It made me sigh…

• September 3, 2013

This one from The Economist caught my eye. Provocative, yes…and I sighed with relief. The headline read: “Catching on at last – new technology is poised to disrupt America’s schools, and then the world’s”

Why the sigh? The story’s closing paragraph:

As the Council on Foreign Relations reported recently, America continues to slip down the international rankings in education, falling during the past three decades from first to tenth in the educational level of those leaving high school, and from third to 13th for college students. Education technology could reverse this trend—if it is not jinxed by politics, bureaucracy and outdated institutional structures. Countries where it is not now have the chance to race ahead.

Which part got me? Not the first sentence. That one I’m all too familiar with. It’s why we started ClickN KIDS. Once you get past the lump in your throat from those stats the writer reveals the harsh reality – “if it’s not jinxed by politics, bureaucracy and outdated institutional structures.” That one.

It was a sigh of relief! It’s what we did in our second year in business. The big lesson learned in our first year (as we rushed into schools with an innovation that we knew could make the majority of children literate) was the very warning of The Economist’s cautious journalist. We adjusted our plan and focused on parents at that time and haven’t looked back.

Ouch…that hurt. But it’s a lot safer (business wise) and more fun to work with parents and kids at home where they’re free to flourish, plus mastering things at home that correlate to their State’s standards puts them in a position to ace the exams at school. That’s our experience, thousands of times over.

Back to The Economist story…The Economist

If you read the story, keep in mind that The Economist is part owned by the school giant, Pearson. Balanced reporting? They try. Having said that, would you be surprised if I told you that the story leans toward optimism for getting edtech into schools? Don’t get me wrong – at ClickN KIDS we are hopeful too, but know it’s a long road to hoe. In the meantime, children can be helped faster using tools that the parents administer at home and that are fun for their children. It’s a great way for families to connect.

The Economist does strike a balance by telling its readers about the strategy of Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Andreessen Horowitz, who takes the problem so seriously that he avoids any edtech investment in which a school or school district would be the main buyer.

Change is coming in schools, slowly as the author concedes:

Formidable barriers still exist to getting education technology into America’s schools. These range from the prosaic to the ideological. America’s 13,000+ school districts still upgrade their texts and equipment on slow, unsynchronized cycles and follow a bewildering range of procurement processes. Glenn Anderson, a former Washington state legislator and consultant on education policy, emphasizes that education is a highly regulated public utility in which rules can govern everything, from what goes into textbooks to how many children there are in a class. And local politicians can change rules or policy unpredictably.

It’s not that ideas that create change are difficult to adopt, they just help us to rethink our basic assumptions about everything, while delivering solutions that are easy to implement. While politicians and tax dollars work for what could be better in schools we’re staying on course to empower our children with tools that let them master the basics, today, at home and at school.


Category: Investor