Is remote tutoring technology the solution to Europe’s continuing teacher shortage?

One of the big challenges facing education across Europe is the lack of teachers.

According to the latest EU data, 35 of the bloc’s 43 education systems reported teacher shortages last year.

This school year in France, for example, students have returned after the summer vacation to a system of 4,000 unfilled positions.

In the UK, a survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) found that 95% of school leaders in the public sector had difficulty recruiting teachers, with 43% saying the difficulty was ‘serious’ .

The ASCL said the difficulty in recruiting and retaining teachers is the result of salary levels and increasing workloads. Shortages result in larger classes and teachers recruited to teach subjects in which they are not specialists.

It’s this problem that Vienna-based edtech company GoStudent hopes to try to solve with its remote tutoring platform.

“We use technology to connect children around the world with teachers who also come from around the world,” said Felix Ohswald, co-founder and CEO.

“By doing it virtually, you basically get rid of borders and you get rid of geographic dependency.”

Speaking to Euronews Next at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Ohswald explained that the platform serves some 5 million students operating on three main pillars: a one-on-one tutoring platform, a assignment of content and assignments for schools, and an ‘unmanaged marketplace’ where tutors and students can negotiate terms with each other.

“As for individual tutoring, most of our teachers do it in parallel. So these are people who are either super smart university students, and have a passion for science, chemistry or history, for example, and want to earn extra income, but want convenience. They just want to focus on teaching the kids.”

He says tutors also love the community aspect, where they can connect and learn from each other.

The COVID effect

The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a period of astonishing growth for some tech companies, with people around the world being forced to restructure their lifestyles amid lockdowns, travel restrictions and closures of businesses, schools and businesses. other institutions.

GoStudent was one of them.

“We saw two effects during and after the lockdown period,” Ohswald said.

The first was a “side effect”, where children who faced learning gaps after schools closed had to catch up academically.

According to a McKinsey report published in April this year, schools were fully or partially closed in Europe for an average of 30 weeks, leaving pupils around four months behind schedule. The learning gap was much larger for students from other parts of the world.

“Families want to make up for that,” Ohswald explained. “Teachers and schools want to catch up.”

In addition, the suspension of normal daily life has led to a “huge acceleration towards digitization”, he said.

This allowed GoStudent to become the first European edtech company to reach a valuation of 1 billion dollars (1 billion euros).

But that massive growth has since slowed and — blaming the problem on the broader economic downturn — GoStudent reset its growth targets this summer, laying off a tenth of its workforce, or about 200 people.

However, it has seen collaborations flourish with other companies, including the Berlin electronic bank N26, which has also experienced significant growth in recent years.

N26 told Euronews Next that the partnership “aims to support parents and children for a more financially organized world”, with N26 customers benefiting from free and discounted finance lessons that differ according to age and background. customer needs.

Lessons in the Metaverse

Ohswald believes, however, that educational space is “at that inflection point where you can combine the personal element with accessibility” – and it is this accessibility that serves students so effectively.

Because the platform can break down geographical barriers, he told Euronews Next, students from poorer or more remote areas can access education, as long as they have internet access.

“I think 10 years from now, with the push of a button, any child in the world will be able to access an amazing teacher,” he said.

But for Ohswald, the ultimate future of education lies in the metaverse, where students can “enter a different world at the push of a button.”

“I firmly believe that the future of the classroom will be virtual. A hybrid concept. I think the beauty of virtual reality is that you can teleport kids into whatever kind of environment they want to be in, whether it’s another planet, another country, or a restaurant, and they can still have the social aspect,” he said.

It always comes with some uncertainty, he warns.

“The question is, how do you leverage this technology to create a better educational experience? For kids. And especially when you come back to the first question you ask me, like, what is actually the problem you’re trying to solve? Shortage of teachers. And solving that is what you can do with virtual reality while creating a social environment.