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StudySapuri and Quipper: Giving every student an equal chance

The education systems of Japan, Indonesia, Mexico and the Philippines are very different from one other, but they all share one important feature. Their school systems are exam-driven and highly competitive, and a significant share of household income is spent on private tuition as a result.

All four countries are now seeing the emergence of a competitive, entrance exam-based education system long found in Japan. "The educational environment in the Philippines and Indonesia is similar to Japan in the 1980s and 1990s," says a former Country Manager for Indonesia. "Exam competition is overheating and there are many private schools and preparatory schools in urban areas, but the quality is very mixed. Even paying high monthly tuition is no guarantee of high-quality lessons. There are also many problems in public education, especially in rural areas where the development of educational infrastructure is delayed. Substantial disparities have arisen for the opportunity to learn."

At Recruit, our commitment is to help address this gap through the work we do in education. Recruit has always been attracted to solving problems caused by an information gap in society. For us, it is a natural progression from serving the needs of employers and workers in a dynamic job market, to serving the needs of students and teachers in a more challenging education environment.

Video and online learning can narrow the education gap

In Japan, Recruit Holdings made its first major venture into education in 2011 with StudySapuri ('study supplement'), the video learning platform that makes lessons from highly-rated teachers available online for a low monthly fee. Initially marketed directly to high-school students taking exams, StudySapuri began to receive surprising interest from client schools, which saw it as a way to give all students equal opportunities to learn regardless of their parents' income. As the service gained popularity in Japan, Recruit began to look at ways to offer StudySapuri in other countries where the education gap is more pronounced.

In 2015, Recruit Holdings acquired Quipper, a London-based ed-tech startup that was addressing similar issues but with a different approach. Quipper had established a presence in Indonesia and the Philippines, where it offered an online learning management platform called Quipper School that helps teachers overcome the difficulties of providing access to education in those countries. Crucially, the service was free for students, while schools only paid a fee when they accessed certain premium features.

By combining Quipper's model of empowering teachers to deliver online learning with StudySapuri's model of making video lessons from top instructors available to all, Recruit found a way to narrow the education gap in countries where that gap can have lifelong consequences for students. The StudySapuri name continues to be used in Japan, but the service has been rolled out as Quipper Video in other countries. By 2016, Quipper was already providing more than three million students and 200,000 teachers with access to free or very low-cost online education.

Empowering educators to deliver results locally

StudySapuri and Quipper rely on more than just the power of technology to bridge the education divide. In each country, there are complex factors and various stakeholders involved in the delivery of education. Rather than enter as a disruptive force, these services have worked with governments, local education authorities and schools to find the optimum way to leverage technology in each community.

For example, StudySapuri has partnered with thousands of schools in Japan to offer each student a personal learning management platform with video lectures on demand. This helps students stay on track with core academic subjects and revise important material before exams. It also addresses the technology deficit in Japanese schools, where traditional lectures are still the norm and use of technology in the classroom can be rare.

Contrast that with Indonesia, where uptake of technology in schools has been rapid and students are enthusiastic users of personal devices in classrooms. In 2015, the year of its launch, Quipper was the fourth most popular internet search term nationwide. The problem is a lack of institutional management or systemic thinking to ensure a standardised experience for all students. This led Quipper to focus on partnerships with forward-thinking provinces to ensure a more coordinated, top-down approach in each region. It has also turned its power users into ambassadors who help any teachers lacking in IT skills to manage the new tools.

It's a similar story in the Philippines, where Quipper has signed an agreement with the Department of Education to provide its learning management platform Quipper School to all public elementary, middle and high schools nationwide. "Blended learning is a huge game player in today's education landscape," says Paola Cortes, a teacher at Cornerstone Christian Academy. "Quipper is able to provide ways for students to learn at their own pace, even when outside the four walls of the school. It helps cut prep time in half and allows educators to focus more on hands-on assessments."

Finally, Mexico has an underdeveloped higher-education sector and urgently needs to produce more graduates to meet the needs of its growing economy. Mexican students who achieve a place at university can expect to receive an earnings premium that is among the highest in the world and almost double that of Japan, according to OECD figures. Quipper is helping to fulfil huge demand for supplementary learning in this market, with the service now used by more than 350,000 students via partnerships with over 4,000 high schools.

As these examples show, some countries are open to working with the private sector in the delivery of public education provided there's an obvious benefit for students and teachers. However, this is not the case in every country worldwide. Localization due to language and cultural difference is another major hurdle. "The Quipper platform is global, but the availability of local content, delivery and marketing are different from country to country," says Quipper CEO Fumihiro Yamaguchi. "So, we will create the best organization and method for that country."

*These story was developed based on the information collected on October 30th 2019.