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Toby Chu, CEO and Director, CIBT Education Group

TC: That’s the model we will absolutely stick with. Our competitors in China or even in India and Vietnam emphasise price. Our emphasis is on quality and delivering western education using western teachers. At this time it’s Asia but we’re expanding into the Middle East because of so much government funding and more parents eager to send students abroad because of the political situation. And South America through Brazil and Mexico where the middle-income market is growing.

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Our emphasis is on quality and delivering western education using western teachers

The PIE: Do your students come to Canada as well?

TC: We always emphasise furthering students’ experience. Compared to other Chinese programmes where once you’ve finished the course that’s it, with us there’s a student visa, transport, airport pickup and credit transferability at the end. We’re able to bring them in because we have the actual infrastructure and brick and mortar schools here.

“At this time it’s Asia but we’re expanding into the Middle East and South America”

The PIE: Any plans to bring eastern education to the West?

TC: In Vancouver we’re already expecting full classes for Mandarin in September. There’s a demand from the market here from many Asian families as well as the local mainstream markets. Our video conferencing classrooms are two-way. We can easily turn it around with teachers from over there and students here.

The PIE: What’s it like to be a publicly traded company in the education industry?

TC: It’s a double-edged sword. In order to get the capital required I had to go to the public market to risk capital. It served us well and we’ve undergone a number of acquisitions that allowed us to grow with public money. But over the last three years, particularly after the global economic crisis and the credit crunch for US student loans, education stock has been greatly affected. But like stock in any other industry it’ll turn around. Education is a very reliable business. Even though the economy is bad I don’t see a lot of parents kicking their kids out of school.

“In Vancouver we’re already expecting full classes for Mandarin in September”

The PIE: What advice would you offer other professionals in the international education field?

TC: My view of international marketing and expansion is that it’s always unlimited with huge potential but be prepared for the long haul. The cost is phenomenal and you must embrace technology at the very early stages and learn from it and better it.  Time zones, the people, the travelling all have a high burn rate. Without the technological supplement, fighting costs, politics and cultural differences all become tougher battles. We aren’t affected by economic crisis or epidemics in one single country because we have penetrated different markets. And it has helped that at least 80% of management staff are either bilingual or trilingual.

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