In 2007 a new company gained immediate success through use of readily available technology to link students and tutors across the globe. This company, TutorVista, received much publicity including television and newspaper coverage in the UK and the USA which can be downloaded from its website (www.tutorvista.com). “World class online tutoring,” the company declares, is “just a click away”. The business model is based on the existence in India of a large pool of talented, English speaking graduates who have been trained in an education system with a British colonial heritage and who are willing to work for salaries which, in European (and North American) terms, are low. Clients and their tutors operate face-to-face, with payments being made by credit card also over the internet. As Blakely (2007) explained, the business: echoes the outsourcing model that led to an exodus of financial services backoffice jobs to India, where wages are lower and skilled workers plentiful. Students are coached via an online platform that is down-loaded on to a home computer and includes an interactive white-board, an instant messaging tool and an internet telephone system. Tutors … must have a good degree in the subject that they will teach and are given a six-week training course covering topics such as the UK syllabus and how to broach the “accent barrier”. Clients are attracted not only by the relatively low costs but also by the fact that the arrangement avoids the intrusion of a stranger to a family home (which is a common mode for one-to-one tutoring) or travel to the tutor’s home (which is a common alternative mode). Initially the company focused on mathematics, but it noted that other subjects could be covered in the same way. In Europe, the strongest markets would seem to be in education systems which operate through the medium of English; but in all education systems the English language is itself an important subject and could be covered through the same approach.
The Challenge of Shadow Education