used to be that moms would stay at home and children could participate in baking and preparing food.
“But because many moms now work and life is more demanding, concepts like this provide a space for parents to engage with their kids without having to clean up afterward, which is a big draw card!”
And while cooking classes for kids may be viewed as a luxury over something like swimming lessons or school-related tutoring, special occasions like birthday parties haven’t taken a budget cut.
“Although we experienced a dip in cooking classes around 2008, parents don’t scrimp on birthday parties. And since kids see celebrity chefs and want to be like them, cooking birthday parties and cake decorating has become a popular offering with us,” Phillips explains.
Gravy train trends
Increasing awareness about health and nutrition in children, as well as growing numbers of diabetes, childhood cancers and obesity, are driving the trend for teaching kids about healthy eating. “So while competition is fierce with copy-cat concepts, we’re moving toward a more holistic approach to maintain the uniqueness that we started the business with,” Phillips says.
“Children need to be taught where food comes from in order to make good food choices, so we’re now integrating the origin of food with gardening, harvesting, cooking and then eating.”
Kids’ education and entertainment franchises
A supplementary Maths and English programme developed in Japan and franchised internationally.
This concept offers extra Maths help for grade four to twelve learners by highly trained tutors. It’s also available in Afrikaans.
Promoting intellectual, social and cultural development through English oral communication, literature study and written communication aimed at three to twelve year olds.
Moms and Tots Workshop
Aimed at enriching the mother/child relationship in a fast-paced world, workshops include play time, songs, music making, story time and crafts.
Manners for Minors
This concept introduces children aged three to seven to the benefits of good manners, politeness and social skills.
A franchise focused on child health, fitness and activity through games, party fun, and soccer.
Little Cooks Club
This concept offers cooking lessons for kids aged two to fifteen. It includes cooking parties, domestic cooking lessons, and messy play.