We are only days away from learning who will be the inaugural winner of the first Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award. While we excitedly await the results, we caught up with finalist Beth Lui, the CEO of APEC Schools in the Philippines about expanding the opportunities for kids to receive a high quality education.

In 2013, just as she was about to take a sabbatical break from her 30-plus years in the IT industry, Beth Lui received a call asking her to join a new education venture, the Affordable Private Education Centre (APEC) Schools. She didn’t hesitate and started the very next day as CEO.

With a growing population and funding pressures, the public school system has come under increasing pressure in the Philippines. The chain of APEC Schools aims to make a difference by providing an affordable alternative for families with a limited monthly household income. Families who can afford to spend $50 per month can receive a better quality education for their children as well as relieve pressure on an otherwise overcrowded public school system.

“Education is an important Filipino family value and considered as the primary means to rise out of poverty, however, the lack of access to a quality education is a hindrance to finding decent employment. APEC aims to catch families who want an affordable alternative to the public school system but can’t see one,” Beth says.

As CEO, it is Beth’s role to make the business model work by making APEC Schools financially viable and sustainable long term. Since her appointment three years ago she has grown the venture from a small cohort of 70 students to more than 10,000 students across 27 schools.

“I use my position as a guiding light to not only remind the teams about our APEC mission, but just as importantly to deliver education outcomes for students whose parents set aside hard-earned money to put them through a private school.

“My hope is for APEC’s success to act as a benchmark in the industry and will force other education institutes to innovate, be competitive and deliver on quality,” says Beth.

Under Beth’s leadership, APEC has embarked on a marketing enrolment program to bring in more students by introducing afternoon and night time classes. Beth has worked hard to break down the myth among parents that learning outcome is better in the morning and therefore offers the later classes at a 30 per cent discount.

“This time slot provides educational access to families with an even lower socio-economic background, whilst at the same time, improving APEC’s financial bottom line,” says Beth.

Both the morning and afternoon shifts have the same access to learning materials and teacher’s training level, ensuring consistent quality and delivery of education. The shift was implemented in the 2016 School Year, and current enrolment has exceeded expectation.

Through Beth’s work she is able to make a positive difference in the lives of Filipino families in the lower social-economic conditions.

Beth is one of seven inaugural finalists for the Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award category; the winner will be announced on Wednesday 16 November in Melbourne.

Click here for more information on the Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award or to nominate brilliant business women for the 2017 Awards