[OPE-L] At the bottom of the educational pyramid in the global service economy

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sat Jun 23 2007 - 08:23:53 EDT

"WE ARE addressing the bottom of the pyramid," says Krishnan Ganesh, an
Indian entrepreneur, of his latest venture, TutorVista. It is a phrase that
cheekily calls to mind the mass poor in his native country-but TutorVista,
an online tuition service, is aimed squarely at customers in the developed

Mr Ganesh founded the company in late 2005 after spotting that personal
tutoring for American schoolchildren was unaffordable for most parents. His
solution is to use tutors in India to teach Western students over the
internet. The teachers all work from home, which means that the company is
better able to avoid India's high-wage employment hotspots. TutorVista
further hammers home its labour-cost advantage through its pricing model. It
offers unlimited tuition in a range of subjects for a subscription fee of
$100 per month in America (and 50 a month in Britain, where the service
launched earlier this year) rather than charging by the hour. [the sales
turnover of the business would therefore be over US$ 2.5 million a year -
JB]  Tutors are available around the clock; appointments can be made with
only 12 hours' notice.

It is too early to gauge the impact of the service on educational outcomes,
says Mr Ganesh, but take-up is brisk. TutorVista has 2,200 paying
subscribers at the moment (most of them in America) and hopes to boost that
figure to 10,000 by the end of the year. The company is expected to become
profitable in 2008. Even cheaper pricing packages are on the way. Launches
of the service are planned for Australia and Canada. Mr Ganesh is also
investigating the potential of offering tuition in English as a second
language to students in South Korea, where high rates of broadband
penetration make the market attractive. Get that right, and China looms as
an even bigger prize.

From: http://www.economist.com/people/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9358954

(India an estimated literacy rate of between 57 and 61% for those aged 15
and older (
and http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/india_statistics.html" ) "India,
with 4.6 million children out of school as of 2004, is one of the four
countries (the others being Nigeria, Pakistan and Ethiopia) with the largest
number of out-of-school children... the figure - derived from the UNESCO
Institute of Statistics data - is at variance with the results of an Indian
government-commissioned household survey done by the Social and Rural
Research Institute in 2005. This survey said that 13.5 million children were
out of school, a figure that was close to the results of non-government
organisation Pratham's national survey, which put the figure at 14 million."
( http://www.indiatogether.org/2006/nov/edu-ssaperf.htm ) "The [Indian
education]system is structured on the premise that almost one-third of
children entering primary school will drop out before they reach the upper
primary level, and another one-third before they reach high school... What's
worse is that even after five years of being in school, only 60% of children
are able to read, write and do basic calculations." (
http://infochangeindia.org/agenda8_17.jsp ) There are about 360 million
Indian children under the age of 15, of which about 118 million under the
age of five, suggesting that about one in 17 children aged 5-14 is not in
school. The primary school enrolment ratio is about 90%, net attendance
about 73% (females) or 80% (males) and the secondary school enrolment ratio
is 56% (males) and 40% (females)
http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/india_statistics.html )


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