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Is COVID encouraging teachers to join edtech startups?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Teachers have struggled for years in the learning space, and remote learning hasn’t made it easier, leading many into edtech startups.

Student learning with teacher online, where many are pursuing edtech startups.

Being a teacher is hard. If the ridged hours and low page haven’t discouraged you, maybe the stress of COVID-era schooling – whether that be dangerous and in-person or tedious and remote – will.

Some of my best friends are teachers and I consistently hear them express how underappreciated and underpaid they are. Some babysitters even make more than the average teacher, though they only have to care for 1 or 2 children.

It’s no surprise then that thousands of teachers have flocked to the budding education startup scene, better known as edtech. While some of the more popular companies – such as OutSchool and Varsity Tutor – provide varying educational services to students and families, they consistently provide better pay and better hours to teachers across the board.

So, what’s the catch?

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Well, to start, most tutoring software startups cost more than public schooling. This means that low-income students might be left behind as their wealthier classmates are able to access a better education online – taught by happier, better paid teachers. This digital divide will almost certainly exacerbate the preexisting inequalities between low- and high-income students.

While it might be the broken education system (and subsequent edtech boom) that are to blame here, there is still a large-scale villainization of public school teachers who “give up” on their students.

As most teachers are women, many understand this view as an expression of ingrained sexism – why is it seen as ambitious when a man leaves their profession as they know it in search of something better? Why are female educators expected to settle?

Regardless of where you stand on these issues, the fact of the matter is that education is slowly creeping into the online tech sector. Will this boom be sustained after there is a vaccine and students can safely return to schools at full capacity? Will there be no more teachers left to teach in-person classes? It seems like only time will tell.

In the meantime, if you or your child is interested in taking an online course in anything from pottery to Italian (and can afford it), there is a whole new world available to you – and taught by teachers who finally are finally being paid what they deserve.

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Anaïs DerSimonian is a writer, filmmaker, and educator interested in media, culture and the arts. She is Clark University Alumni with a degree in Culture Studies and Screen Studies. She has produced various documentary and narrative projects, including a profile on an NGO in Yerevan, Armenia that provides micro-loans to cottage industries and entrepreneurs based in rural regions to help create jobs, self-sufficiency, and to stimulate the post-Soviet economy. She is currently based in Boston. Besides filmmaking, Anaïs enjoys reading good fiction and watching sketch and stand-up comedy.

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