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Make your child's dreams come true

By Zhang Ran (china Daily) 2011-02-24

Open the box, the party has started. The fairy castle is ablaze with lights and the red carpet is ready to receive the guests. Amid colorful balloons and decorations, out come Cinderella, Spider Man and friends to transport you to a dream world.
Clockwise from top: Children enjoying water games at the Family Box center in beijing; a boy skids down a large six lane wavy slide, closely followed by others; a mother and child swim underwater in one of Family Box's two indoor swimming pools. Photos Provided to china Daily

Family Box aims to make a splash in china with unique centers for education, growth

Open the box, the party has started. The fairy castle is ablaze with lights and the red carpet is ready to receive the guests. Amid colorful balloons and decorations, out come Cinderella, Spider Man and friends to transport you to a dream world.

This is no fantasy at Family Box, a childhood development company. "Find the dreams of your children and bring them to reality" is Family Box's motto.

The company claims to be the first childhood entertainment and education center in china with top-class entertainment facilities, and offers advanced education concepts from britain.

Family Box opened its first center in beijing in December 2009 and now has more than 2,000 members. Its clientele ranges from 3-month-old toddlers to 12-year-olds and the company has already started making profits.

"Family Box plans to open around three to five centers in each city, including Shanghai, beijing and Shenzhen this year," said Zhang Wenyu, director for research and development at Family Box Ltd. Over the next five years, the company plans to have 20 centers in each top-tier city and around 10 centers in every second-tier city.

"Since Family Box is still in an early development stage, despite the ambitious plans, our priorities will be to make the existing beijing center the ideal place for training in the best educational practices from britain," said Zhang.

The emphasis on European education stems largely from the fact that the top brass at Family Box, including Zhang, have all lived or studied in Europe for several years. The management firmly believes that young Chinese parents should incorporate broader values when educating their children.

"As parents, they should be conscious on how to bring up their children. The children should be able to develop an independent personality that values teamwork, creativity and individuality," said Zhang, who studied education psychology in the UK.

Family Box is the first Chinese institution to adopt britain's early years foundation stage (EYFS英国早期基础阶段教育体系EYFS(Early Years Foundation Stage)EYFS), which comprises a set of welfare requirements and learning and development standards that need to be followed by institutions looking after children under the age of 5 - the mandatory age for compulsory education in the UK.

Family Box has held 15 term seminars so far and teamed up with big companies like Nokia, Schroeder and Bank of china to introduce advanced early childhood education concepts to their employees as more young Chinese parents start to realize the importance of early childhood education.

Early childhood education is called the "permanent sunrise industry". Compared to the overseas market, china's early education market started only in 1998. Since then it has seen exponential growth, with experts estimating that the market for education of children under 6 could soon hit 30 billion yuan in china.

The children's education market is dominated by domestic brands like Babycare (Dongfang Aiying) and R.Y.B Education Institution, as well as some overseas brands like Gymboree and My Gym. Gymboree, which is based in the United States, has 150 franchisee centers in china. Another US-based company, My GYM, has 30 child fitness centers in 16 major cities, such as beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Family Box has a 6,000-square-meter entertainment and education center in Wangjing, the northeastern part of the capital city. Unlike many other centers, this is a standalone three-story block surrounded by a beautiful park.

The outside wall of the building, which was designed by German architect Binke Lenhardt and Hao Dong from Crossboundaries Architects, is completely covered with white and transparent glass, providing a natural green environment for children to play.

"This is like a second home for my child," said mother Li Wenhui, who brings her three-year-old son to the center every weekend. "Unlike other early child development centers, Family Box emphasizes more on entertainment rather than on in-class learning. My child likes to play here."

Inside the building, there is a 9-meter-high giant climbing and various high and low slides, from a large six lane wavy slide to helix tube slides. Children can also find trampolines and rock walls. The most striking thing at Family Box, however, is its professional baby and toddler swim training program. Family Box is the first center in china to introduce such a program. There are two indoor swimming pools, one for youngsters up to 2 years old and one for older children.

"Traditional filtration systems are unable to keep water above 30 degrees and free of bacteria, so our pools are cleaned through the ozone water treatment (a chlorine-free) process," said Zhang. From the ceramic tiles of the swimming pool to the swimming neck ring, all the products are imported from Europe.

Family Box's corporate ethos is that parents have the most important role in a child's education, so staff encourage parents to participate in programs like music, arts and crafts, cookery, dance and performing arts.

"The membership fees are very expensive," said Wang Lin, a mother at the center. Members pay about 6,700 yuan for seasonal use, 11,000 yuan for six months and 18,000 yuan for annual use. The swimming program costs extra.

"We've got a lot of feedback from our members on the high charges," said Zhang, "and we expect to bring down the rates soon so that more parents can enjoy the facilities. After all, education should not be limited by economic status."
 

标签:education china familybox beijing britain

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