Making It Work: Online TEFL platform learns from pandemic

Founder Yuxin Wang saw a chance to match a need for English teachers in China with a pool of talented educators in Ireland

7th December, 2020
Making It Work: Online TEFL platform learns from pandemic
GoMappED founder Yuxin Wang grew up in Shijiazhuang in the Hebei province of northern China and worked as a solicitor before moving to Ireland in 2001

The sudden closure of Grafton College, the English language school, in Dublin in 2018 was the inspiration for GoMappED, an online teaching platform launched last year by Yuxin Wang, a software developer.

Twenty-three teachers lost their jobs when Grafton College closed without notice in December 2018. In response, Wang decided to use her skills to establish a business that could offer TEFL and CEL teachers a more secure income.

“They were good teachers and, suddenly, they had no work. That upset me a lot,” Wang said.

“On the other hand, I knew first-hand that there were a huge number of school-going students in China who didn’t have access to English-speaking language teachers.”

Wang grew up in Shijiazhuang in the Hebei province of northern China and worked as a solicitor before moving to Ireland in 2001, where she went on to gain a master’s in advanced software engineering at UCD.

“Shijiazhuang is a city of 10 million people, but the name translates as ‘Shi family’s village’. I think that’s kind of appropriate given that I now live in Stepaside, a village on the outskirts of Dublin,” Wang said.

Wang set up GoMappED in Stepaside in 2017 with her husband Wenen and a number of other co-founders.

“We started out offering consultancy services to Chinese students who wanted to study English in Ireland,” Wang said.

“It was after the Grafton School closed that we decided to switch our focus and develop software that would allow these students to learn English remotely online.”

The move is paying off for GoMappED, which is in the final stages of closing a €400,000 seed funding round with Enterprise Ireland, the state agency, and a number of private investors in China.

“We have signed an important contract with a private school in the Henan province, which has about 6,000 pupils,” Wang said.

“After the pandemic started, we trialled our platform with just over 100 second-year pupils at the school from February to April. They couldn’t attend school so they were using it to learn English at home.

“Based on their feedback, the school has decided to roll our courses out to more than 2,000 first- and second-year students from September. That is a really important development for us.”

GoMappED employs two full-time training managers and nine part-time teachers in Ireland. It sells to primary and secondary schools, universities and grind schools in China.

Wang estimates that about 2,500 students are currently using the platform. “We want to provide affordable high-quality English courses to students in both cities and rural parts of China and other countries,” she said.

GoMappED is a client company of Enterprise Ireland and has taken part in the state agency’s New Frontiers entrepreneur development and Hi-Start management development programmes.

“We expect to more than double the number of students using our platform in 2021, and to recruit five full-time and about 20 part-time teachers in Ireland,” Wang said.

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