Founded by Tony Ngo and Don Le, Everest Education was created with the mission to empower students across Vietnam to help them gain admission to and succeed at international educational environments around the world. From enrichment classes in Math to college admissions, students in grades 1 through university are provided study courses that best suit their needs at multiple locations across Saigon thanks to Everest’s large network of learning centers and or online classes.
Staunch believers in intellectual curiosity as a foundation for life-long learning, Tony and Don are constantly challenging learners at Everest to capitalize on their innate curiosity and fulfill it with resilience and grit. Working with online learning tools, hands-on experimentation, and collaboration, they are determined to support and instill a can-do attitude in their students when mastering difficult assignments.
We quizzed Tony about empowering students to chase their aspirations and picked his brain about the future of online learning in Vietnam.
What was the initial spark that inspired you and Don to create Everest?
Don and I have been fortunate enough to have access to world-class education including Harvard and Stanford Universities. Our younger brothers have even more impressive educational degrees than we do, and it's all because of the sacrifices our parents made for us. Our personal mission is to bring that transformational learning experience to as many families in Vietnam as possible.
I have had extensive experience investing in and working with education businesses across the world, especially in the United States and in China, and along the way, I realized that Vietnam has so much untapped potential in terms of creating academic learning opportunities for students.
Most English Language learning centers typically provide conversational English. With Everest, we're aspiring to help students tap into international quality education no matter where they are in the world, by teaching a variety of academic subjects to them.
What differentiates Everest from other educational institutions?
Unlike the vast majority of after-school education providers in Vietnam, Everest's focus is on serving academically ambitious students and their families. We provide a comprehensive range of courses from Mathematics to English, as well as Test-Prep and College Advisory courses.
We've uniquely built our reputation through a combination of offline and online offerings. There are a number of traditional offline learning centers, and there are dozens of EdTech app providers, but there are very few integrated providers.
Because of our variety of touchpoints, we have what it takes to guide students through every stage of their academic journey and, ultimately, help them gain acceptance into the world's top international education programs.
Just last year alone our students earned a total of $12 million in scholarship money to attend some of American's top universities including the University of Southern California, Harvard, and Amherst College!
What Ed-Tech features has Everest adopted to help students transition from offline to online learning?
Edtech tools have rapidly evolved since we began building our first software platform seven years ago. Nowadays, there is a wider range of tools that you can use off-the-shelf rather than having to build everything from scratch.
The Everest team has meticulously studied the power of technology and the ways in which it transforms the learning experience and efficacy from looking at examples all over the world.
Back in 2015, it made sense for us to build our own software platform that enabled personalized learning for all the students taking our classes. From there on, we quickly saw that when students are given the right learning materials with the right amount of coaching and feedback at the right stage in their learning process, they are able to improve tremendously and earn a sense of accomplishment that further propels their aspirations.
As a result of this confidence, their academic performance naturally improves. And our coaching only accelerates this transition even more.
One of the innovations we’ve implemented is blended learning -- an educational approach that combines online opportunities with traditional place-based classroom methods. In fact, Michael Horn, one of the founding fathers of blended learning and the author of several books on the subject such as Disrupted Class and Blended, is our advisor and board member When he shared his research, our team was inspired to study all the great schools and companies pioneering blended learning models, and Michael introduced us to dozens of industry leaders. After visiting many of these institutions in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and New York, we designed our own proprietary methodology of blended learning adapted for Vietnamese students.
But perhaps the best example of how education technology has matured is the development of ClassIn. ClassIn provides so much more interactivity than any other online classroom platform out there. Thanks to ClassIn’s solutions, our teachers are able to engage students in ways that Zoom or Google Meet could never do.
With ClassIn, we found that the emotional engagement during our classes has been extraordinary. We love how students are able to feel like they're standing right at the blackboard alongside their peers. Having those small magical moments where they can joke and play with each other is just as important as memorizing the quadratic formula for their next math test.
Based on personal observations, how do students and teachers feel about online learning?
When the goal is to disrupt the market, there are many obvious challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge in Vietnam for online learning is that it is overlooked and is still not as accepted as its counterpart — in-person learning.
A lot of students and teachers are frustrated about their forced experiences with online learning over the past year. Many of those experiences of course were pretty terrible. We recognize that teachers had a hard time engaging their students with pre-recorded videos and online class agenda, but there is so much we can do to ameliorate that.
After showing our own teachers how powerful online-learning platforms like ClassIn truly were, they became much more excited about adopting the "superpowers" that ClassIn provides to create fun and engaging lessons for our students. To think of it, I don't remember the last time we got a complaint from a teacher about teaching online.
User behavior is always difficult to change, and my guess is that we're going to need a strong case in order to show students and their parents the true effectiveness and convenience of online learning. Plus, because we have entirely reimagined the learning experience online, we're able to provide these engaging experiences at a much lower cost than in person as well.
In many other countries, we've seen how online learning has actually been even more transformative in terms of allowing students more accessibility. Students can learn at their own convenience and are given more innovative learning formats than in-person classes can offer.
What does the future of online learning look like at Everest? And Vietnam?
The tools may change, but our educational philosophy will not. We have always been big on making sure that online classes are much more than just showing up and listening to a lecture. As a result, the transition from offline to online learning has been pretty seamless for us. I think that's one of the big reasons why 98.5% of our customers stayed with us during the COVID-19 disruptions. For any elementary students studying the Vietnamese MOET curriculum, just check out how engaging our online Spark*Math classes can be!
Online learning has huge potential in Vietnam, but there still hasn't been a break-out from a sustainable provider yet, which is what we want to become. Our live online learning courses inspire moments of interaction, and engagement has become the hallmark of our work.
I am hopeful that families remain open-minded about giving online learning a second chance so they can really experience what it is capable of. For students in high school and university, I think adoption has been less of an issue, but there are still limited high-quality online education programs out there that provide as much of a variety in subject areas as we do.