Go West (to China), Canada, and Take Your Teachers With You

Two great stories surfaced in my Twitter feed today and they speak to the strange and illuminating practices in Chinese education industry. Some if it could be instructional for those of us in the Americas trying to make a business out of teaching.

One was a story about Canada pulling out the stops to attract mainland Chinese students and talent to its schools. They’ve even taken up the auto show method, by using alluring nubile models to wave the Maple Leaf flag to attract attention.

The other is a harder to digest investigative piece on the rise and sudden decline of at least one China-based foreign-owned English language school. The story is meant to presume that a groundswell of panic is emerging in China over the fate of China’s many successful language schools.

This story . I don’t think the evidence is there there is a huge disaster in the offing. However, I do see a glimmer of hope for those earlier mentioned Canadian universities trying to lure in top students to study overseas.

Why not set up for-profit arms of NeoCha, an emerging platform for design artists and other creative talent in China, who typically do creative work for agencies and brands directly.

Fascinating about this is that I had earlier posed a question to Rob Barnett, CEO at MyDamnChannel. The question went: “What happens when brands start going direct to creative talent and circumventing the agencies” and in the case of this question, the broadcast and cable tv providers that showcase series and segments? Rob didn’t seem to think that this would pick up in America as a big trend. And others in the audience agreed. Certainly it felt like the person saying it wouldn’t happen was defending the creative autonomy of artists. But Rob did acknowledge that he had had these kinds of discussions before with certain leading companies. I was unsure of who the players were, and was not able to follow up. I took it, within the context of the question, to be the brands themselves, like Coke or Ikea.

But let’s pretend we took this model and put it into play, and involved education to a strong degree. How would this work? The scenario could work like this: Education providers come in an provide a segment of learning, English, that addresses the 200-350 million learners of English in China. They teach on top of that design, craft work, TV production, video, etc. Then they can serve as their own middlemen, clearing back into market the talent that speaks English and has the skills to do the work that is needed by major brands. And then who sponsors the production of this English and technical skills education? That’s right. Dell, Apple, Pepsi, IBM. It’s already happening.

Look at the iCampus project in Guangzhou, China.

The Cheung Kong media school has been working since 2008 to launch the Chinese version of the Apple Authorized Training Center for Education (AATCE) program, put together by Apple for academic institutions to integrate certified professional training into their existing accredited curricula. The Shantou program is now the largest of its kind developed by Apple, training 160 students a year in design software that they will use in media production jobs. Apple has donated dozens of computers and helped the Cheung Kong school put up shop for digital media training. The students work on video editing and web design.

You can do this kind of thing in China. The students want to advance, and the nation needs them to. You could probably do it in the Americas, except here we tend to get really tingly and prickly when we mix capitalism with our bewilderingly socialist-theory-minded education practices — i.e. unions, not wanting corporations to invade our schools. The bile gets deep!

China lacks that. So, should we be borrowing the Chinese model and putting it in play in the United States. I daresay! Education built corporate America, so why can’t corporate America give back to education? And guide it? We will return to this discussion multiple times on this blog. Please feel free to leave comments and questions.

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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