The Irreplaceable Benefits

Taking a good look at edtech in the private tutoring market.

GUEST COLUMN | by Isaiah Zhao

CREDIT Wyzant.jpgIn recent years, the advent of technology has drastically evolved the education system and brought about much convenience. Some classes could be conducted online and textbooks could be completely replaced by gadgets and smart devices. Mainstream classrooms and teachers are not the only ones affected as even the private tutoring services market has been impacted.

Video technology has allowed the best tutors to tutor students anywhere around the world. Hence, there is no longer a lack of quality teachers to teach potential students. Furthermore, the increasing importance placed on test scores to get into college has resulted in an upward pressure on test scores and prep schools. Due to these reasons, the global market is valued at US$100 billion by 2018 and is projected to grow at 7 per cent CAGR. Closer to home, the U.S. market has grown from US$500 million in 2001 to around US$11 billion now, a 20x increase in 15 years.

How EdTech is Changing This Industry

Edtech has affected this industry in many ways. Inspiration can be taken from South Korea, where it accounts for 15 percent of the private tutoring industry. Much can be argued and debated about the national education system in which private education costs account for about 12 percent of total household expenditure but without a doubt their hagwon is the most advanced in the world, with the quickest adoption of edtech. The adoption of video technology has risen many of these super tutors to almost celebrity stature as they teach millions of students every year. This is supported by their successful strategies that has allowed their students to score superior results, which adds credibility to their status as super-tutors.

As technology advances, these online lessons will only become more life-like and both tutors and students alike benefit from the convenience.

While the South Korean market may seem like a dystopian scene from a horror movie, the truth is that it may become the reality locally in a few more years. The U.S. market has been burgeoning in the past years as tutoring companies feed on parent’s fears about their children’s’ inability to keep up. The fastest growing group of customers are high school students who are driven by insane competition for college admissions. A great tutor can make a crucial difference in a child’s life, not only for building scholastic skills required for entrance examinations but also in fostering confidence and building other soft skills.

Why One-to-One Tutoring is the Best

Yet for all the hype about how technology can revolutionize the way we learn and the allure of having classes online, experts are saying that one-to-one tuition is better. Bespoke tuition services are proven to yield better results compared to having mass lessons. Personalized lessons allow for tutors to address the idiosyncrasies of a student and tailoring the lesson to the child’s learning ability, commitment level and expectations. For example, there are many A-students who want A-pluses which would not be able to learn anything from a typical classroom setting catered to normal students.

How EdTech Companies Should Approach This Market

Many U.S. companies have already noted this trend and are already vying for a piece of this growing pie. With reference to other developed countries in Asia such as Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, the industry only grows faster as times goes. In tutor-matching services, existing players such as WyzAnt (www.wyzant.com) and Tutorz.com (www.tutorz.com) already controls a lion’s share of the pie. The value add that these new companies can potentially bring is through using technology to teach lessons online. The danger with such an approach is the tutors may be tempted to teach more students at once and therefore unable to devote their attention to the specific needs of the children.

Moving ahead, the tutor-matching services are still likely to stay given that individual tutors are still more effective in giving personalized lessons. The advancement of technology allows for these existing companies to innovate and introduce different business models to cater to the needs of the users. For example, Yodaa (www.yodaa.co) a tutor-matching company in Singapore has a very different business model from other tutor-matching services and is proving to be popular among users.

As Effective as Real-Life Interaction

For new technological companies to gain a piece of the private tutoring pie, these companies have an uphill task ahead of them as they must make online teaching through channels like skype as effective as real-life interaction. The current trends look positive as these companies attempt to develop more effective communication channels such as Revolution Prep where they have a two-way webcam with a shared whiteboard. As technology advances, these online lessons will only become more life-like and both tutors and students alike benefit from the convenience.

The tale from South Korea not only serves as a warning for placing too much emphasis on grades and results, but also the ineffectiveness of having extra tutoring lessons in a classroom setting. After all, students are already enrolled automatically in classroom lessons in schools and it is precisely because of its ineffectiveness such that a private tutor is required. As much as technology allows for greater connectivity and productivity, some things will never change—one of which is the irreplaceable benefits of having a personalized tutor.

Isaiah Zhao is a first-year student at Singapore Management University and currently pursuing degrees in both Law (L.L.B) and Business Administration (B.B.M). He aspires to work in the financial sector and is currently a member of SMU Student Management Investment Fund (SMIF) to hone his skills as an analyst. Contact him through yodaa.co

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