It’s often said that the education system is broken or that it hasn’t changed much since the industrial revolution. The curriculum is outdated, and disconnected with realities, and still has a top-down approach, as opposed to the collaborative nature of our emerging society.
It may be too soon to dump the university program, or indeed to wait for it to change, but we can surely complement that with something better tuned with our lives. This is what the founders of WeTeachMe, a peer-to-peer education network, seek to do in probably the most exciting sector in today’s society.
WeTeachMe is the brainchild of a diverse fivesome – Kym Huynh, Demi Markogiannaki, Martin Kemka, Rowan McSweeney and Cheng Zhu, two of whom are immigrants. Hyunh is a serial entrepreneur, Markogiannai, a Greek, is crazy about the arts; Kemka has an insatiable curiosity about the world; McSweeney, of Irish heritage, is the marketer with a love for Turkish delights; and Cheng is the group’s code Ninja.
Together, they want to change the world we learn, and share knowledge — kind of like the Spice Girls but with better shoes.
Knowledge sharing is key
The startup is built on an interesting premise: We possess more knowledge, and other skills, than we realise and, therefore, have the responsibility of passing on this knowledge to our peers and future generations.
On WeTeachMe’s learning platform, anybody can be a teacher or a learner, the underlying wisdom being everybody needs to learn something at some point and everybody has some knowledge that he can share with others. With embedded social sharing and publishing capabilities, the platform lets everybody take advantage of the network.
“WeTeachMe addresses a need that is universally experienced among high school and university students; people looking for language and class tutors, students looking to make money tutoring others,” says Huynh.
Education is probably the most exciting sector today, and one, everybody agrees, needs change. And fast. We have already seen several new forays leveraging the reach of the Internet. eHow, a simple how-to site, is the oldest, having been founded in 1999. The more exciting for broader education might be The Khan Academy, started by Salman Khan, a Bangladeshi immigrant with degrees from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Harvard Business School who eventually abandoned his Wall Street job to focus on his nonprofit initiative.
WeTeachMe probably falls in between the two. It’s more ambitious than to rest on delivering how-to guidance, and even though it might spire to be more like The Khan Academy in some respects, it is a for-profit venture that will likely face distinct, and new, challenges.
The startup plans to adopt the so-called freemium model used by LinkedIn and the likes in which about 10% of the users pay for the services but 90% use it for free but add to the vital ecosystem. WeTeachMe, which is focusing on five countries, including the U.K., U.S., and Australia, is initially targeting high school and university students, planning on tieups with providers of alternative education, and seeks to offer courses in languages and food. Simultaneously, it will create a support network that encourages people to teach others, probably through workshops.