In the private education sector today, administrators must apply sound business skills to effectively manage institutions as self-financing entities with clear success criteria.
Josephine Jim has built a rewarding career in education administration and currently serves as managing director of Kaplan Hong Kong.
Founded in the US, Kaplan is one of the leading lifelong education providers with operations in 36 countries. Its Hong Kong arm focuses on four areas: higher education, test preparation, professional qualification and language training. "My role is to lead Kaplan Hong Kong to become a preferred education provider in our areas of expertise. Along the way, the institution must adhere to uncompromising quality assurance standards, helping learners attain their scholarly and professional goals," says Dr Jim.
While self-financing is a requisite for any private learning institution, education should not be viewed as a typical commercial product, according to Dr Jim. "Education cannot be purchased. Recipients of educational services must input time and effort in order to reach their goals. As education providers, we motivate and support students aiming at qualification and professional attainments. A degree of collaboration is essential between learner and provider to achieve the desired outcome," she emphasises.
Despite her current role as leader of an educational establishment, Dr Jim began her career as a pharmacist manager. "I have always taken an interest in training. After some time serving as a pharmacist manager, I became involved in pharmaceutical products marketing and training, with the responsibility of organising and delivering introductory sessions on new products to health care professionals and training medical representatives. Later on, my involvement in health care education expanded," she recalls.
In addition to representing pharmaceutical companies and delivering health care education programmes to the community, Dr Jim also promoted healthy lifestyles to enhance overall public health. "We gave talks in hospitals, nursing homes and schools. It was at that time that I began to consider a future in education," she reveals.
With a goal in sight, Dr Jim then studied for an MBA, which she viewed as an essential requirement to take her career to the next level. "Management is a natural progressive step for most professionals," she points out.
Dr Jim also holds a doctoral degree, which gave her a profound insight into health care education.
"Management is a natural progressive step for most professionals"
Prior to working for Kaplan Hong Kong, Dr Jim supervised health care education programmes at the school of continuing studies at a local university. Capitalising on her experience and knowledge, she developed a postgraduate programme in pharmaceutical business for the school. In addition, she had the opportunity to manage arts and music courses, all of which strengthened the solid foundations supporting her current position.
The speed of responsiveness to market needs is one of the key success drivers in the education industry today. "Kaplan's courses are driven by the market. We react quickly to changing educational demands to ensure our students study the most relevant and useful material, and our personnel incorporate the latest teaching methodologies to guarantee our competitiveness," she adds.
Running a private education institution is similar to managing a business. "As education providers, we must keep learning so we can continue to share the latest knowledge with our students. Meanwhile, professionals in the field must possess good time management, business acumen and a multi-tasking ability," Dr Jim says.
She notes that many opportunities are available in the field of privately-funded education today. Besides joining the industry as a member of the teaching staff, candidates may consider positions in academic and regulatory affairs, school administration, programme development and management, marketing and student services. There is a steep learning curve for new recruits, she cautions. "For example, in school administration, there are lots of regulatory issues unfamiliar to laymen. As for marketing, education programmes are promoted in a way beyond regular marketing techniques and tactics, and candidates who do not have a passion in education may take longer to appreciate the fruitful results," Dr Jim explains.