When the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who served three successive terms in office, made education his top priority, the political elite raised its collective eyebrows. Before then, the importance of learning and teaching was always somewhere at the bottom of the list of manifesto promises.
Since Blair’s resignation over a decade ago, there hasn’t been a president or prime minister worldwide who didn’t put education as one of their top five pledges. But to most politicians, it’s always been a political football. Everyone agrees it’s a good thing, but not everyone puts their money where their mouth is.
Enter William Erbey, an American entrepreneur and investor. He is a man who’s always had a knack of being ahead of the crowd, prioritising educational institutions both financially and philanthropically for years. The modest, unassuming businessman has come to the fore this year, following the publication of the World Economic Forum’s report on the effects of COVID19 on educational establishments globally.
Back in April, WEF report noted that the pandemic had changed education forever. It reported that with over 1.2 billion students out of the classroom, in even the first few months of the world pandemic, education and the way our children are taught had taken a dramatic change “whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms”.
Highlighting the disruption that the pandemic has had on a whole range of international educational institutions, it concluded that COVID19 “has become a major disruption to colleges and universities, with most institutions cancelling in-person classes and moving to online-only instruction”.
But before the virus had raised its head in China at the end of 2019, Erbey had set up an educational service known as Scholarly.co. The institution facilitates the distribution of knowledge from the best teachers and colleges to students and working professionals, all online.
Co-founder and CEO of Scholarly, is successful business leader and academic Vivek Bhandari. Voted one of India’s 25 Hottest Young Executives in a Business Today Special, Vivek started his career as an academic, serving as director of the Institute of Rural Management Anand, making him one of India’s youngest school business directors. His academic research resulted in him receiving national and international recognition, both domestically from government institutions, and from the International Development Research Centre of Canada.
“The best educational opportunities may not necessarily be near you. Learning from the best teachers and interacting with sharp and ambitious students, is an important part of the higher education”, he says on Scholarly’s website.
Indeed even a short visit to Scholarly.co’s exciting pages, tells you everything you need to know about the educational institution which, since the pandemic, is now in its element. “The 2021 admissions are in full swing” it shouts “we hope that you are well-prepared and your application process is going smoothly. There are always some last-minute questions and doubts. We have assembled an eminent panel of students, faculty and educationalists, who have seen all this before and want to share their experiences with you”.
“Our vision is to provide students with the opportunity to customise their collegiate experience, through a combination of online and campus courses”, Bhandari proclaims.
While acknowledging the importance of online learning, Bhandari also recognises the important part of travelling, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures plays in higher education. The site offers potential undergraduates information and advice on Credit Courses, SAT– ACT–PREP, Find My University, Research Papers, Questions, and more.
Co-founder of Scholarly.co Bill Erbey has always believed that the best way to improve the world ‘is by getting people better educated.’ Bill politely says “I’m not sure our own education system has kept up with the explosion of information and data in the world”, in a recent interview with Real Vision’s managing editor Ed Harrison.
The World Economic Forum’s report talks about “changing the educational imperative” noting that the pandemic had utterly disrupted an educational system which many would assert was already losing its relevance. In many ways, it’s a commendation of Erbey’s educational philosophy and philanthropic activities. The WEF concludes “What has been made clear throughout this pandemic is the importance of disseminating knowledge across borders, companies and all parts of society”.
Together with his wife Elaine and Vivek Bhandari, Scholarly.co has developed a series of outreach programs, to match international students with colleges and universities for both on-campus and live virtual classrooms. This learning combination of campus and online studying makes both practical and financial sense, especially in the time of Corona.
As Erbey says “American institutions of higher learning are a national treasure and sought-after all over the world. We are utillizing System73, where students can interact in real-time with their professors and fellow students globally. Not only will this enhance revenue but in certain circumstances, it will enable colleges and universities to deliver higher quality education at a lower cost”. By increasing the number of international students, educational institutions will be able to fill the empty seats and at full tuition fees, which in turn generates revenue. “This can be used to defray the costs of a college education for the entire student body”.
“The way it was going, it could only get worse, said Bill, “the population of college-aged individuals will begin to decline over the next several years, placing an even greater strain on the high fixed cost budgets of colleges and universities. I can think of a number of potential solutions. That’s why I invested in Scholarly”.
Both Bill and Vivek believe what is required is to use our ‘Rockstar professors, who are brilliant at teaching the subject, but then have them teach tens of thousands of students over the Internet’. In that way they say we can get the best professors out there, who will really get the students enthused about the subject matter”.