American Teachers Are Underpaid, So China is Stepping Up to Help

A revolutionary Chinese startup that provides English lessons to Chinese kids, is also helping North American instructors earn a substantial amount of money.

Founded by Cindy Mi, the service called VIPKid pairs young Chinese students with language instructors to study English, math, science and other subjects online, with two or three 25-minute sessions each week per lesson.

Through her company, Mi is seeking to connect the millions of parents willing to pay for high-quality education for their kids with teachers in the U.S. and Canada who are often underpaid, Bloomberg reported.

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Since its creation three years ago,  VIPKid has grown its stable of teachers to 5,000, who cater to around 50,000 students. According to Mi, the company is set to expand to 25,000 teachers and 200,000 children.

In crafting VIPKid’s curriculum Mi hired top academic advisers from respected American universities to develop a world-class teaching platform.

“What keeps me up at night is not growth, it’s quality,” Mi was quoted as saying. “We need to be responsible for the learning outcome.”

Among the big name investors backing the company include NBA legend Kobe Bryant, Sinovation Ventures, Northern Light, Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital and Sequoia Capital China. The company has so far raised $125 million from the investors.

It was former Google China chief Kaifu Lee, who funded VIPKid through Sinovation right when it was just an idea. Lee incubated VIPKid at Sinovation’s HQ in Beijing for 15 months before it was ready for launch.

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“We really felt education could be reshaped with the power of the Internet,” Lee says. “The moment we met Cindy we knew we had to invest in her company.”

While the competition is stiff, with many other learning services online, Mi’s understands how to stand out. Instead of focusing on delivering on the cheapest way to study, VIP Kid offers the most efficient way to learn.

Aside from developing the curriculum from the ground up with the help of second language education expert Lane Litz, the company also created their own native user-friendly software.

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The system allows parents to buy lessons at $1500 per package of 72 classes, and then the children choose which teachers they want to study with. Most of the instructors in the selection are experienced current or former teachers. A teacher can make $14 to $22 an hour depending on her performance. For many, the amount is enough to supplement a first job.

“It feels so freeing,” a 42-year-old teacher named April Baker was quoted as saying.“The only issue is the time zone is a challenge.” Baker has undergrad and graduate degrees in education and worked as a teacher for about 10 years.

University of Minnesota child psychology graduate Kristie Kellis, who has a teaching job at a local university, says she earns an extra $4,000 a month plus bonuses from VIPkid.

“This rivals what I can make at a university,” Kellis said.

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