JAYNE NADARAJOO has been an entrepreneur in the education sector in Singapore for over 30 years – she established White Lodge in 1999 and has most recently launched an international college, The GUILD. We look at what has inspired her along the way, and what encouraged her to move into starting a special needs school in Singapore as well as inclusive and personalised education.
What made you want to become an educator?
To be honest, I first got involved in the education space simply so that I could support myself. My first job was as a teaching assistant at the age of 19. I didn’t realise at the time what an impact it would have on me and my life in the future. It was a massive period of growth not just for my students, but for myself as well.
You’ve been a strong advocate of inclusive education. How would you say inclusivity can be achieved in the education sector?
I’m a strong advocate of inclusive education because I’ve seen the impact it has on children, parents, caregivers and society as a whole. We often talk about equal opportunity for women, but that also means providing them with a support network for their children as well – particularly those who have special needs of their own.
For me, inclusive learning means providing equal, quality education opportunities for all learners. I believe that every student deserves a great education, including experiences and learning that fits them and unlocks their potential, confidence and real opportunity in life. We can achieve this by building confidence in ourselves to try things out – specifically, by developing a mandate that provides education as a pathway to bridge that gap.
There is too much fluff about early childhood education and its marketisation. We need to be authentic and go back to the basics of being kind, respectful and having a strong self-belief.
Volunteering has been a substantial part of your journey as an educator. What advice do you have for people who want to contribute to the education sector in this way?
One of the better known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. I see how volunteering allows you to connect to your community, and I believe this is even more meaningful in an education-focused organisation, as education really is the backbone of a society. Education can truly make or break an individual, because it builds and develops a person’s beliefs, ideologies and values. Through volunteering, you get to share your experiences, talents and, more importantly, grow personally as well. It frees your mind from the prejudices and motivates you to think with logic and reason as you add value to the organisation.
What was your inspiration behind the creation of The GUILD?
I wanted to take a broader view of sustainability and apply it to the promotion of a good and just society. “Quality Education” is identified as one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, and it can be achieved by equity and inclusion. Special needs school in Singapore are limited, but when conceptualising The GUILD, it was very important to me that it become Singapore’s first international inclusive college. I have chosen a set of values that I believe can be the flag-bearers of developing and sustaining a good society: creativity, kindness, resilience, respect and responsibility.
This is why I made a commitment to embrace and promote these values, and to educate our students in the difference they can make to society. The work we do here inspires us to be better individuals who are citizens and residents of a good country.
As a local educator of 30-plus years, I’ve seen how differently-abled youths have been at a disadvantage, particularly when it comes to college education. After graduating from a special education school, they typically end up in day-care centres and have limited opportunities for further education or skills-based training, or are unable to live independently. For me, good education is an entitlement not a privilege.
My vision for The GUILD is that it becomes recognised as the most inspirational inclusive school. We will achieve that by creating memorable schooling experiences for our students in a supportive and diverse learning environment according to their needs and abilities – and, above all, by ensuring their wellbeing. The Guild is for students from 12 to 25 with an opportunity to complete HSC or VCAL before transitioning to further education or work.
What made you pick Singapore as the location?
I decided to launch a special needs school in Singapore as a way to give back to the community. I’m incredibly grateful for the support we have received for more than two decades since we first launched White Lodge in Singapore in 1999.
As a first world country, Singapore can be a role model to showcase how we can co-exist together regardless of our abilities. As a parent and educator, I believe education is the most powerful tool and that everyone can contribute to society in some way.
We’ve all seen how COVID has showcased the need for us to be less dependent on others; so now is the best time to work towards upskilling and training the youth of today who will be the leaders of tomorrow. Every crisis – including a pandemic – is a learning curve for us to make changes needed to sustain being a good society, one that’s in a constant state of growth and development to meet the needs of all in our community.
What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs who are just starting their journey?
I say that you should not expect any favours just because you are a woman. Persevere, never give up and never be afraid of failure. Be yourself unapologetically, collaborate and build a community of like-minded individuals within your sphere. Take each experience as a learning opportunity to do better and don’t be afraid to make changes or to develop strategies to do things better. You may be faced with many challenges and some adversity, but you must always remember that adversity creates opportunity. You are the creator of your own life and destiny!
Find out more about The GUILD International College at theguild.edu.sg.
This article first appeared in the May 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!