Read the interview of Mustafa Salam, CEO of Corrsy
What specific education challenge is this solution trying to resolve?
I am originally from Iraq; I left the country in 2015. I consider myself a typical Iraqi: I lost my father in a civil war, I have been internally displaced, a refugee, and my life has been like a Hollywood movie! I come from a very good family. The two things that brought me to do this are: First, entrepreneurship, which I have always been practising, and second, I had a very good education, attended private schools, graduated from engineering, and had good English skills.
In the Middle East people learn for exams—not for life. We help you pass the exam but also help to gain skills for careers. Statistics say that in the Middle East 7/10 kids receive private tutoring. The cost of this reaches up to 20% of any family income, which is very expensive. On average it costs 3500 USD per student per schooling year to pass the pre-college exam. If families don't have the funds, their children do not pass it. The exams are designed this way.
Especially in rural areas, for a technology solution to be implemented, the whole local infrastructure, usage of devices, low internet connectivity and band width are a challenge. Now, the average speed for Iraqi users is about 1 MB per second, and in Finland it is 240 MB per second. In Iraq they are still using 3,5 G, in Finland 5G. But we work with that. If you open Corrsy anywhere you will get the opportunities very fast.
Where does this solution fit into a global or local (digital) educational landscape?
Our vision is to give high quality education to everyone with a mobile connection. We are using the national curricula but also trying to provide skills and competence outside of it. Simply put, we are in between the national curricula and competence solving the private tutoring issue.
And I know what it will look like on the other side without education. Private tutoring is the second largest business within education in the area—and so there is a possibility to make both profit and great impact at the same time.
How does your solution work, especially for new users?
Corrsy is a student-centred solution, focused on enhancing student learning outcomes. We deliver content designed on micro learning, storytelling and gamification in order to get higher engagement and better learning outcomes.
When students enter, they see the game environment, and the fear of exams is taken away. We get to the point immediately. It is more cost effective and affordable for many. Students see the content in different formats such as video, text, pdf. It is from the national curriculum but based on the Finnish education principles. After every lesson there is an exam which is inspired by the previous year's exams. We are implementing them so that students see what it will be like in the national exams. They see it and when they feel like they would pass, they feel good.
But private tutoring means different things in different contexts. In Iraq it's not private in the Finnish sense, when a student visits a tutor individually. In Iraq it is sitting in a class with hundreds of others getting the same teaching. The whole experience is like this.
How well-known, popular, or used is the solution in Finland? (To what do you attribute this success?)
In Finland we are part of the bigger ecosystem. We are trying to do it like many other founders in Finland that are trying to get their solutions to the Middle East. We are working very closely with other experienced entrepreneurs. In Finland we don't have users but a good ecosystem that helps us to grow in the Middle East.
Corrsy is specialised in one thing and not all the things, so we are happy to open opportunities for others who are not familiar with the market and the implicit knowledge that you gain only after living there, like trying to build a business consortium, to extend the lifespan of our students' opportunities. Other Finnish solutions are very much needed there.
How safe is it to use this solution?
We take safety very seriously. As a Finnish company we have to comply with regulations. But there are some other serious reasons too for us not sharing any data.
In Iraq girls are studying behind their family's backs because of the situation. Even fathers can’t know that families pay for tutoring services for girls, so subscriptions are asked to be paid when fathers are not home, especially in the rural areas which we are targeting. When fathers go to work, girls talk to mothers and agree to operate in silence and pay the subscription fee behind the father's back. If they found out, it would be a tough situation. Sometimes girls even need to do this behind their mothers' back. Sometimes the eldest girls do it and pay the subscription fee for their younger siblings. It is hard to believe! It is peoples' lives we are protecting here, so we will not share any data.
It is still the case in some communities that girls need to drop out of education to be housewives, marry and have kids at age 15. You are not allowed to go to school. But what to do when you want to continue your education? We have hundreds of users like this. Our specific target group is 12-19-year-olds, and that is +20% of the Iraqi population. They are not reached by social media due to their age. Now, many other solution providers are knocking on our door to use our algorithm, which would mean an extra revenue stream for us, but we are saying no, until we are sure we have a safe and good plan. So far, we have refused all requests, including research. We must protect the children, girls especially.