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Japanese entrepreneur transforms PH education

Online schooling is now here in the Philippines.  More than 200,000 Filipino students are studying Math, Science, English and other subjects under the K+12 basic curriculum monthly, using an online platform developed by Quipper Inc., a technology company led by Japanese investors.

Its flagship product, Quipper School, which was released in the Philippines for free in January 2014, now has more than 50,000 teachers and 1 million students at grades 4 to 10 as members.

“Quipper serves private and public elementary and high schools nationwide,” Quipper country manager Yuki Naotori says in an e-mail interview.

Quipper country manager Yuki Naotori
The goal of the technology company, according to Naotori, is to help improve the quality of education by transforming the teaching and learning experience in the Philippines and other countries.

Headquartered in London, the company has offices in Manila, Tokyo, Jakarta and Mexico City and is used by 150,000 teachers and 2 million students across the Philippines, Indonesia and Mexico.

Quipper School, its first product, is a free online homework platform, which allows teachers to manage classes, send assignments to their students and analyze the performance of students. Students then build their knowledge through ‘mastery’ of topics, modules and courses, earning rewards in the process.

Naotori says through Quipper School, educators can manage multiple classes through a customized dashboard, send and schedule their assignments as well as assess their students’ individual performances. 

Quipper School also houses ready-made content sanctioned by the Education Department and aligned with the local curriculum and language, which double as assignments and exams. 

Students can study lessons and answer accompanying questions until they master a topic. Upon answering each question, they are provided real-time feedback as well as a short explanation of the item. The platform also has a messaging system, allowing teachers and students to communicate even outside of class hours.

The free content available on Quipper School covers Math, English, Science, Filipino, Araling Panlipunan and Computer for grades 4 to 10. By the beginning of school year 2016-17, Quipper will also provide content on more specialized subjects for grade 11 such as Oral Communication, Statistics and Probability and Earth and Life Science.

Two years after it was introduced in January 2014, Quipper has grown significantly in the Philippines. “Our user base has grown to 1 million registered students, with 200,000 monthly active users. We’ve also forged partnerships with 31 DepEd [Department of Education] divisions and 311 public schools nationwide,” Naotori says.

With Quipper School, students from Sta. Lucia High School in Quezon City have increased their engagement in everyday learning.
The education technology company was founded in December 2010 by Masayuki Watanabe, the Japanese entrepreneur behind the mobile gaming company DeNa.  Masa saw firsthand the impact education—or the lack of it—had on communities in developing countries, and Quipper was born out of his desire to ensure that anyone —regardless of their background—has access to excellent quality education, according to Naotori.

The Philippine office led by Naotori has a little over 50 employees. Quipper was acquired by the Japanese conglomerate Recruit Holdings in April 2015.

Naotori says the company will soon launch Quipper Video in the Philippines, which is expected to be the ultimate resource for senior high schools around the country. 

“This year, we are launching our first premium service, Quipper Video, which enables learners to stream video lessons by top teachers anytime, anywhere,” says Naotori, who holds office at GT Tower International on Ayala Ave. in Makati City.

“We’re also currently doing trials for another service called Quipper Live, an online class platform that enables teachers and students to interact in real time. We are also planning to bring Quipper School to more public and private schools, and establish more partnerships with DepEd division offices and schools,” he says.

Quipper Video was launched in Indonesia in November 2015, and is also now available in Mexico. “With the premium service, we are expecting to establish a profitable and sustainable education platform, and invest in and deliver even better content to more learners,” says Naotori.

Naotori says while Quipper does not have any direct competitor, it faces many challenges in the Philippines such as Internet connectivity, the ICT literacy of teachers and parents, and the lack of the appropriate ICT infrastructure in schools.

“Our customers include entire DepEd divisions, principals, teachers, and students,” he says.

On how the online platform works, Nautori explains that Quipper School offers an excellent overall experience for both teachers and students. 

“Teachers can access ready-made, K-12-aligned, DepEd-sanctioned content, and even upload their own.  They can get analytics on their students’ performance, and can also interact with students via a messaging system,” he says.

“Students are able to build their knowledge in a fun yet effective way,” he says.

He says the reception to Quipper School in the Philippines has been very good, with a study by UP Professor Ferdinand Pitagan showing that constant and even intermittent exposure to Quipper School is likely to foster higher mean scores and higher passing rate in tests, as well as a higher attendance rate. 

“Quipper Video is also doing well in Japan and is starting to take off in Indonesia, and we’re hoping for similar success in the Philippines, especially with the implementation of senior high school this year,” he says.

Naotori was born and raised in Japan, and went to local public schools up to high school there.  He went to the US and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Florida Institute of Technology in 1994.  

He also attended Stanford University where he obtained Master of Science in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering in 1995.

After earning his engineering degrees, he decided to join the information technology sector, which would later open the opportunity for online education. “Right after the graduation, I started my professional career as an IT consultant at Andersen Consulting [Accenture]. Since then, I have been involved in numerous IT-centric projects in many industries which include banking, insurance, telecommunications, tourism, entertainment, and so on,” he says.

Naotori is already married with two children who study and live in Makati City.  On weekends, he engages in sports such as marathon and triathlon.

Before he went to the Philippines, Naotori was the founder and president of Ext LLC, the world’s first distributor of Sencha Inc., a leading HTML5 technology vendor.  He was also the co-founder and director of Open Associates Inc. in Tokyo, Japan.

He was appointed country manager of Quipper Inc. in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand in April 2014.

“We just started our business in the Philippines, so I just want to focus on establishing a sustainable business foundation for next several years, and then start planning for the next step,” he says.

Naotori says Quipper is working on partnerships with private and public institutions to help bring Quipper School and Quipper Video to a wider audience.  “Globally, our research and development team is looking into expanding to Vietnam and Thailand,” he says.

Naotori says education needs to keep up with technology.  “Alongside this development, many researches are also being published about how people learn from the cognitive science perspective and its implications on teaching and learning. We are realizing that sound instructional design, assessment literacy [data driven decision-making], and innovative teachers are three key factors that drive successful education programs,” he says.

“I believe that efforts are more sustainable if these are in place, even if the tools change. While it’s not realistic to expect teachers and schools to use all types of technology, it would be ideal if they were to use their different affordances towards achieving their instructional and school improvement goals,” he says.

Naotori is particularly optimistic about the Philippine education market. “The Philippines is rapidly growing in its economy and population, and I believe there are almost infinite number of chances for those who wish to start their own businesses. With new K-12 program in action, children will have more chances for learning advanced lessons and preparing themselves for global competition while companies will be able to hire more talents right out of schools,” he says.

Among the growing number of learning institutions that have embraced Quipper’s learning solutions is Aguho Elementary School in Pateros, which saw its National Assessment Test ratings scale up to 18 percent. 

The actual use of Quipper School in 2015 registered a 37-percent year-on-year growth in the number of teachers who logged-in, 120-percent more teachers who created assignments, and 316 percent additional students who actively engaged with the service.

“We are here to see Filipino students through while they evolve with this exciting transition, emerging as this country’s new sets of leaders,” Naotori says.

Topics: Japanese engineer , PH education , Quipper School , Yuki Naotori
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