In a Chinese classroom, a teacher needs to face more than 20 students and sometimes up to 60. These students, and their parents, will always want to get the most attention from the teacher.
This is an educational challenge faced by schools the world over, which in China, we're turning to technology to tackle.
In 2008, with a start up loan from Youth Business China (a member of the global charity network), Youth Business International, I founded HowLang Group - part of a new wave of educational tools, social learning, where technology is used to help break down the barriers of the school walls and improve learning. At this time, our product was just in the design phase, struggling for investment, so the loan was crucial to helping us progress.
Our new solution to the challenges of modern teaching in China was to use cloud computing. Students can access lesson plans on their PC or tablet (like an iPad), and work through the lesson. These lessons can be accessed at any location and anyone can use the resources freely.
The teachers use the platform for teaching, the students use the platform for learning, and parents can use it to see how their child is doing at school and share their feedback with the teachers. At the same time, participants can ask and answer questions and share knowledge to help others.
However, this is about more than simply technical architecture. Building an open platform with core resources which are combined with lessons, e-books, and a testing database enables partners, including publishers, to contribute their work by providing teaching content, and allows users to use their software. Essentially, the system works just like AppStore in the education industry.
What's more, a content editing and sharing platform enables resources to be shared in a range of formats (Word, Powerpoint etc), and through an analysis of the student's preferences, the right content is recommended at different times.
Access to user analysis and data means that such a system can constantly develop and ensure that the designs of its products is working, both for users and the education system. For example, where to touch on the screen can be an interesting challenge -- people read from left to right, but touch mobile phone screens from right to left.
Since our foundation in 2008, HowLang Group, has grown more than 5000 percent a year and now employs 200 people, with a turnover last year of US $20 million -- there's a real demand for this type of educational innovation! As a mentor to other start-ups, I'm also delighted to have been nominated for Youth Business International's Entrepreneur of the Year Award, sponsored by Barclays. The success of HowLang is even resulting in a new supply chain which includes technology providers, telecom operators (China Mobile, China Telecom etc), publishers, the government and banks. But most importantly, it's helping young people embrace learning, and improving the quality of their education -- the best investment of all.
To find out more about the YBI Entrepreneur of the Year competition, visit www.youthbusiness.org