Let the Music Play

By Marianne Tan
Photography by Zulfadli bin Rahman, assisted by Tracey Nguyen
Art direction by Leyna Poh
Styling by CK Koo
Grooming by Nikki Fu using Nars
11 Sep 2023

MindChamps’ latest program wants to harness the power of music to help children learn better, says MindChamps’ founder David Chiem.

While not every child can become a musician, every child possesses innate musicality.

That is the belief that anchors MindChamps Music, the latest program for preschoolers conceptualized by the global pedagogy empire. And it is something its founder David Chiem believes can be nurtured to strengthen and accelerate all other areas of learning.

The link between a music education and better student achievements has been well-researched and documented through the years. But instead of the siloed music education that most children growing up in the late ‘90s and early 2000s received, Chiem wants music to be integrated into children’s education.

“Music is far more than simply entertainment. Taught and practised from the perspective of comprehensive musical literacy, it is an invaluable educational tool. The MindChamps Music curriculum was crafted to tap into the fun learning experience that music provides, while aiding children's cognitive development and simultaneous understanding in multiple disciplines and maximising retention of knowledge,” he says.

This means that in MindChamps Music, music is taught as a language instead of a rote skill and integrated with language literacy, numeracy, and social and emotional development. For example, when learning new vocabulary, students are taught to count the number of beats and syllabuses in the words of lyrics. They are also empowered to explore five instruments (voice, percussion, recorder, violin, and the keyboard) and read, compose, and perform music – even before they master traditional notation.

Chiem says in this manner, “children develop true musical literacy”. And perhaps more importantly in our outcomes-obsessed society, the improved musical literacy has been proven to significantly improve children’s performance in international standardized tests for Maths and English.

“A three-year empirical research study involving hundreds of children in Singapore demonstrated that the integrative approach of this programme improved musical literacy scores by a significant 1.5 standard deviations and, remarkably, produced results which exceeded global averages beyond the subjects’ age level,” he adds.

(Related: Made in Singapore for the world)



Such an unconventional education concept in an otherwise conventional industry is befitting of an entrepreneur like Chiem. After all, he’s had somewhat of an unconventional upbringing. 

Chiem, who was born in the town of Rach Gia in Vietnam, fled his hometown to Australia with his family in 1978, when he was just eight. Despite not knowing English when he started school, the fast learner picked it up quickly and topped his class in the same year.

At the age of 14, he landed the starring role on Australian TV series Butterfly Island and became the first Asian-Australian to be given a lead role on mainstream television. He fell in love with acting and filmmaking, and decided to go to school to hone his skills in these areas – which, unbeknownst to him at the time, would turn out to be the path that set the wheels in motion for his pedagogy empire.

Sweater by Loro Piana, Lead image: Suit by BOSS

During his own study of the craft of filmmaking, Chiem was struck by a realization that students are often taught what to learn, but never how to learn. 

“I became curious as to why many students didn’t do well in school and suspected that it was because their education experience simply didn’t engage them. I became fascinated by the idea that there could be another way of teaching children,” he explains.

He posed a question to himself that would later become the basis of the MindChamps concept: “Instead of rote learning, drilling, and memorizing content, why not help children to understand how to learn and more importantly develop the mindset of enthusiastic, life-long learners?”

In 1998, Chiem set up a research center in Sydney, with the vision to create an “educational movement” focused on the craft of learning. There, he gathered a team of experts in the domains of education, psychology, neuroscience and theatre – including award-winning neuroscientist and Fellow of the Royal Society Emeritus Professor Allan Snyder –  to develop the 3-Mind model of education: The Champion Mind, which instils perseverance and excellence; the Learning Mind, which promotes academic excellence by providing learners with strategies for ‘learning how to learn’; and the Creative Mind, which inspires the connection of multiple perspectives to solve problems and generate new ideas. 

With this concept, Chiem says students would find it less challenging to learn new concepts, because “the foundational mindset has already been set for overcoming challenges with curiosity and creativity”.

“Hence, their interest and confidence in learning increases, which in turn, helps them pick up new knowledge and skills in various other fields.”

It was a concept that immediately resonated with parents in Singapore – which Chiem describes as “one of the world’s most rigorous education environments” – when the first MindChamps Preschool Centre was launched in 2008 to a waitlist of three months.

(Related: A Champion for Good)



Today, MindChamps is a household brand in Singapore, with a total of 39 preschools to its name. Across the region, including in Australia, Myanmar, and Indonesia, MindChamps Holdings, the holding company of the listed entity, has 81 MindChamps preschools. Perhaps even more impressively, MindChamps, which operates as a franchising model, boasts over 70% of its franchisees as parents of children who attend its schools – a true testament to the strength of belief in the company’s vision and ethos.

Says Chiem: “Singapore is a country that does not lack preschools. What makes MindChamps stand out is our cutting-edge, scientifically-researched curriculum that allows us to always adapt to the rapidly changing environment and cater to the needs of children.”

He believes that with technological advances like Artificial Intelligence transforming our immediate environments, there would be a rapidly increasing need for children to develop critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. Naturally, MindChamps will continue to keep pace by continuing to tailor its offerings for students and parents.

It will soon roll out a food program, developed in conjunction with its in-house nutritionist and a leading Australian paediatric Mandy Sacher, to offer nutritious meals and snacks to all its students. Its latest venture MindSpace, an after-school care for primary school children, offers a tailored curriculum program where schoolteachers guide the students to help them gain a fuller and deeper understanding of the different school subjects.

Next year, it will launch MindChamps+, a subscription-based online platform that provides access to over 1,000 hours of streaming content. Subscribers will receive a box of physical games and activities every month that they can use in conjunction with the streaming content. The intention, explains Chiem, is to enable parents to better engage children and be more present in their learning journey.

Ultimately, MindChamps’ vision is to “create educational opportunities where they would not otherwise exist”.

Chiem explains: “Nobody can imagine the working world our children will enter in 20 years’ time. But as the AI revolution continues, we can be sure that this world will be every bit as exciting and challenging as it is unpredictable. As parents and business leaders, it is our responsibility to prepare our children for this future by emphasizing creativity, a love for learning and the Champion Mindset to thrive in the face of any challenge.”

“We firmly believe that MindChamps as a movement is larger than any individual and the story of MindChamps will continue to be told in 100 years’ time as we are here for good – and for good.”