Companies investing in alternatives to traditional US schools

World Today

WeWork joins other tech leaders in jumping into education by launching its own elementary school.

Co-working giant WeWork is getting into the education field with a new school in New York that promises to develop a child’s entrepreneurial spirit along with traditional academics.

The school’s arrival comes at a time when more people are questioning whether the current system, one that focuses heavily on standardized testing, will be relevant in the future.

CGTN’s Karina Huber has more.

This year marks the first year for WeGrow – a new pre-kindergarten and elementary school started by the wife of WeWork’s co-founder and CEO.

Housed in WeWork’s New York headquarters, the school charges between $22,000 and $42,000 a year in tuition.

WeGrow is just the latest example of a school started or funded by tech leaders. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and PayPayl co-founder Peter Thiel invested heavily in a school called “AltSchool,” which opened in New York and California.

Education experts said it’s obvious why Silicon Valley would want to invest in schools.

“It’s a big business. Huge business. Parents are willing to pay and invest and sacrifice for education increasingly,” said college advisor Bari Norman, the President of Expert Admissions.

She said education is ripe for disruption.

In the U.S. it relies heavily on standardized testing – which some critics said kills children’s imaginations. Some parents worry they won’t develop the necessary skills to survive in an increasingly automated world.

The schools backed by tech titans tend to favor individualized learning that tailors the curriculum to each child – something many parents like.

Paul France, a teacher and the author of the upcoming book “Reclaiming Personalized Learning,” said that sounds good but taken to an extreme it can perpetuate a sense of entitlement.

“When we send kids the message that you get to learn about what you want, and you get to make your own plan all the time. We’re telling them that the other 20 people around you don’t really matter,” he said.

Norman said there are other risks with new schools.

“Generally speaking, we’re open to new things but we’re certainly skeptical until we see results,” she said.

AltSchools have already closed in New York and California amid complaints from parents. Now the company is shifting its focus to selling educational software to other schools.

France isn’t surprised.

“What I’ve learned is that it’s really, really challenging to do what’s best for kids when profits are involved,” he said.