Technology and education: Connecting the world

By Yin Lu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/17 19:38:39

Cindy Mi, CEO of online educator VIPKID Photo: Li Hao/GT

At the Hongen Taoist Temple, complete with antique architecture and a renovated interior providing a modern workspace, nestled at Doufuchi Hutong in Dongcheng district, the Global Times (GT) interviewed Cindy Mi (Mi), founder and CEO of VIPKID, at her office.

Over the past few years, the online English education startup has grown rapidly. Now boasting more than 200,000 paying users, VIPKID has been dedicated to connecting Chinese children with English speakers from North America.

In August, VIPKID announced the launch of Lingo Bus, its new online platform for children from all over the world to learn Chinese.

The startup has won financing and approval from both home and abroad. Its series D financing received $200 million, making it the largest in the sector. On September 20, Mi spoke at TechCrunch's annual flagship startup event Disrupt SF in San Francisco, US and shared how the company became a major player in the field.

GT: How has VIPKID been received at home and abroad?

As the single startup in the field of online education to speak on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, it shows that VIPKID has been recognized by the international technology sector. 

We help foreigners understand China and Chinese children learn about the world. On Youtube, there are more than 200,000 videos made by Americans who teach on VIPKID about their experience - no other company has achieved this.

There's a beautiful connection between the children and the teachers. 

GT: Compared to other players in online language education for children, what are the advantages of VIPKID?

We not only teach children the language, but also empower them and offer them a global vision.

To do that, we ensure the teachers are qualified. Our background check includes their education, qualifications and experience.

All the teachers are either TEFL certified or are primary school teachers. Even if the applicants meet all the conditions, we only select about five percent of them to teach at VIPKID after the interview process.

Also, our tech team runs algorithms based on a huge database to evaluate the teachers and their classes.

Meanwhile, some of our rival companies are still employing foreign teachers who are not native speakers.

GT: What role should language learning play in the modern education system?

When I was young, learning English was a tool for me to explore the world. Today, through language learning, the world can understand more about China.

It's especially important for children from remote areas, who might have never met a foreign teacher in their lives. Also, for children from rural areas abroad, our teachers can help them realize they can work toward their full potential.

VIPKID has brought online classes taught by North American teachers to 100 schools in rural areas through a charity program, and our aim is 10,000 schools in the next few years.

GT: Could you share your long-term vision to expand globally?

China's GDP is expected to surpass the US by 2026, according to estimations, and we need to think about how we can lead and motivate the world to become different.

Now we have more than 20,000 English teachers on the platform and in the next five years, we'll create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Through Lingo Bus, we'll also help Chinese teachers gain global income.

Compared to a couple of years ago, foreign teachers nowadays have become more interested in China and recognize the Chinese market. My team and I are lucky to be in the best of times, where the changes of our country are empowering us and there are more possibilities for the children.


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