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China, Saudi Arabia Up Next as Sylvan Learning Expands Overseas


Sylvan Learning is taking its tutoring programs to China, where the franchise has plans to develop 200 locations over the next 10 years.

Bo Jiang is the franchisee behind Sylvan China and will bring the brand’s personal education programs to an East Asian nation that he believes will benefit from the additional skills—including collaboration, communication and problem-solving soft skills—that are not currently taught through China’s academic curriculum.

“Sylvan Learning will be a meaningful addition to China’s supplemental and enrichment education climate,” said Jiang. “These programs will not only help students excel academically, but they are the perfect solution to prepare students who plan to study abroad.”

China sends the largest number of international students to the U.S. through study abroad programs, with Chinese students accounting for 31.5 percent of all international enrollments in the United States. Additionally, two in five international students enrolled in American high schools came from China, and these numbers are increasing.

Jiang also noted the adaptive nature of Sylvan’s programs and its premium college prep classes as other reason he chose the Hunt Valley, Maryland-based franchise.

Jiang is the president and founder of the Shanghai Film Art Academy, and has an MBA from Tsinghua University, along with an art management doctorate. He also has a background in Chinese education, and is a member of the China Expert Committee and the Deputy Secretary General of the China Art Vocational Education Association.

John McAuliffe, Sylvan’s CEO, called the partnership with Sylvan China “a terrific next step in our international development initiative” and noted recent openings in Vietnam and the Middle East. And in January, the brand announced a franchise development deal with Haitham Ahmed to spearhead growth in Saudi Arabia.

The assistant professor and chairman in the Mining Engineering Department at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Ahmed got his master’s and doctorate in North America. While studying at The University of British Columbia in 2014, the Vancouver school teachers union went on strike, and Ahmed enrolled his 7-year-old son in Sylvan as a temporary replacement. When the strike ended, Ahmed kept his son in the Sylvan program for an entire year before moving back to Saudi Arabia.

“When we got back to Saudi Arabia and my son had interviews for school, they thought that he was a bright kid. I think that Sylvan had helped him to improve his skills in math and English, which came across in his confidence, as well,” Ahmed said. “Since I'm in education and I believe in education, I think that Sylvan's programs help children at a younger age improve with their schoolwork, which has a lasting effect especially as they get older.”

Ahmed and his wife, Ghadeer Alwai, are set to open their first Sylvan location this month in Jeddah; their goal is to open 10 to 12 centers in the next 10 years as they expand across Saudi Arabia.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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