He could be the poster boy for life long learning as Mr Kannappan Chettiar spends his free time nose deep in books, The 40 years old father of four children is in the midst of completing a Masters in educational management at the National Institute of Education.

He already has threedegrees under his belt a bachelor’s degree in business, another in law and a masters in law. And he thinks he still does not have enough.He reasoned : if I don't know something I have to find out And what better way to do it than to get paper qualification for it? Besides, as the managing director of the Stansfield group pte ltd , which operates three schools registered with the Ministry of Education, and a hostel he hopes to lead By example and show that when age is no hindrance. “In fact, we support late learners in our courses. I believe that everybody should have a fair opportunity in life” Personal experience Ironically, for someone with so many degrees, Mr Chettiar said he did not enjoy studying when he was young. Calling himself “a non- conformist”, he found the educational system in Singapore too stifling. Indeed, it was his dissatisfaction with the system here that caused him to make his first venture into the education business.After he returned from the United States in 1987 with a business degree,he had wanted to go into banking, but was unable to find a job. To better his chances, he took up an external degree in law. Unhappy with the quality ofthe course, he decided that once he completed it,he would set up his own law school.

Starting out In 1990, with some financial help from his father, he acquired the Singapore Institute of Commerce with a group of investors, most of whom were his father’ friends.Three years later, he left to start the Stansfield School of Business.Few thought that the school would take off. Themarket for external university degrees was not hot then, and as he could not afford the rental in a central location, Mr Chettiar had to settle for a more obscure location in Serangoon Central.But determined to defy the odds, he went personally to the United Kingdom to recruit teachers and to seal what has turned out to be a highly successful external degree programme with the University of London. Enrolment for the e could be the diploma and degree programmes has grown with each passing year, and there are now about 2,500 students in these programines, including students from countries like Indonesia, China and Vietnam.

In 1997, to meet the demand for English courses among foreign students, Mr Chettiar built his second school , the St James English School, in Colombo Court. Recently, he also set up a private hostel for these students, the Winfield Hall of Residence at the former Mount Vernon Secondary School. He also bought back the Singapore Institute of Commerce.Come August, he will cut the ribbon at his new Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Shenton House. Among other things, it will offer postgraduate courses in entrepreneurship.Learning to take risksMr Chettiar, who is a member of the Young Entrepreneurs Organisation, believes that entrepreneurship can be taught.

“Everyone is born a risk-taker, but they have been conditioned by society to avoid risks. Entrepreneurs are people who have re-discovered their ability to take risks. We will offer courses about individual self-discovery, about how people can harness their own potential through undertaking difficult and challenging projects.”Not one to rest on his “laurels, Mr Chettiar is setting his sights further ashore.

“We hope to bring our external programmes with the University of London to other countries in the region, and we are planning to set up our fifth campus, a virtual class room On our Www.teaching-planet.com website for overseas students who cannot come to Singapore for studies.”

He may be behind a successful chain of private schools, but Mr Kannappan Chettiar himself has never stopped learning and amassing university degrees.