I know what those Angels at the clandestine meeting Michael Arrington wrote about in his traffic driving post were talking about. They were talking about education. Mark Zuckerberg's recent gift to Newark's education mission, the recently released Waiting For Superman, even the fact that Tony Danza decided to film his exploits as a teacher in a new series on A&E, tell you the next innovation wave is coming and it's headed for the shores of the U.S. education market.
It seems there's nothing like an economic crisis to find the cracks in the foundation. The spotlight has uncovered some very uncomfortable statistics:
• Experts at ACT say only 23% of students have the skills to do well in college
• Even after six years, only 54% of college students even get a degree
• Between 1982 and 2007, tuition and fees rose 439% compared with just 147% for median family income
• One in five students who graduated in the 1992-93 school year with over $15,000 in debt defaulted on his loan within 10 years of graduation
Concerning stuff. So with some of my free time this summer I began researching the very crowded education field which is played on generally by two teams: the For Profits (e.g., University of Phoenix) and the Not For Profits (e.g., UC Berkeley). The education market as a whole is generally broken down into four segments: early childcare/pre-school, K-12, post-secondary and corporate/post college training. All comprise a chain that is ostensibly meant to produce functioning, contributing members of society.
The reality, however, is that every link in the chain has problems. Of course, where there are problems, there are potential opportunities and that's why Silicon Valley is starting to take notice. There have been a slew of start-ups funded of late that apply technology to reforming education in each of the market segments: digital textbooks, peer2peer learning, classes online, etc. All great efforts.
My concern though is that technology will help with the symptoms but not the underlying disease. Can Angels find the cure? What do you think?
For more on EDU, see www.aliciamorga.com.