Growing up between Europe and the Philippines
Listening to impact, courage, and ‘giving back’ conversations around the dinner table
Working at Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital
Getting a scholarship to attend Harvard Business School
The benefits of Boston being a multi-campus city
Always wanting to go back to the Philippines and build something with impact, at scale, using technology
Education is the largest government expenditure in the Philippines
The Philippines PISA ranking
Moving from large, macro investments to real systemic changes
The importance of basic, foundational academic skills, making the right education choices, and soft skills
Scaling content in a way that is accessible
Working with partners like AWS EdStart
Everyone Was Giving Back In Some Form Or Another
It Took Me a Solid Decade to Figure Out What To Do
All Countries Go Through Stages
What Are You Really Trying to Teach?
Education Is a Multi-Stakeholder Industry
What’s Your Vision for an Educated Child?
How Does This All Feed Into a Career?
It’s Not About Catching Up, It’s About Getting Ahead
Our Role as Humans Is Not Just to Be a Production Unit for Some Company
Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):
Michael Waitze 0:00
Michael Waitze Media…Telling Asia’s Stories. Okay, we are on Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia tech Podcast. Today we are happy to welcome Henry Motte-Muñoz, the founder of I’m gonna give it my best shot here edukasyon.ph to the show, because it’s not spelled the way I would expect it. Anyway, Henry, thank you so much for coming on the show. How are you doing?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 0:27
I’m good. I’m good. And, you know, thank you so much, Michael, for having us here today and to answer your questions. So it’s pronounced education.ph. So it’s in Tagalog, the Philippine national language.
Michael Waitze 0:40
So that’s the proper spelling. That is…
Henry Motte-Muñoz 0:43
the proper spelling, it is not a typo.
Michael Waitze 0:47
It’s funny you say this, right. So I have this other show called eCommerce UnderCover. And we had this guy from Germany on and the name of his company is Qreuz. And he pronounced it cruze. And I just thought, you know, ever since Tumblr, you know, without the E, then there’s all this crazy spelling with Ks meant to be Qs and all this other stuff. And I said to him, Cruz, is this just internet spelling? And he said, No, there’s actually a neighborhood in Berlin with that spelling, and then I just used it because that’s the neighborhood where my company is. And this is why you always have to ask, right? Because, as my grandmother used to say, you learn something new every day. Anyway, I like that. That’s the Tagalog spelling and obviously means education.
Henry Motte-Muñoz 1:29
Yes, exactly. Got it. So it’s, it’s a pretty, pretty useful, all encompassing name that allows us to do different things in education space.
Michael Waitze 1:39
I love it. I love it a lot. Okay, before we get into the main part of this conversation, can we get a little bit of your background as well for some context?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 1:47
Sure. So I am half Filipino, half French, grew up between Europe and the Philippines, you know, very close to both to both roots, and spend a lot of time obviously coming back and discovering different bits of the Philippines. And I always want to come back to do something with, you know, with social impact. But obviously, you know, wanted to start my career a bit first. And so I, you know, did economics in London, studied economics and economic history. Okay. Went on to join, you know, Goldman Sachs, just investment banking. It’s in private equity. And when capital, and when I was doing my MBA in the US on a scholarship, that’s when I got the idea for for doing educational in the Philippines.
Michael Waitze 2:34
Where were you working at Goldman Sachs?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 2:37
I was in the London team covering healthcare in Europe. So no medical background, but pretty fascinating sector to look at for
Michael Waitze 2:45
engineers. Did you? Were you a Goldman before you got your MBA or after?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 2:49
Before before so I was at Goldman before and then I transferred to Bain Capital. And then they ended up sending me to Harvard for for two years?
Michael Waitze 2:58
What was it like being getting an MBA at Harvard? All the while thinking about how am I going to build a better education system? In the Philippines? Right? Because this has to be the complete bifurcation of education. Yeah.
Henry Motte-Muñoz 3:16
It was quite interesting, actually. Because, in a way, obviously, you know, the makeup of, of any business school tends to be quite corporate heavy, right? Whether it’s a corporate or finance, or it’s, it’s very much private sector. And so I think initially, it was a lot easier to strike conversations about finance, about private equity, about investment banking. But the the beauty of being in a multi campus city was that there actually a lot of folks who were in education, or a lot of folks were in tech. So I ended up you know, I would speak to students from MIT to folks from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard, even people near the Harvard Kennedy School, there was an innovation lab by Harvard University, where I got a lot of tremendous entrepreneurship, advice and mentorship. So the ecosystem was there just to dig a little bit deeper to find it. But there were a lot of very helpful individuals who helped me as the idea kind of like took hold in
Michael Waitze 4:18
my head. I want to explore this idea of a multi campus city. I think Boston is one of the cities that people don’t understand so well, right. All they hear about from the outside is, you know, the Red Sox and maybe the Patriots. But the reality is that during the time when school is in session, the city could actually be twice the size as it would normally be. I don’t remember exactly what the numbers are. But because of that, in the old days, right, it was the original Silicon Valley in a way because route 128, which runs very close to Boston is where big companies like lotus were founded and stuff like that. So there is this history there. And actually, Massachusetts ends up being a very liberal place to so the EdTech with the tech and all these students around must have been an increasing retable a place for you to get an MBA? No.
Henry Motte-Muñoz 5:03
Yes, I think I was very fortunate to be in that environment for two years. I think what’s also quite interesting is, you know, to your point, the interesting about edtech is you’ve got tech on the one hand, which obviously, you know, is something that’s quite recent, in the timeline of history, right? It’s, you know, you’re talking about the last few decades at most, but then you look at education, and it’s arguably probably one of the oldest industries in the world alongside agriculture. And so you’ve got a lot of very deeply ingrained practices. And what’s interesting is that there’s actually quite quite a fair bit of innovation in Boston and Massachusetts in general. So I actually ended up learning quite a few things, from folks who have nothing to do with edtech, who have never suffered in the Philippines, and probably never will. But we’re working on different ways of fostering innovation in education indicators health system in the US. And that was very, very interesting exposure for me. So when
Michael Waitze 5:57
you went to school in Boston was the idea there to get out of investment banking and get out of, you know, finance and private equity, and then take all this stuff that you were learning back to the Philippines and build an education business, or did that kind of develop over time? Do you know what I mean?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 6:15
Yes, so the goal was always to move back to the Philippines. But it was very sector agnostic. And so actually, if I think about the discovery process, I had basically two objectives, which was go back to the Philippines, and build something would impact at scale. And using tech, these were my two, my two criteria. The third one was obviously, you know, paying off my student loan, which is why I stayed at Bain Capital for an extra two years. But I looked at all sorts of sectors, I looked at real estate, I looked at agriculture, I looked at healthcare, I looked at art, I looked at the government Secretary, I looked at education, I think the reason I ended up getting quite attracted to education was so many of the social issues that I was interested in addressing had their roots in education, you fix education system, a lot of things will follow after that. And so that from an impact perspective, education just made a lot of sense. And, and from a business perspective, you know, putting on my finance, hops, I felt the industry dynamics were super interesting. This was something where, you know, government spends a third of its budget, it’s the largest government expenditure in a country. It’s a massive private industry, you know, we have twice as many colleges per capita as the US, even though we have a 10th of the GDP per capita. It’s just a very large $25 billion industry, and it’s very inefficient and ineffective. So for me from a impact perspective, and from a business opportunity perspective, it kind of felt like a very interesting opportunity to look at where
Michael Waitze 7:49
does your desire to have impact come from? I get, you know, if your work I went to Goldman Sachs to that’s why I asked you where and when you were there, right? We I don’t think we overlapped. Probably because I’m seven times your age, but. But if you’re working at Goldman, and you’re working in pain, right, you’re a business person, you’re making money, you’re trying to make money. Where does this idea of I want to go back to school, learn about some stuff, and then come back to the Philippines and have impact from I get the fact you want to come back and start a business. But this impact thing is, is great, but where does it come from?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 8:20
So I would give 100% of the credit to my family. My mother’s family had a long tradition of giving back. And a lot of them were doing it in a pretty quiet way. But yeah, essentially, I grew up either, you know, having, you know, family meals, family dinners, family reunions, with folks, we’ve done everything from fighting corruption, to fighting smuggling, to fighting for human rights. I have relatives who went into exile when they were fighting for democracy. I have relatives who are on you know, Deathless by the army when they were protesting for human rights. And you just grew up hearing about the courage that others had. And obviously, you know, very privileged upbringing I went to private high schools, then you know, worked in cushy, cushy, even find out this cushy, you work long hours. Sure, but it’s pretty cushy. Yeah,
Michael Waitze 9:15
I did it. I know.
Henry Motte-Muñoz 9:17
Exactly. And so so the there was, there was no pressure. But I think it was just like exposure from a very young age to hearing about how you can give back in very different ways. But everyone was always giving back in some some some form or another. And what’s interesting is my family actually always gave me the advice because I actually wanted to move back maturity to the Philippines. My at some point, I tried to move back when I was 18. I wanted to become a journalist, as a high school graduate, and my family’s advice was come back with ideas and ideals. And so that became the question I asked myself every year, I’ve got the ideals fine, but like, what’s my big idea? What am I coming back with? So that’s why I thought of moving back when I was 18 and I only moved by When I was 28, so it took me a solid decade to figure out what to do to Philippine.
Michael Waitze 10:05
Whoever said come back with ideas. And now with ideals, I need to meet this person because that for a bunch of different reasons, but that’s definitely the title of this episode. I want to get back to some of these statistics that you quoted about the government. You said it’s what 1/3 of the government budget is dedicated to education that I get that number, right.
Henry Motte-Muñoz 10:24
Yes, absolutely. That’s it’s the biggest expenditure? Yes,
Michael Waitze 10:27
it’s huge. But do you think that governments because they spend so much money on education, that there’s an end goal for them? Do you know, I mean, like so I feel like the end goal United States is to pair is to prepare people to work at big companies. You know what I mean? So I look at the way the education system works, I think about this a lot, right? So we don’t go to school in the summer in the US, because that was harvest time, like you said, there are all these embedded things in the education system that exists because it started hundreds of years ago. What do you think the goal is right now of the government? And then what do you think the mission of education should be? If it’s different, if that makes sense?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 11:07
Sure. So the Philippines has a fairly broken education system. Let me share two stats with you, please, from a academic performance perspective, for for your listeners who are familiar with the PISA rankings, it’s essentially an international comparison that ranks different countries in terms of the educational attainment of high school students in those countries. And they try to standardize it to basically allow you to understand how is your country doing, say, compared to France, or the UK or Japan or Mexico? The Philippines was included in the rankings over the last few years. So the results were published during the pandemic, okay. And unfortunately, we were at the bottom, not average, not below average, not bottom quartile bottom. And so it’s it’s a very sobering fact. And, you know, for some people, it was obvious for others, I think it came as a shock, really, but it did confirm that from a literacy and numeracy and, you know, science understanding, unfortunately, the average Filipino high school students is woefully under educated. And so when when a Filipino student turns 18, you can argue, you know, what’s the right comparison tool, but, you know, they definitely are not on par with an average 18 year old in better education systems. And we’re talking about delays of like, you know, 234 years kind of depends which social group you’re in. So from an academic perspective, our students are underprepared. And, you know, you don’t you don’t build a country by having everyone really good entrepreneur symmetry. But if your population doesn’t have strong foundational skills, in terms of literacy, numeracy and some other core subjects, you’re going to have a big problem when it comes from, you know, their integration as citizens, not just as employees, right? How can you expect someone to, you know, use their vote wisely and pay their taxes and understand how to take care of their own health and family’s health, if they don’t have any of these foundational skills. So, from a foundational education perspective, the Philippines does poorly. Then if you look at education and say, education is only a stepping stone, it’s not an end game. And a stepping stone is people having fulfilling careers. And if not fulfilling, at least successful, right. And again, the Philippine schools quite poorly, the funnel from students who turn 18, to those who actually finish high school at 18. And by the way, schooling is free all the way until 18. In the Philippines, you can go to Publix, primary and secondary school, and not have to pay any tuition. There’s obviously other costs, like transportation and food. But from a tuition perspective, you can you can do tuition free all the way until 18. When you look at the number of kids return 18, which is about 2 million plus every year, then you adjust for those who don’t get to finish high school. Those who don’t get to pursue higher ed, those who pursue higher ed but dropouts, those who graduate but don’t find the job. You are left with roughly two to 300,000 students. So your drop off rate is 80 to 90%. Yeah, right. And that feeds into youth unemployment rate of more than 30%. So from that perspective, the education system is also broken, right? And so you know, you’re not preparing them enough academically, and you’re not getting them the jobs.
Michael Waitze 14:38
Can I just jump in for a second? Because I think you’ll agree that it’s actually more important than just having a job. You mentioned I love this terminology, literacy and numeracy, right, but also the societal impact of 80 to 90%. Pick a number in between there, right? If it’s two to 300,000 people, because if you’re not educated properly, and this is true for every country, right, we can say it for work. I live anywhere, it doesn’t matter. It means that your participation in society as a whole is also unfulfilling and suboptimal. Is that fair, right? So it’s not just about getting a job and providing for your family or providing for yourself if you choose not to have a family, but it’s your contribution to society or your detrimental contribution to society as well. No.
Henry Motte-Muñoz 15:21
Yes. And I think I would even take it a step further, but it’s, you know, your ability to have a fulfilling life
Michael Waitze 15:28
Henry Motte-Muñoz 15:30
You know, we’re, despite going to the, you know, going to pretty capitalist institutions. At the end of the day, you know, our role as humans is not just to be a production unit for some company, it’s fulfilling lives. And that’s just much harder to do if you’re not given the right education. Right. And so I want to, I want to go back to your original question, by the way, which is, what is the role of government in education? And how is the Philippine Government tackling it? I think what’s tough for the Philippine government, and they’re aware of this is, there’s a lot of backlog of issues, right. So the previous administration, their biggest problem was literally physically building schools, because a lot of students didn’t have schools to go to, or the schools they went to didn’t have like, four walls and a roof, and basic sanitation and chairs. So there’s a lot of like physical categories of infrastructure building a lot of what the last administration in the current one had done, which is to increase teacher training and compensation, because teachers were paid peanuts, right and overworked. And so how do you? How do you expect to build a great education system? If you’re underpaying? The very people who you rely on?
Michael Waitze 16:40
Well, if the whole delivery mechanism is dilapidated? Yeah, correct. And so
Henry Motte-Muñoz 16:45
So there’s been a lot of investment and I would say some of the more basic things, but to their credits, it almost doesn’t matter who gets elected in the Philippines, every administration has always been very clearly pro education from a expenditure perspective.
Michael Waitze 17:02
Okay, so what needs to change Besides building the physical infrastructure, I mean, you can’t pay teachers enough really, to be fair, if you if you know what being in a public school is, like, I went to public school for most of my life, but what needs to change or to adapt, to help solve some of these problems that society is having, because you end up with out of 2 million students? Only 200 to 300,000 of them are properly educated. Yeah.
Henry Motte-Muñoz 17:32
You know, all countries go through stages. And in a way, it’s the Philippines can now go through this stage, if there’s a willingness to spend already by government. So that’s done, you know, there’s a willingness to spend my parents including as they get richer, and it’s across socio economic groups, and there’s no gender bias in the Philippines. Just fantastic. You know, we don’t have this issue of like, only boys can go to schools or societies go it’s actually one of the most gender equal in the world, I think we’re the eighth most gender equal ahead of many, you know, Western countries. The issue now becomes, how do you move from large macro investments to curriculum change, to delivery mechanism change? Right, I think COVID expose that, unfortunately, you know, we will need to invest a lot more as a country in terms of hybrid delivery, even as we will eventually return to school, physically, you will need some capacity to manage schools manage learning manage learners online. And there, you know, you’re talking about like a whole different ballgame in terms of like government investment and government training.
Michael Waitze 18:36
Sorry to interrupt you. But now you shift this investment from the physical, like plant and equipment of a school meaning desks, chairs, walls, air conditioning, and stuff like that. To this digitally delivered, educational system, I’m guessing, but now you reintroduce access problems, right? Because the more wealthy you are, the more access you have to connectivity to the devices that you need for education. And if you’re not going to a school every day, I have to imagine that your mom and dad, if you’re less well off are saying take care of this take care of your sister do all this other kind of stuff that gets in the way, right?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 19:15
Yes, absolutely. And this and this digital divide as well. The other thing that people forget is the teaching offline is very different from teaching online. And teaching is difficult. You know, it’s I’m sure it sounds like a bit of a platitude. But now, it’s something that we feel we feel very strongly about in your sandwiches. There’s a reason people have to study for years before they can before they can become a certified teacher. It’s not it’s not difficult to understand the math that gets taught in primary school. It’s very difficult to teach it to primary school kids, right. And so and the thing is teaching I’m not an educator myself, but I you know, we work with educators every day. And teaching in a physical classroom is very different than teaching online. So not only must you, you know, physically upgrade the infant structure under the Philippines is a laggard. But you must also teach students how to learn online, which is different. Yep. And then you must teach teachers how to teach online, which, again, is different. And so in a way, it’s almost, you know, it’s been very tough because there was all this investment by these different administrations. And we really felt like we’re just, you know, we’re starting to close the gap, we’re improving the physical delivery of education, Philippines, and COVID hits, and then suddenly, you know, you’re you’re almost pushed back decades in terms of equity, and equality. And then the final thing I would add, though, is on top of all this physical investment, plus, just in general infrastructure development, you also need to adapt the curriculum. And that actually was a problem already pre COVID. You know, teaching the curriculum in a modern way, was already a challenge for the free education system, Philippines. And it was just highlighted by COVID, when suddenly, parents could hear the lessons at home. And a lot of parents reactions, both for public and private schools was what what the hell is this curriculum? And what are you teaching my kid? And how are you even teaching my kid?
Michael Waitze 21:10
So what does need to change there? This? Again, I haven’t been in a school in a while my daughter graduated. But, you know, to be fair, she had a privileged education as well. Right? So I don’t think it’s the norm. And I don’t think it’s average. But what needs to change in the curriculum? And kind of why, in a way, I’m almost more curious about the why, right? If we talked about making people, productive members of society, not just living a good career, but having a good life? What needs to change?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 21:40
Well, it’s a fantastic question. And it goes down to what skills? What are you really trying to teach? Right? Are you trying to teach someone, you know, the table of elements? Is it all about really understanding photosynthesis perfectly? Or do you want them to tea? Or, you know, are you trying to teach them how to memorize a lot of information? Or do you accept that, you know, that’s something that Wikipedia does very well. And actually, what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to teach them how to think critically, you want them to be able to put different concepts together, you want them to be able to express themselves, not not not even just express themselves, but communicate in a way where you can actually convince someone to do something, right. So it’s, it’s moving from this, it’s often repeated, I cannot tell you how many education conference I’ve been to where half the panel is complaining about, we need to move away from learning by roads, and we need to teach kids how to think critically. It’s everyone’s Holy Grail. It’s also incredibly difficult. But that’s but that’s what we need to do. And that’s what I’ve literally heard for the last seven years, and probably every single edtech panel, I’ve I’ve listened to her Urbino.
Michael Waitze 22:57
So what does your company do? I’m going to try to pronounce this properly. Edu question that I get it wasn’t even close. No,
Henry Motte-Muñoz 23:04
you’re very you you got it very well, congrats. So you’re a fast learner.
Michael Waitze 23:10
I’m a lifelong learner, I feel like I should get some kind of badge. But what what do you do as a team to try to address all of these things that you’re talking about?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 23:22
Sure. So we we always go back to what problem are we trying to solve? Go ahead. And obviously, you know, it’s what’s interesting is education is a is a multi stakeholder industry. Sure. And you’re the cuter way of saying it is that it takes a village to raise a child. But that village, you know, is basically a lot of different entities and stakeholders, we try to approach it from both a macro and micro perspective. So that’s kind of like the economist, the field economist in me, still thinks about this way. From a macro perspective, we asked ourselves, you know, what kind of interventions can we do that will have impact at scale? One of the issues that we face in education is that some of the best interventions do not scale scale well, right? If you get 10, very bright, hardworking people around one child, right, then yes, that child will probably have a much better educational outcome. But you can’t really justify that from an ROI perspective. And so you know, just to give you some background, the Philippines is 27 million learners, you know, that that’s more than the majority of countries in the world. And that’s, that’s just people who are in school, right? So you’re looking at the K to 12 system, plus college, that’s about 27 million that are in school. And if you start adding people who shouldn’t be in school, but I have dropped out, you’re going above 30 mil. And so it’s it’s an incredibly large group. And the question we asked that we always ask ourselves is, how do you actually reach not hundreds, not 1000s, but millions of students? Right. So that’s that scale, right? Yeah. That skill that’s that’s the first thing that we look at The second thing that we look at is we go back to what’s our vision for an educated child? Right? Right. And different companies have different visions. And again, you know, the students will need more than one edtech platform to get ahead in life. But we we go back to our view of a successful citizen will need three things. They will need basic foundational academic skills. And this goes back to you know, literacy and numeracy. You basically need kids, you know, in plain terms, who would do well in a piece of ranking competition? Yep. So that’s, that’s number one. The second thing is you need them to make the right education choices. Now, when I say right, what we mean is education choices that match their skills, their career aspirations, and their personal constraints, whether it be geographical location, budget, time commitment. So that’s the second thing that we look at. And the third thing that we look at is equipping students with the soft skills, the life skills, the 21st, Century Skills, whatever you want to call it, but essentially, what’s not taught in the classroom? But what makes you successful citizen?
Michael Waitze 26:15
Again, can I jump in here? So this stuff should be taught? I mean, how many times in your life? Have you said, in a certain situation separate from the math separate from the writing skills and the language skills that you’ve acquired? Like, I wish somebody had just taught me that?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 26:30
Yes. I mean, and that’s, that’s, that’s one of the reasons why we started like one of those verticals, education, because when you have some of those topics, everyone benefits from them being taught. Yeah. But very few are incentivized or focused on it. So I’ll give you I’ll give you a couple of examples. Right. So, education. So I’ll, I’ll just walk you through the three variables. And I’ll just start with one around soft skills. We have modules on financial literacy. And that’s important. But you can’t blame parents for not teaching their kids financial literacy, because 92% of Filipino parents are financially literate themselves. So how can they teach something they don’t know, right? We teach sex education, sex education as a taboo topic in the Philippines, we are the only Christian country in Asia, we are very conservative. We’re the only country in the world that doesn’t have divorce. Along with an article, there’s two country in the world with the dollar lot for divorce, it’s the Philippines of the Vatican did not know that. The Vatican is the size of, you know, a small neighborhood in Manila, the Philippines is 110 million people. Yep. And so you can imagine that a country that hasn’t come to terms with divorce, definitely hasn’t come to terms with tech said, and so we can also have one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world.
Michael Waitze 27:45
So can you teach sex education through education?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 27:49
Yes, we can. We do. And so and so we, you know, we’ve partnered with some of the best NGOs out there, internationally recognizable, and said, focus on sex education. And we’ve been running modules for 1000s of students, teaching them age appropriate sex education. And for me, you and it’s kind of a classic example of everyone benefits. Yeah, yeah, society benefits the students benefits. But sometimes just nobody wants to take to take on that role. But part of what education does is we find stakeholders who do want to take that role. So on financial literacy, we’ve got some great partners in terms of banks and insurance companies, who are very happy to be part of that advocacy, because short, this is what it helps them to. And they you know, and if you’re going to give back, you might as well get back in a way that’s, you know, aligned to what your company does. George, Samia with sex education, we work with contraception companies are very happy to like, promote all our education. Yeah. So so that’s kind of on the, you know, on the the soft skills, you know, we the Philippines is facing an election this year. And so we run civic education modules. And you’d be amazed. You know, we’ve partnered with NGOs that focus on this, we’ve partnered with very famous artists in the Philippines, we care about, you know, civic education. So there’s, so that’s kind of like on the soft skills side. The second vertical that we have, which is the first one that we started with, is around guidance and counseling and making the right choice. And it’s actually what drives most of our traffic to the site. You know, we reach roughly 8 million students a year in the Philippines. I would say more than 90% of them come to us for that side.
Michael Waitze 29:25
What does that mean, though guidance?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 29:28
Sure. So it’s, it’s very simple. It’s what should I study? Where should I study? And how does it fit into my career objectives? If you don’t have career objectives, we help you figure out some career objectives and objectives. And so it’s around choosing Senior High School for you know, the grade 11 and 12. What topics to take. It’s about choosing College, where to study what to study, should I look at textbooks should they consider online? Should they go abroad? And then how does this all feed into a career So that’s that’s the, that’s the biggest form of engagement that we have with students interesting. So the third one actually was born out of the pandemic, seeing just how many students were struggling in school academically. And then that PISA ranking coming out, you know, we’ve been in the EdTech space for many, many years. And we always knew the Philippines had a poorly performing education system. I think even we were shocked at the ranking of the Philippines, right? There is there’s knowing you’re not doing well. And then there’s being told that you’re one of the worst in the world, right. And that is the kind of wake up call that no one likes to get. But it is a wake up call. And so for us, it became clear that even if we teach all these soft skills, even if we help people, you know, choose the right Senior High School and get into the best college possible. If they don’t have basic academic at 12, it doesn’t matter skills, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. And so that’s why we’ve now entered the Academic Support space. We’re focusing on English and math, we have plans of going into other subjects as well. And this is just focused on K 12 students
Michael Waitze 31:01
is that like after school style tutoring, yes. It’s not like traditional juku where you go there and just like get drilled stuff like they do in Japan, it’s more just like you may be having an issue. And if you need special not special, if you need more attention, we’ll give you that attention as well.
Henry Motte-Muñoz 31:18
Yes, and also, so the way we’re designing it, it’s been quite interesting for us, because we’ve seen the Philippine education system is very unequal, there’s actually going to be very different use cases for our tutoring, you will have students who, you know, are doing well in school, go to high quality private school, and are themselves good students in that school. And they just, you know, they just want advancements, it’s not about catching up, it’s about getting ahead, right, you will have people who just want to do better, you know, if your child is kind of at the bottom of their class, and you just want them to, you know, to at least you know, get within the average, then you then you’ll have these classes. And we also have students, frankly, where we are going to essentially try to bring them up to their age level. Right. So you’ll have a 14 year old student who has the reading or math skills of an 11 year old, right, and it keeps getting passed in the system, because the Philippines is a pretty locked system in high school. And so even students who don’t really reach the required skill level still get passed. And that’s why by the time kids are 18, some of them are literally three or four years behind.
Michael Waitze 32:24
So you mentioned ROI earlier. Right. It’s expensive if you and having impact at scale, at some level can be expensive. I’ll never forget the conversation that I had with Alvin Wang gralen, who I believe is the president of HTC in China. Yeah, I think so. Right? HTC runs this business called Vive, right. So it’s the VR AR, whatever you want to call it headsets. And I remember having him on one of my shows, this is now years ago. And I really had prepped for a conversation about gaming. Right, and I was did not anticipate the direction in which he was going to go. And he said they did a test in like Western Northwestern China. And they did this immersive teaching. And they split the class, I think it was 50 kids, they split them into the top 25 performing students and the bottom 25 performing students and the bottom 25. They gave this immersive sort of educational experience using the VR headsets, teaching the same subjects in the same topics. And at the end of this test. At the end of this experiment, excuse me, they tested the kids and the worst performing student who got the VR headset in the immersive education experience outperformed the best performing student prior. Now it’s not a panacea. But how do we square that circle, right? Where we know that technology can have a huge impact. But the ROI isn’t necessarily there. There’s got to be somewhere in the middle where we can use technology to improve the educational level, like you said, Take That kid who’s a 14 year old but reading at a 10 or 11 year old level and increase their ability to perform without having to spend 1000s of dollars on this immersive technology. Yeah.
Henry Motte-Muñoz 34:14
Yes. So it’s something we think about all the time. And it could be shown both from an impact and even from a business perspective. Right. Right. Philippines is a it’s an emerging markets. So it’s a developing country, which means that, you know, even our definition of a middle class is not that wealthy by international standards, but people have funds and are willing to spend them on education. So it’s how do you develop a product? Right, that’s affordable. And I think that’s, that’s always been our obsession in education. And you know, we have kind of different ways of achieving that. One of them has been where can you get corporate interests? And so for example, all our soft skills training, you know, the reality is, very few parents in the Philippines would be able to afford to Teaching civic ad and financial literacy and sex ed like it’s just, it’s a bit of like a bottom priority if you’re first trying to get your child to have decent grades and and get them to college. And so that whole sector, we’ve basically got an ad financed by external parties. So it’s completely free for students. And that’s been fantastic. On the advising site as well, we’ve been able to do a lot of external funding and and we are offering now private options for both. But one of the ways you make sure that you have impact at scale is you should always have a very solid free offering. In terms of academic supports, what we’re doing now is obviously, you know, we can’t offer one on one tutoring for free. That’s, that’s not a great business model. But what we are doing is, you know, we are we, and we’ve seen this done, by the way in Indonesia, and India, and we talked, so the folks who are doing it, there’s ways where you can either teach very large scale live classes, there are ways of creating a synchronous content. You’re not necessarily offering the one on one teaching, but you can get your very best teachers to produce materials. And you can give those materials for free or an extremely low cost, right. So it’s always about how do you scale content in a way that’s easily accessible, not just from a cost perspective, but from an infrastructure perspective. So you know, the Philippines is years away from being able to do VR, but there’s been massive improvements in internet capacity in the last two, three years. And so a synchronous online video delivery possible. And so that’s one of the things that we’re looking at. So it’s, yeah, you can just you just have to work around the existing infrastructure. And the benefit is because you’re in a developing market, the infrastructure improves every year, without you having to lift a finger.
Michael Waitze 36:45
It should ride. You mentioned this idea of being a multi stakeholder, I’ll just call it an entity, right? Education. Yeah. It’s like a five sided market, the parents care, the kids care, the businesses care, the government cares society. Like it’s just data teachers. Yeah, teachers get everybody cares, right? How do you work together with companies? Like, I don’t know, AWS? Right, that runs a big edtech accelerator program, they have something called Ed start, do you work with companies like that at all, to create value for some of your students to?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 37:20
Absolutely. And so what we’re always trying to do is we want to build an ecosystem where everyone can kind of plug and play and where they meet their own personal requirements, but unwittingly contribute to a better education system overall focus
Michael Waitze 37:37
Unknown Speaker 37:38
Because you know, you can’t, because you can’t just go to people and say, like, look like you have to join us. We’ve got this amazing advocate, yeah. People make decisions and spend time and money. So when it comes to companies like AWS, they’re actually one of our partners, we’re part of it starts love the work that they’re doing. And it’s actually been quite easy to work with them, because they’re very progressive, and they just want more and more people to get into cloud computing. And so when we’ve done that with them, as we, I think we’ve run, I can’t even count how many programs we’ve done with them now, like they’ve been our partner since 2018. Yeah, we’re not entering our fifth year of partnership with them. And we just do a lot around teaching cloud skills for Filipino students and Filipino young professionals. AWS obviously benefits because the more cloud specialists there are, the easier it is for companies to migrate to the cloud. Yep, that’s great for the top line, the students benefit because they’re getting all this amazing training and mentorship. And they can basically get jobs in the cloud computing space, which you know, pay very, very well. And companies in the Philippines are happy because there are, you know, more people who are able to to help with their cloud migration.
Michael Waitze 38:49
Yeah, the win-win is there, right?
Unknown Speaker 38:51
The win-win is there, but you have to design it that way. Right. And so part of our job at education is to keep designing win win. So even with teachers, right, how are we getting teachers to teach integration as tutors for a tutoring system? Well, you know, we handle all the marketing and payment and customer service for them. We provide training we give them we create the content for them, so they don’t have to spend hours creating lesson plans. And because everything’s online, you know, as a tutor, you can basically like work from home, not be stuck in traffic and not spend two hours running around Manila to do a one hour session with Raul right. And bonus, you don’t get to expose yourself to COVID. So you know, there’s but but again, you know, you, you need to be very clear, there needs to be a very clear benefit to everyone who joins into Keshawn. And that’s the way we always tell the team to design it like people shouldn’t join because they want to do good. People should join because it makes sense for them to be part of the ecosystem. And that’s how we have to design the journey for a student, a parent, a teacher, a corporate, a local government Foundation, another edtech player.
Michael Waitze 39:59
If you’re ready Reaching 8 million learners a year eight into 27. It’s not 20. It’s more than 25, almost 30% of the students are more like that you’re trying to reach right? How do you fund all this?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 40:14
So we actually broke even last year. And so that’s that’s been one of the silver linings of COVID. It just makes you laser focused on your union economics. Yeah, we obviously an issue and we’re running a loss as we were, we got investments. So we’ve already done four rounds of investments, we’re actually well, we’ll be announcing another round in the not so distant future. Okay. But so so we’ve had investor backing since 2016. But really, the business model has been, everything we run has to be on a positive unit economics perspective. So all the programs that are backed by companies like AWS, or clients like Unilever, or L’Oreal or AXA insurance, etc, these are run profitably, and then the products are completely free to use for students. And then for all the academics, we’re doing. Obviously, we are we are charging parents for those lessons under so we have a b2b business model. And we have a we now have a b2c business model as well.
Michael Waitze 41:17
Good stuff. Look, I’m gonna let you go. I’ve taken up a lot of your time today, if people want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to find you?
Henry Motte-Muñoz 41:25
The best is quite old school, but it’s probably email I would I would always encourage people to drop us a note on h menores at Lucca sean.ph. And then obviously, you can kind of follow it we do on LinkedIn were decently active there, right. And we’re always looking for, for partners interested in, in joining our ecosystem, our our mission is quite simple. You know, we want to build the Baijiu of the Philippines, we want to build the biggest invest at tech platform that’s native to the Philippines. And so to do that, we clearly will work with with multiple partners.
Michael Waitze 42:03
Awesome. I want to thank you, Henry Motte-Muñoz, the founder of edukayson.ph for coming on the show and doing this today. I really appreciate your time.
Henry Motte-Muñoz 42:13
Thank you so much, Michael. And, you know, all the best, whatever you’re working on, and thanks again for thinking of us. We really appreciate it.
Follow Michael Waitze and the Asia Tech Podcast here:
Facebook – Michael Waitze
Facebook – Asia Tech Podcast
LinkedIn – Michael Waitze
Twitter – Michael Waitze