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Friday, Nov. 21, 1997

Expanding day-care center building on bilingualism


Staff writer

Unlike Japanese children, foreign kids seem to respond more quickly to teachers when receiving instructions while playing games, said Manabu Ogawa, president of Kids World Co., a franchise system of 28 bilingual day care centers in and around Tokyo.

Japanese children, on the other hand, tend to hesitate and look at each other before deciding what to do next, he added.

It is with this observation that Ogawa has developed one principle of his thriving business. "I think it's an act of decision-making. Japanese mothers unconsciously teach their kids to look at others," Ogawa said. "By spending time at Kids World, children will learn to make their own decisions."

The centers provide English-based toys and learning materials, and each center has at least one English-speaking foreign teacher so children can learn English in a natural, playful environment, said Ogawa, who hopes to soon provide each center with a minimum of two non-Japanese teachers. "When looking after children, we focus on fostering each child's individuality and creativity. We hope to spark creativity in children and help them foster a natural international sense for different cultures," Ogawa said.

About 20,000 children, who speak either Japanese or English, are currently registered at Kids World. The company, which opened its first center in Shibuya ward in 1994, is one of the nation's fastest growing venture firms. Starting with a capital of 83.5 million yen, it had net revenue of 648 million yen in 1996 and expects to take in 1.2 billion yen this year. Ogawa's current target is to establish 100 child care centers and offer stock on the over the counter market by the year 2001.

"Our fee is higher than other nursery schools, but people can see the difference," said Ogawa, who attributes the popularity of his center in part to its flexible program.

The cost varies depending on the particular center, but the average charge is 1,500 yen per hour, and mothers can drop off their children for just one or two hours when they go to work, classes or shopping.



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