Since Life on Earth was first broadcasted, I’ve loved David Attenborough’s work – a fascinating and beautifully produced narrative of natural history. No doubt Attenborough in part also inspired me to study the life sciences.
I enjoyed his latest book too:A Life on Our Planet. He puts forward his witness statement and a vision for the future: how to rewild the world. It’s a compelling account of the impact of humans on our planet and what we need to do to create a sustainable future.
As a biologist I was shocked to learn this:
There are currently about 9,000,000 different species inhabiting our planet, one of which is of course Homo sapiens.
Today our farmland covers 5 billion hectares: more than half of the habitable land on the planet.
Nearly 80% of that land, 4 billion hectares, equivalent to the whole of North and South America is used for meat and dairy production.
Beef represents only 2% of the calories we consume but we dedicate 60% of our farmland to raising it!
Our population continues to grow and is forecasted to peak at between 9-11 billion people, up from almost 8 billion today.
As we get richer, we continue to eat more meat. The average meat consumption in the USA today is 120kg per person annually. In Europe it’s 60-80kg. In Kenya, 16kg and in India it’s 4kg (with cultural factors encouraging vegetarianism there too).
Billions of additional people eating more meat each year is unlikely to be a sustainable path towards a biodiverse future.
Are we eating the right things in the right proportions?
Homo sapiens means ‘wise man’. What would a wise human do in this situation?
I was excited to read about this $270M Series D round for Canadian-based ubiquitous tutoring solutionPaper – where efficacy meets equity.
A thousand blossoms blooming
Bloom’s seminal work on the 2 Sigma Problem, carried out in the early 1980’s is a classic must-read for edtech ventures today. The outcomes of the research are startling, showing that an average student under tutoring performs about two standard deviations above the average performance of a conventional class.
Or put another way, an average student following a tutoring program outperforms 98% of students in a conventional classroom!
Since then, the private tutoring market has grown significantly, although new regulations in China last year driven by concerns around equity and student well-being did have a significant negative impact on that market.
Efficacy AND equity
The good thing about the private tutoring market is its efficacy – it raises learner outcomes. The disadvantage however is that the rich tend to benefit disproportionately, because they can afford it. The resulting inequity can’t be a good design principle for the provision of education.
Since Bloom, the search has been on to provide solutions that yield similar efficacy at scale. Paper is potentially such a solution. For a fixed price, Paper sells licenses to schools and districts to make its online tutoring support available to every student, around the clock, with no cap on usage. Students can connect with a trained tutor for homework help, writing feedback and study support across all K-12 subject areas. Teachers at schools can access these sessions, see which students need support, and adjust their instruction accordingly.
I’m enthusiastic about this approach because it enables both efficacy and equity in education. The risk of inequity isn’t completed removed of course because richer schools might be more likely to adopt the solution than poorer. Yet with most K-12 education systems funded publicly, that risk could be mitigated by policy. A second risk could be increased competition between schools and tutoring companies for teachers. Yet the deployment of university students and new/re-entrants into the profession could also work to increase the overall talent pool of teachers available.
Looking forward >>
I’m very interested to see how Paper will grow in the coming years and believe there could be international potential for this type of solution.
I’ll be visiting London and BETT at the end of March (probably 22nd -24th). As for so many of us this will be my first trade fair since the pandemic and I’m really looking forward to joining in real life again (never expected to be this enthusiastic about a trade fair, not even BETT 😊). It does feel like we are now emerging from the restrictions of the last couple of years and I’m excited to get out there again.
I’m especially interested to meet people from companies with strong market positions, from scale-ups and from investors in the education, edtech, science and healthtech spaces during my trip to London.
As of March I have some availability for advisory and interim work and have extensive skills and experience in leadership/leading change, digital/transformation and commercial/strategy work. I have deep knowledge and networks across the European education sector.
I’m also open to become a Non-Executive Director of such an organisation, as long as this doesn’t conflict with existing work. Very flexible in terms of location.
Venture capital funding tripled over the previous year, reaching some $2.5B.
Average deal size also tripled to $8.4M, indicating increasing maturity of the sector.
Corporate Learning attracted the most funding ($926M), followed by K-12 ($659M) and Life-long/Consumer Learning ($652M), with Higher Education ($289M) and Pre-K ($136M) trailing. One possible reason being that B2C and B2B segments are sometimes seen as easier to sell into than B2G.
Six European markets raised more than $100M, up from just one market previous year.
There were six deals in excess of $80M in 2021, up from one in the previous year
The biggest round in Europe last year was in K-12 at Vienna-based tutoring company GoStudent which is currently driving a very rapid international expansion.
(Online) tutoring has long been well represented amongst global edtech unicorns, with the heavy Chinese contingent prospering until the local market crash last year due to regulatory reforms. However, until recently online tutoring had not really taken off at scale in Europe, arguably because the European landscape is fragmented and both the quality of state-provided education and the cultural preference for equity, high.
Market for supplementary education likely to grow
I believe it’s likely that the global market for supplementary education (leaving China aside for now) will continue to grow strongly in the coming years, because:
a) It works
+ Positive impact on learner outcomes* + Potential to support teacher retention by reducing after-hours work for existing teachers hence making the profession more attractive + Potential to enable recruitment as teachers of university students, former teachers and other professionals, by first (re)-igniting their interest as a tutor,
b) There is growing demand for it:
+ More children attend schools than ever before, expanding the addressable market + There is increasing competition for top universities and jobs + Lower fertility rates boost spending per child + Growth in the number of families where both parents work, reducing the time available to help children with homework.
Beware pernicious effects
However, there are some potential pernicious effects should be mitigated: – Rising inequality, since the rich can better afford it than the poor – Unreasonable pressure on students – Competition with schools for teachers, potentially undermining public education systems.
In some European countries including the UK and The Netherlands, additional public funding was made available for supplementary education during the pandemic. I am interested to learn what impact these interventions have made and whether the combination of core and supplementary educational provision in the future might be a path to raising average learner outcomes and supporting disadvantaged students?
I’m interested to learn any insights you might have on this subject. Feel free to drop me a line.
*The outcomes of the research are startling: an average student under tutoring performs about two standard deviations above the average performance of a conventional class. Or put another way, an average student following a tutoring program outperforms 98% of students in a conventional classroom! https://lnkd.in/gDYHazw