There was an interesting article in The Economist recently stating that everyone living in places like Asia are going to university. In the grand scheme of things, they pretty much are.
In a way, education, especially across many parts of Asia is all about improving circumstance. The number one priority is always education in most Asian countries and quite often the second for many is moving from the country they're in.
"If you talk to young Malaysians, many want to leave Kuala Lumpur," says Mark Stanley, Founder of education startup Literatu. "This is because most of the businesses are dominated by Chinese born businessmen and their psyche is very much around command and control, a stark difference from collaborative approach to work that Malaysians have in their higher education system".
These kinds of timing clashes are beginning to drive a new demand from students in the way that they are educated. Students after all are the customers; and these days, they have full access to and understanding of the way the world really works, which is beginning to cause the regimented education practices across their countries almost redundant.
"In Asia, our experience tells us that every parent wants to track what their child is doing," says Stanley. "So much money is spent on education, I think that parents are beginning to ask, what am I getting for it?"
It's these sorts of questions that begin to open up the playing field for solutions like Literatu to enter the market.
"I have a lot of empathy with the way classes run for teachers," says Stanley. "You've got 30 kids in a class to one, which means every one of those kids is probably different - and not only in their learning styles but also in terms of distraction. You have to be able to know what's going on in new ways."
Stanley believes the only way to do that is to have data visibility that shows everyone where each student is tracking individually, and the only way to do that is with technology. This is one of the core features of Literatu.
"Once you get that data stream happening, you don't have to answer every question as a teacher. What you have to be able do, is direct students for self directed learning where they can say, I can take this problem to my tutor and backfill there. You have to know what the problem is. It's kind of a catch-22. If you can't catch the data about where your problem is, you can't remediate that either in class and in tutor. For example, if my son goes to a tutor, the first thing tutor would say is, "what are you having troubles with?" and the first answer is: "i'm not sure. I'm just getting 60%" So you've got to have a data backbone in their somewhere. I think the two can work together beautifully if we can share information," Stanely says.
The technology is being embraced by the Asian market at a much higher rate than in Western countries, perhaps because of the cultural differences they have to western civilisation when it comes to the importance of education.
In Australia, teachers are beginning to use technology for instruction. But the piece that they're missing is that when they move instruction to a computer or tablet, you have to move informative assessment to the same medium as well. That's the disconnect.
"Teachers are flat out preparing lessons. They used to walk in and tell kids what they know, they now have to walk in with youtube videos, new stimulus, new materials, new content. But that's only half the equation, they actually have to leave the class knowing that that content was consumed in the right way and that's the informative assessment piece," says Stanley.
"Teachers are stressed out changing content and finding content, but they should be more relaxed about that and have a stronger emphasis on measuring the learning as opposed to focusing on how to deliver it."
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