Looking for talent: My music school was struggling to hire teachers, so we turned to AI to boost productivity

As businesses across a wide range of sectors in Singapore grapple with labor shortages in a tight labor market, TODAY’s Voices section features testimonials from business owners.

To kick off this series, 33-year-old Ms. Lydia Zheng, who runs a music education business, shares her team’s struggles in delivering lessons due to a shortage of teachers. However, the company has found a silver lining in education technology.

My music education brand was on a high growth trajectory – with plans to expand our business across Asia – until the pandemic hit. We were forced to suspend our expansion and focus on our survival.

We have since recovered, but Covid-19 continues to have a lasting impact on our business. Specifically, our lack of music teachers.

Many foreign teachers have returned home, with no clear intention of returning to Singapore. This has exacerbated the existing shortage of well-trained teachers, and with a reduced workforce, our team struggles to deliver classes and expand our operations.

We searched for several full-time teachers for five months, to no avail. To help us out, we brought in our seven staff members to lead our classes.

Their support has been invaluable, but there are limits to their schedule and the extent to which we can invest in their career development.

We want to hire the right teachers, but we can’t rely on headcount alone to build our brand. This is why we have redoubled our efforts to develop our educational technology solutions (edu-tech).

Our focus on edu-tech is not new. Already three years ago, we recognized that technology was the way forward and began our digital transformation journey.

During Covid-19, we helped our teachers navigate online learning with a “1+1 program”, which allowed them to provide a recorded lesson for each virtual class taught.

This reduced the need for repetition, as students could refer to the lesson at home. Our teachers saved many hours and were able to focus on higher value tasks and alleviate burnout.

Our students and teachers validated this program, which confirmed our belief in the potential of edu-tech to sustain our brand.

Today, we are developing more innovative technologies to increase the productivity of our teachers and the quality of music education.

Our solutions use artificial intelligence and algorithms to generate educational content adapted to the learning capacities of our students. This allows them to learn at a more comfortable pace.

Our teachers now have access to their students’ performance data, allowing them to provide personalized feedback and lesson plans.

This allows us to reduce reliance on our star teachers, who would otherwise have to manually manage lesson preparation and personalize their lessons for students. Now we can ensure that all our courses and lesson plans are of the same quality. In turn, this improves our operational efficiency.

In the future, we also want to offer our solutions to other music schools, so that they too can improve.

Throughout this process, we received excellent support from the SME [email protected] business advisors.

They encouraged us to patent our intellectual property, advised us on relevant support from the government agency Enterprise Singapore, and even connected us with partners to support our overseas expansion.

We look forward to resuming our growth plans and realizing our vision of empowering every teacher, organization and child to fall in love with music.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Ms. Lydia Zheng, 33, founded EE Music Singapore in 2015. In four years, she has expanded to include two outlets in Singapore, as well as a franchise school and 24 licensed centers in China.

If you are a business owner with an experience to share or know someone who would like to contribute to this series, write to voice [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and telephone number.


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