My Beer With Wesley

I had a beer with Wesley last week, in Harvard Square. Very enjoyable. We had the autumn Sam Adams.

He has a nonprofit in China to serve “Left behind kids.”

China has many NGOs that do one off donation like school bags, but very few education nonprofits that provide sustainable education to village kids.

(That’s one reason I hope Bridge can set up shop there).

These kids live with grandparents in rural areas. They see Mom and Dad once a year. They attend a school where there might be 8 kids in their whole school.

Wesley’s nonprofit pipes in “a teacher on a screen.” The kids interact live with the teacher. Basic ed tech.

He’s got 34 schools so far, who typically have the on-screen teacher for 2 hours a day.

For now he staffs it with 140 adults who are volunteer teachers, giving a small weekly donation of their time. There are 3 paid staff members.

He built this as a pilot. He hopes to give it to the government to scale, or to a donor like Bill Gates (as it could be useful across many parts of the world).

Lots of people want to do this with MOOCs. But little kids can’t follow MOOCs. They need to see a live teacher reacting to them.

Wesley also helped found the Chinese campus of UWC. It’s a non-profit school serving extremely talented kids. There are 17 of these schools, around the world.

Our admissions process is need blind like Harvard. We give out about 40% of our tuition as need based scholarships. Even wealthy Chinese families like this: they appreciate this diversity; they don’t want kids to live in a bubble.

I asked him about all the new private schools being created.

Many of the for profit new schools without a brand well known among top US universities will find themselves difficulty in making profit” he said. “These private equity guys are expecting a quick return, but they’ll be disappointed. Too many promises. Founders are creating unrealistic expectations.

‘You told us you will send kids to top US universities.’

Then they fail to deliver as competition among 200,000 Chinese students every year to US universities is just too fierce.

When over-promised, the parents, the local governments, they will feel deceived. Chinese parents are very pragmatic. They may believe for a year, but once you fail to deliver, no new parents will come. Many of the investors do not realize that it usually takes years before a new school without a well known brand can develop trust among top US universities (especially when admission is based on predicted grades).