Stephanie Ricci contributed to this story.
Throughout his teaching career as an education student at McGill University, Philip Cutler saw firsthand how inequality led to a learning gap among students. After researching the edtech market, he concluded that no commercial solution could equitably and adequately serve every student.
So Cutler and his co-founder, CTO and COO, Roberto Cipriani founded Paper, an educational support system to advance equity in education and help more students succeed.
The EdTech Company offers unlimited 24/7 online tutoring and a full suite of educational support tools by contracting with school districts for a fixed price. Their B2B model allows them to offer the service for free to students, families, or teachers and helps level the playing field for all students.
Based in Montreal, the academic support platform operates in the United States, particularly along the California coast. With more than 2,000 professional, multilingual tutors, it reaches nearly 2.5 million students at all grade levels in more than 200 subjects across North America.
The team of tutors is made up of college students, doctoral students and teachers committed to continuing their learning and professional development. When not working, these tutors review each other’s sessions to provide feedback.
The main difference between Paper and other EdTech companies is its reluctance to directly target consumers, the most common business model in the industry.
“Making students’ families pay doesn’t sit well with our values,” Cutler said. “We would not explore this model because it increases the opportunity gaps faced by students from low-income families and only provides resources to families who can afford it.”
The era of digital education
Evidence suggests that the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened pre-existing inequalities in remote learning. The need for academic support has reached an all-time high as learning gaps widen.
The global tutoring market has skyrocketed since the post-pandemic recovery and is expected to reach $218.1 billion by 2027, a 76% increase since 2020, according to ReportLinker.
Now, as students return to campus, issues with accessing laptops, internet and other devices that existed before the outbreak persist in some states.
“Before the pandemic, about 60% of school districts in the United States provided devices to their students,” Cutler said. “Today that figure is around 99 percent.”
However, Canadian provincial education authorities have yet to follow the lead of the United States in investing heavily in tutoring to address learning loss as part of their national education responses to the pandemic. .
The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) in Montreal only provides laptops and other digital devices to students who prove they need them, Cutler said.
This perpetuates educational inequality in the school system.
“How can you make decisions assuming some kids may or may not have this device?” he said. “You can’t buy a solution like PAPER until you commit to saying our students need the technology, and the reality is, they need it.”
Today, the company seeks to develop beyond the tutoring solution and pushes for the diversification of its product. New offerings for the 2022-2023 school year include Paper Math, College & Career Support, and PaperLive, a new video streaming service that offers free after-school programming to any student on the Paper platform.
Equitable access to education underpins participation in the economy. If we aspire to a more balanced and inclusive society, large-scale access to school support should be a top priority.