Babilou Family, founded in 2003, is a global pioneer in preschool and early childhood education. With over 3,000 Babilou Family centres, children’s clubs, schools, and 12,000 dedicated experts in 12 countries, the group welcomes approximately 60,000 families to its facilities each year and is committed to providing their children with the best education possible. Lama Chivi, CEO of Babilou Family, Middle East and India, speaks to Education UAE about the organisation’s background, philosophy, expansion, how it retains its pre-eminent position in the industry, and how it tackled the Covid-19 pandemic.
Education UAE: Can you talk a little about Babilou, its background and its philosophy?
Lama: Babilou Family was founded in France in 2003 by entrepreneurial brothers Rodolphe and Edouard Carle to bridge the gap in childcare solutions. The group set out to support the wellbeing of children and the work-life balance of families at a time of rising birth rates and women in the workforce. And our duty is to bring quality education to the next generation.
EDUAE: Can you tell us about Babilou’s expansion and the benefits for parents, children and local communities?
Lama: Since 2009, Babilou Family in the UAE has been rapidly growing into the leading childcare provider in the country; we will offer 2,800 seats across 23 nurseries by the end of 2021.
Babilou Family in the UAE operates the Blossom Nurseries, which offer high-quality education to every child through its unique modern British EYFS curriculum.
And with the recent acquisition of the Bright Kids Nurseries, counting six centres across Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, we will diversify our portfolio with a strong and complementary nursery brand to meet the needs of more families with different expectations.
For example, Emiratis and expatriates widely recognised and appreciated the Bright Kids Nursery for its innovative curriculum. This incorporates the Early Years Foundation Stage approach in Montessori settings, which includes STEAM subjects as part of the core learning outcomes to create the optimal 21st-century learning environment.
As each family has certain expectations for their child’s development, Blossom Nursery and Bright Kids Nursery will provide them with all the requirements needed. Throughout the whole group, no matter the country, nursery name or curriculum, we will always aim to assist the development of children for the future and create a positive impact in the early lives of children.
EDUAE: How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected Babilou, and how has it responded?
Lama: Covid-19 hit our industry real hard. Our nurseries were closed for 10 months, but with the great support of the group and our key retail developers, we were able to protect our business and look after our employees throughout.
We also worked efficiently to come up with solutions to support our families and children. We immediately launched our Blossom e-learning unit as well, ‘Inspire Me at Home’.
‘Inspire Me at Home’ was and will remain the perfect answer to families who are looking to recreate a nursery experience in their own home with the support of qualified and experienced EYFS Experts.
The Babilou/Blossom App provides families with regular news feeds, private messaging service, an events calendar, personalised photo albums, announcements and so on
EDUAE: The nursery segment is expanding and becoming increasingly competitive – how do you stay ahead of the curve to make Babilou the nursery of choice for parents?
Lama: Our number one priority will always be to ensure exceptional high-quality childcare services to families across the globe, and when you keep the child at the heart of every decision you make as a teacher, as a manager, as an HR representative, as an operations director and so on… you know you are making the right decisions for the child and the family, and your quality will stand out.
At a group level, we also have a global network and advanced research with proven best practices we tap into. This year, for example, we did an amazing collaboration called ‘Project Jumelage’. This took place between our ‘Blossom Palm Jumeirah’ and ‘Paris Saint-Denis’ nursery in France, during which the two nurseries exchanged lessons, sent cultural surprise boxes and shared a global link between managers, teachers and children. This is the kind of advanced thinking and synergies you can expect from any Babilou Family members globally. Our constant innovation guarantees a high-quality experience and continuous improvement.
Educational neuroscience shows us that a child’s brain develops by 35% – 85% between birth and the age of five
EDUAE: What activities do children do regularly, and which activities does Babilou provide that give it a point-of-difference?
Lama: Educational neuroscience shows us that a child’s brain develops by 35% – 85% between birth and the age of five, depending on the ongoing relationships with their environment and the people around them.
Our Early Year’s programme includes educational content planned in great detail to support a child’s mental, social and educational stability. Every activity is put in place to support a specific area of child development and allow the child to thrive in their overall development and learning.
Led by our professional educators, every activity supports previous learning and allows the child to build age-appropriate skills.
EDUAE: Tell us about EYFS learning objectives, the kind of activities demanded, and specific activities to Babilou?
Lama: Blossom Nurseries follow the British Early Years Foundation Stages (EYFS), integrated with the best practices from other educational philosophies, such as the Reggio Emilia approach.
The EYFS framework focuses on the holistic development of a child and primarily on their physical, personal, social and emotional, language and communication development.
When the age-appropriate objectives on these development areas have been achieved, the focus on literacy, maths, understanding the world, and expressive art and design increases. The New EYFS Framework emphasises, even more, the holistic development of a child and how educators need to reflect on the different rates at which children are developing and adjust their practice appropriately. This requires observing the children’s interests and skills and planning playful activities for the children to learn literacy, maths and science skills on their respective age-appropriate skill levels.
With our blended curriculum, we take it even further. At Blossom, we are continually developing our pedagogical approach in response to the realities of the modern-day world. Our modern approach to the Early Years Foundation Stage creates opportunities for teachers to foster open-ended and child-led activities, which harness the child’s intrinsic curiosities.
3,000 BABILOU FAMILY CENTRES, CHILDREN’S CLUBS, SCHOOLS
12,000 DEDICATED EXPERTS
60,000 FAMILIES TO ITS FACILITIES
We believe children are inherently connected to nature, and at Blossom, it is our pedagogical imperative to nurture this connection. That is why we are using an increasing number of natural resources and creating activities based on real-life events and resources that children are familiar with and able to discover and make connections with.
Furthermore, in our learning experiences, we focus on activities that encourage inquiry, exploration, and discovery, allowing children to focus on critical thinking, problem-solving and inquiring about the world. We believe scientific curiosity develops at a very young age and lays the foundation for lifelong learners.
EDUAE: How do you keep parents informed of their child’s progress?
Lama: Our family-friendly innovative Babilou/Blossom App provides families with regular news feeds, private messaging service, an events calendar, personalised photo albums, announcements and so on. It allows parents to follow the day-to-day progress of their children.
On a daily basis, pre-Covid-19, when parents were allowed into the nursery, it was essential for our teachers to have face-to-face contact time with parents during drop-off and pick-up to share small stories about their child during the day. Such updates can be about having their first step, for example, or feeling confident with a new friend
Our teachers also record a child’s progress throughout the term, and parents are handed report cards twice a year.
‘Inspire Me at Home’ was and will remain the perfect answer to families who are looking to recreate a nursery experience in their own home
EDUAE: What type of meals and snacks do you provide?
Lama: The health and wellbeing of the children in our care is our number one priority. The importance of a healthy diet is emphasised in all our centres. Our food menus are designed by qualified dieticians who evaluate and control the quality of the meals. They are prepared by fully trained chefs using fresh, seasonal products and organic meals are served whenever possible.
EDUAE: And what about the health and safety of the children in your care?
Lama: Young children need to be able to explore their environment freely and in total security. Our centres have to adhere to the strictest health and safety rules, from the design of the space to the quality of the air inside.
EDUAE: Finally, what are the qualifications of the staff, and how do you attract and retain the best people?
Lama: At Babilou Family, we deeply understand the role of our educators and team, and nothing would be possible without them. We offer our employees attractive benefits and ensure each voice is heard. We implement a flat hierarchy with an all doors open policy. Last summer, during the Covid-19 lockdown, we ensured all our staff received care boxes every month, which provided them with food, and other things to relieve them during difficult times.
Our staff is highly experienced in Early Years and come from an educational background of Early Years teachings. They are attested and approved by the KHDA and go through an HR matrix to ensure that they are the best of the best.
CEO of Babilou Family, Middle East and India