At Red Innova’s New York conference earlier this month, Open English Chairman John McIntire made the argument that education-related technologies represent an imperative opportunity for entrepreneurs, especially those with products and services geared toward the growing middle classes of emerging markets. This is certainly true in Brazil, which has undergone monumental shifts over the past few years that have placed a larger portion of the population in a better position both socially and economically and who are looking to achieve more.
Já Entendi, an online education platform that produces video classes focused on visual learning, is one of the many startups responding to the educational needs of Brazil’s increasingly-aspirational population. The startup has concentrated its efforts on a critical age group – individuals ages 15 to 20 – whose educational goals are stinted not only by limited access but also by apathy.
Through the Já Entendi platform, students are able to view educational videos designed to pique their interest and get them motivated. The Já Entendi team produces content in a way that appeals to teens by way of graphics, designs and other visual tools familiar to students as part of their everyday lives. Já Entendi is especially useful for those who need to study for the Vestibular or the Enem (High School National Exam), standardized tests comparable to the SAT or ACT in the United States.
Gladys Mariotto heads Já Entendi, which she founded alongside Wagner Bonfiglio earlier this year. Mariotto boasts an impressive career trajectory as an educator, writer and producer. She has authored 35 books, won 26 awards and produced 30 films and documentaries, and she has worked as a consultant and produced teaching materials for some of Brazil’s largest school systems. In combining her educational expertise with Bonfiglio’s technological prowess, Mariotto brought Já Entendi to life.
Launched in May 2012, Já Entendi now boasts 2,000 registered users and 6,000 visits per month. Just last week, it placed third at the national startup competition organized by CONAJE and Anjos do Brasil.
We got in touch with Mariotto to find out more about the platform and get her take on Brazil’s education market, both online and off.
Emily Stewart: Numerous startups are emerging in the online education market right now. What makes you stand out?
Gladys Mariotto: Young people, especially those of the new middle class, are turning to education as a safe way to change their stories. However, high school has the highest dropout rate in Brazil and is also suffering from a form of informal abandonment: disinterest. Já Entendi aims to be a supporting tool for this moment, looking for ways to make studies more enjoyable.
We intend to reach students by transforming teaching and learning through the use of methodological innovation. Our strategy is not just to sell a teaching methodology – it is to sell interest in studies.
Education targeted at young people depends in part on the adequacy strategies in relation to the realities lived by the students. Images are one of the forms of recreation and communication most used by young people today, in any social class. Therefore, our business is to teach young people using a method in which classes are creative and visually interesting. For this, we use features such as mind maps and andragogy. In andragogy, teachers are seen as facilitators, and as such, their relationships with students are horizontal and based on dialogue, collaboration and trust.
ES: Your product is aimed at high school students and those about to enter college – an age group that is highly technologically savvy. However, it is likely that parents and teachers, an older age group with less technology knowledge, are influential in the decision to sign up for and work with the website. How do you reconcile these two different groups in terms of your technology and design?
GM: Indeed, our focus is on the student, but we’ve got to transmit confidence to parents to make the investment. Our didactic and tools are intended to arouse interest, and we believe that young people can use this to convince their parents and teachers. We know that young people are persuasive when they demonstrate interest in something, so our concentration is on them.
We use images like works of art, comics, cartoons, pictures and films. Emotions, desires and ideas can be expressed through many systems of language, but the force of an image is indisputable, and this applies in youth and adults.
ES: The growing middle class in emerging markets like Brazil has created an enormous opportunity for and interest in online education. What are your thoughts on this?
GM: There are no barriers to distance learning. It is important understand that DE – distance education – has several specific advantages, depending on the student’s situation. These include openness, flexibility, effectiveness, continuity and affordability.
One factor in the growth of online education in Brazil is the size of our country. We have cities, mainly in the Northeast and North, without access to good education models or even professional training. Online education, in part, can meet this demand.
Indeed, the new middle class sees education as essential for their children’s success. This sector of our society has faced many hardships in the past due to inflation and slow growth. Today, with the country among the world’s major economies, families and the Brazilian government alike are focused on forming and training the future workforce. The great national debate today is how to take advantage of the opportunities created by the open market, because without education, we will lose an important window for growth.
ES: What’s next for Já Entendi? What is your plan for growth and expansion? Is this a global product or a regional one?
GM: Our initial focus is on students between the ages of 15 and 20, those who have not yet commenced university studies. That said, we realize that our methodology can be applied to any area of education, and we see a broad market through improvements to the site. We plan to include new services that will add more value to the product, which may even become global. These include e-books, applications, training courses for the World Cup (which should create 3.6 million jobs) and the Olympics in the areas of tourism, gastronomy and languages, vocational courses, and corporate training for management and operations teams.