SA learners look outside the country for tertiary options

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Jamie Beaton, co-founder of Crimson Education.
Jamie Beaton, co-founder of Crimson Education.

Similar to the proliferation of online universities over the years, the education space should expect massive growth in the online high school space.

This is according to Jamie Beaton, co-founder of Crimson Education, an online mentoring company that helps learners prepare for admission into their desired Ivy League universities.

This as SA slowly sees more online high schools become available in the country, with Valenture Institute the latest institution to introduce its online high school curriculum in SA.

“Crimson launched a global online high school called the Crimson Global Academy, which is backed by well-known education investors.

“The idea here is an A-level online high school, so kids across South Africa, New Zealand and China can take extra A-levels in the event they don’t go to a school that offers A-levels.

“We have kids enrolling part-time and full-time. Part-time, the kid will continue with normal school and take this online. Full-time would mean you will leave your traditional school and do your online high school with us, which is something very popular in some parts of America.”

Fast growth

Currently operating in 22 countries across the globe, Crimson opened its South African office in 2018, headed by Rebecca Pretorius as country manager.

In SA, the head office is located at Workshop 17 in Rosebank, Johannesburg, with a satellite office in Cape Town. The company also offers regular information evenings and workshops around the country.

According to Beaton, SA has been a country of very fast growth for the company he co-founded in 2013 withSouth African-born Sharndre Kushor.

“We started off in New Zealand but now it’s [Crimson] very global,” he said. “Students in SA have been looking outside the country for tertiary options.

“There are, of course, so many good options locally but the highest ranked South African university, which is UCT, is ranked 200. Whereas schools in the US and UK are ranked top five, top 10 and top 20.

“That’s the driving trend that is pushing a lot of our candidates from these top schools across Johannesburg and Cape Town, to go overseas.”

Explaining why he decided to start his edtech operation, Beaton said after his own experience of applying to some of the top schools across the US, UK, Middle East and Singapore, and gaining acceptance to all of the schools, a lot of parents approached him to ask how their own children can be mentored to go through the same pathway.

“We created Crimson initially to provide that training to New Zealand students, and then we had really good success. In 2016, every kid that got into Harvard and Stanford for academics in the whole country was trained by us and three-quarters of the nation’s Ivy League admits were trained by us.

“We saw great success in a very diverse country that has South African, Indian, Korean and Chinese students, and so we wanted to expand internationally. We raised quite a lot of investment capital to go around the world and that’s been a big focus for us for several years.”

From a South African context, Pretorius says the programme is personalised for each learner; therefore, pricing is determined by a broad range of factors.

For example, a programme can be priced anywhere from R80 000 to around R250 000-plus, depending on the services, notes Pretorius.

Core network

Learners are interested in universities in the UK and US, with Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and Princeton top of the Ivy League list, Beaton reveals.

He points out that learners start using Crimson while they are in high school, typically working with about five or six mentors, which make the platform’s core team.

The mentors differ in that one will provide leadership coaching, one to mentor for the SAT entrance exam, another one to figure out schools to apply for and help with the application essays by providing guidance in terms of interesting topics, as well as tutors for national qualifications, A-levels or IEB.

The mentors, he said, come from the top universities themselves. “We also have some very powerful algorithms; for example, our college admissions algorithm, which looks at a huge array of data points and recommends schools you can get into based on your exam grades, extra-curricular activities, citizenship status and scholarship requirements, to help guide our human counsellors with some statistics.”

Talking to the online platform’s success rate, Beaton said 100% of the learners on Crimson got into one of their top eight universities.

The algorithms also play a big part in ensuring learners are accepted at these top schools. “We send kids to Ivy League schools at 3.7 times the success rate of applying normally. If you apply by Crimson, you have that 3.7 increase advantage, which is measured over a large data set across six years.

“Our impact is pretty consistent, and our kids get into Cambridge and Oxford at around 2.5 times the normal acceptance rate.”

Future of edtech

Other predictions Crimson Education foresees for edtech in 2020 include:

  • Rise in global online tutoring: Video technology will continue to innovate and improve the way students and teachers engage online.
  • Continued focus on international education: Qualifications from universities in the US and UK drive global business networks. The pool of applicants for these institutions will become increasingly international.
  • Accelerated tutoring: Rather than using extra lessons to fill gaps in their knowledge, students are making use of one-on-one tutoring to prepare themselves for university admissions.
  • Higher adoption rate of edtech in schools: Introducing edtech into the classroom allows Gen Z members to be active participants in their education, providing a higher level of engagement and a more personalised approach to learning.
  • Global increase in Mandarin tutoring: Mandarin is becoming one of the most learned languages internationally, over other languages such as Spanish and French.
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