There are many pitfalls and shortcomings with the Thai education system. There’s too many to think of; understaffed teachers, massive classrooms to deep rooted challenges such as restrictions in creativity and freedom of discussion.
Another significant shortcoming is English (Thailand is ranked at 89th out of 100 countries worldwide in terms of English proficiency). Broadly generalizing, Thai schools often focus on preparing students for tests and exams, so whilst most Thai students are proficient in grammar and have comprehensible grasp of the language (in the more competitive Thai schools, anyway), they often find it more difficult to converse in the language.
This is simply because the education system focuses more on getting high exam results. The teachers themselves, more often than not, also do not converse fluently in English.
Enter Edsy,Thailand’s very own online English tutorial platform that recently launched last month.
The platform focuses on English language learning for primary and secondary school students, due to the missing gap noticed by the founders. In Thailand, language tutorial centers are either very premium and expensive or cater to just test preps, using Thai as a medium to teach.
There’s nowhere you can go to simply learn to speak, read, or write English at an affordable rate.
“I’ve always been interested in education, but what really sparked the idea for this business was when I had to leave my MBA course from the US, to come back to Thailand in March 2020 because of Covid,” says Parith. “I came back and finished up the rest of the semester and had a first hand experience with online learning.”
Parith began tracking education disruptors during his summer internship back in 2019, when he interned at Golden Gate Ventures, a Venture Capital firm in Singapore.
“From my own experience, I noticed that there was a lot of potential for edtech and started to look around existing companies. Then I realized that there’s a big gap for English tutorials,” he says.
A personal interest in the English language, combined with his own experience in a Thai education system gave Parith a front row seat to studying English in a Thai school.
“We were always taught to pass exams, but not really how to master the language ,” he says.
So that’s how the idea for Edsy was born.
“It made sense to launch an online platform now, because everyone was forced to migrate online with Covid, so the market had to be ready,” says Natthida.
Edsy has four co-founders; Parith (CEO), Natthida (COO),Sirunya Buntornvorapun, Derek Hopper, a lecturer at Thammasat University who oversees the curriculum and Steven Tanoto, in charge of Edsy in Indonesia.
When the founding team made the decision to launch Edsy, they decided to simultaneously launch in both Thailand and Indonesia. Interestingly, despite the latter having a much larger population and fosters a more developed startup scene than ours, both countries share similarities not only in terms of people and behaviour but also the underserved market.
The business is purely remote and online, which tackles the accessibility factor. The lessons are taught by young professionals who are able to sign up and volunteer through the Edsy network, which makes the model easily scalable with proper screening as well.
“Since Covid happened, we feel like people are more used to jumping online, which makes Edsy an extension of natural behavior now,” says Natthida.
Edsy currently has about 100+ online tutors, a lot of them are young, impact driven professionals who are looking to earn extra income through flexible teaching schedules, and a lot of them went to international schools and/or universities abroad, or studied at Chula and Thammasat.
Initially, the tutors were sourced from the founders’ networks and contacts, but as the platform grows, Edsy will also be looking to leverage university associations and more.
So how does Edsy work exactly?
The sign up process is clear cut and simple, as any online platform should be nowadays.
The customer (typically the parent) signs up, updates their profile and adds the Edsy line account. Then, simply just buy the preferred course and transfer funds online. After that, the platform will verify you within three hours. Then, you’re ready to start booking a class and go.
“Think of us like Airbnb. Our platform allows you to pick a tutor of your choice, at your preferred date and time, and your child’s classes will be arranged. We encourage you to maintain classes with the same tutor for the course duration, and set up a schedule that works,” says Parith.
So how does Edsy make money?
The platform sells their courses online. Currently, the rate is THB 3,500 plus VAT per 10 lessons (40 minutes per session). The curriculum goes from elementary school right up to high school. The platform takes a cut out of the total fee paid, and the rest goes to the tutor.
“Our model follows a marketplace structure, but we don’t consider ourselves one,” says Parith. “The value we create goes beyond matching, we step in as a platform to provide high-quality teaching materials, facilitate the learning space, logistics, payments as well as sourcing for both demand and supply.”
The English language tutorial landscape in Thailand has many tiers. From the premium offline brands such as Wall Street English and British Council, then there are the test prep centers where speaking proficiency isn’t a focus-to Youtube tutorials by Kru Loukgolf and Globish, an online English language tutorial platform for professionals. The offering is wide and varies in focus.
“There is a clear lack of variety and choice,” says Natthida. “With Edsy, we are bringing affordable English tutorials to the mass market.”
We ask Edsy about whether they think the market is getting crowded. After all, most startups and platforms in Thailand never really make it beyond Bangkok.
“It’s not really a winner takes all market, in our opinion. Different players are providing different values and strengths. For us, we’re focusing on creating an affordable and scalable solution without compromising on quality.”
This is also where Edsy differentiates from others in the market.
“We use an open source AI software that allows us to be very analytical about students’ behaviors and attention span patterns,” says Parith.
The AI open source software allows Edsy to determine specific behavioral patterns, such as tracking the attention span of kids, and seeing what kind of stimulation or specific cues are effective in maintaining their energy levels. This constant feedback loop allows Edsy to change the lesson plans and alter things to retain engagement and attention.
The platform is currently working on a new product release, which would include further integration of analytics to analyze the student’s experience and learning outcomes.
In China, edtech companies such as Squirrel Ai use adaptive learning engines based on the advanced algorithm-which effectively gets results. Edsy is not shying away from regional ambitions, which is why it’s committed to building out tech capabilities.
Edsy is just getting started. The immediate priority for the team is to officially launch by April, which should be in the form of an offline event alongside the presence of their official advisors.
Beyond that, the team is looking to scale up student registration through their networks and partnerships with different schools and more.
“This is just the beginning for us. Our mission is to democratize high quality English learning for all in Thailand. We’re also planning to invest in AI technology in order to expand into a more scalable model,” says Parith.
As of now, the co-founders are bootstrapping the business, but they’re also planning to raise fund at a later stage.
For now though? The most important mission is to upskill practical, conversational English in Thailand, one student at a time.
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