Since my blog is picking up huge and mysterious traffic again, all directed to the SAT Tieng Viet post, I want to take this chance to discuss a project of mine on the SAT. It aims to change the studying of SAT, and more largely, the landscape of the study abroad industry in Vietnam.
Modeled after stackexchange.com (Example), the project is a Q&A platform for SAT questions, providing answer key and explanation. The Stackexchange format includes upvoting good answers, reputation badges, and commenting for clarification, all of which make it superior than the forum to find, provide, and ask for good answers.
For many occasions I have been deeply outraged by the fact that, despite the crazy tuition, the majority of SAT tutors offer little more than just answer key and explanation. I taught SAT myself and am one of the more qualified people in this trade. Yet to this day I still languish in the shameful admittance that my contribution does not deserve the money spent by the students and their families. Everything I provide for them in class, I definitely can and absolutely should provide for free online. And not just for a few of my students, but thousands more that don’t have to resources for those outrageously priced SAT classes.
That is my personal Why. Taking a social perspective, this project increases total welfare in two ways. First, it lowers the barrier to education and thus makes the study abroad system more meritocratic. Indeed, bright kids without resources will have a better chance next to their well-funded and cradled peers. Second, Vietnamese students coming home from abroad will no longer spend so much of their precious human capital on teaching SAT. We sorely need those talents, and we sorely need them to do something else other than giving out test answers.
Technology, it turns out, is not the greatest concern. I have been talking to students and people interested in education to answer the following questions:
1. Is there a demand for this?
1a. Is it true that the majority of SAT centers still only give out answer key and explanation?
1b. Does this online Q&A platform fit in students’ study habit? Some of my old students have raised the concern that the biggest challenge is not a lack of answers and explanations (but lack of motivation and verbal proficiency). Even if they do not understand sometimes, they will just move on instead of delving upon a few thorny questions.
2. How to quickly boost the credibility and usefulness of the site from the very beginning? Since content of sites like this is entirely community-driven, the usefulness increases exponentially with the numbers of users. Thus, the starting period is absolutely crucial.
We know the problem of huge waste and outrageous price in our system of study abroad prep. We know that a solution is imperative. But I am also level-headed enough to recognize that this idea, in its infancy, may not be a good solution for that problem. Thus, please contact me via this blog or in the form below to discuss the viability of and the improvements for this idea.
I’d love to hear from all sides, not only from SAT students and teachers but also managers of educational projects.