It started with a question.

How can we make learning more accessible? How can we really bring it home? In 2005, we asked ourselves this question and with stars in our eyes began to think of a thousand different ways to answer it. Most of our answers led to the same place – learning works best through relationships. And so in 2006, we launched Teach Me 2, with our focus on relational learning. Today we manage over a thousand of South Africa’s most talented tutors, backed up by our experienced support staff. In addition to servicing private individuals, we’ve been approached by businesses, schools, education trusts and even film companies, to manage tutoring programmes for all sorts of purposes.

A line in the sand

We founded Teach Me 2 on the belief that one-on-one tutoring is the shortest distance to improved results in learning, for a number of well-documented reasons. It’s a belief that has rung true time and time again. But we also noticed a few unforeseen benefits to the tutor-learner relationship, such as accountability, mentorship and friendship. And we began to see that these personal dynamics often enriched the learning process indirectly by tackling deeper issues, like motivation and confidence, which are often at the heart of problems with learning. And so our big idea was that in order for tutoring to work best, we need to appoint tutors who don’t just know their stuff, but also know ‘people’. They need to have what it takes to inspire and grow the learners with whom they’re matched.

And so we drew a line in the sand… and decided that in evaluating tutor applications subject knowledge was crucial, but not enough – our tutors needed to be role models. With this in mind, we designed our systems and model in a way which would preserve our ‘line in the sand’. Each week we sift through dozens of tutor applications and personally interview only the most promising applicants at each of South Africa’s major university campuses. We have a very long list of criteria, covering academic proficiency, teaching style, personality and role model quality. We’re proud to say that becoming a Teach Me 2 tutor is no mean feat.

The engine room

Recruiting top tutors is only half of the job done – the other half involves managing tutoring programmes effectively, including matching tutors to learners, scheduling lessons, providing insightful progress feedback, administrating payments and support. And that’s where our engine room comes in. For starters, over the past few years we’ve built our own web-based system to help us do our jobs better. It integrates with SMS and Google mapping technologies to help our team perform intelligent tutor-learner match-ups and manage logistics. We have a programming team that maintains and improves our system every day. Our staff are also a key ingredient. Each tuition manager has been hand-picked because of their professionalism, reliability and friendliness. If you’re already a client of ours, we hope you can vouch for this. Our team also includes recruitment personnel, portfolio managers and a growing management team.

One question inspires another.

What if we could mobilise students from privileged high schools and universities to tutor younger learners from under-resourced schools? What if university bursaries required the students to whom they are granted to conduct a minimum number of tutoring hours for a younger learner who can’t afford tutoring? What bridges could be built through ideas like this – not just developmentally, but socially? Over the past few years, we’ve had the opportunity to build and optimise systems for not only screening and recruiting large volumes of tutors, but monitoring and managing large volumes of tutoring programmes. What if we could leverage these systems to breathe life into innovative programmes like the ones imagined above, providing free tutoring to learners who ordinarily don’t even have textbooks?

These are a few of the questions which have inspired us to partner with a number of charitable organisations in the remarkable work they’re doing. If you’d like to partner with us to pursue any of these ideas, we’d love to connect with you.