The Kosmos School Plan

Feb 28, 2019 by Can Olcer

This morning, I sent out the following email to the Kosmos School team and investors. It’s important that everyone understands Kosmos School’s plan and therefore I decided to also share it here.

Dear team and investors,

I want to take a moment to talk about what we want to achieve with Kosmos School and why I think it’s one of the most important things to do.

As you know, our ultimate goal is to provide affordable, high-quality elementary and secondary education for everyone, no matter their background or wealth.

There are different ways to achieve this, but I’m convinced that the best way is to build and run a school that exists only virtually - in virtual reality. Creating a new school system won’t happen overnight. We are playing the long game, it’s the only way to bring on fundamental change. And this is how we’re going to do it.

We have started with a premium product: Live science classes in VR that parents and kids book directly on our website. Our classes are a fun and new way to learn about science topics for kids and teenagers who are interested in science and are looking for new experiences. The market for this is not large, but it will help us generate enough revenues and finance our work on creating more classes and move towards a full-curriculum, which is the second part of the plan.

In about 2 years from now, we will open up for enrollment for full-time high and middle school students. Kosmos School will be a legitimate private, virtual school where kids earn diplomas and go on to college or whatever else they want to do with their lives. The average private high school in the US costs $10k/year for parents. We will be able to afford the same quality of education for $3k/year. How? By having lower costs and more efficient teaching. Around 25% of costs of running a school are related solely to the fact that the school has a physical location. These are maintenance costs of the building, electricity and water, running a cafeteria etc. The rest of the costs are salaries. Not only for teachers, but also for support and administrative staff. Support and admin salaries we will be able to almost cut out completely, because the whole school runs on software. We will utilize teacher time much, much more efficiently than physical schools. This doesn’t mean teachers earn less or have to work more - quite the opposite. We will pay teachers more than the national average and still have lower costs. This is possible because of several factors. First, there is no commute and students and teachers save about one hour per day. Second, in a project-based learning environment, students mostly work in groups with other students and the teacher’s role is not to lecture them for 6 hours a day, but coaching and helping them when needed. In a physical school this type of pedagogy is more expensive, however in a virtual school it will be much cheaper because the teacher can handle more students at a time with the same quality of teaching. At this stage, we will reach many more students than only with the live classes, but still it won’t be affordable by everyone. We will have reduced the costs of a high quality education by a factor 3, but this won’t be enough.

The last part of the plan is to become a charter school, achieve a cost reduction of 8x, and reach hundreds of thousands of students. The majority of US kids and teens go to a public school. The public school system is funded by the US government (i.e. by taxpayers). Charter schools are privately run schools that are funded by the US government. Currently, this US spends $668 billion each year for the public school system. That’s $13k per student per year, and up 15% from the year 2000. All while teacher salaries (and by extension, quality of education) remained the same. Our opportunity is to make the public school system 8 times cheaper. This means the US could save $535 billion each year and invest it in making education even better. For example, helping low-income families so that kids don’t have to worry about helping out at home while they go to school because their parents have to work 3 jobs. Or so that kids don’t have to think about where to sleep the next night because their parents can’t afford a place to live.

In this plan, I only addressed the US. But education is a global problem and we will not only focus on the US but offer the same opportunities to kids all around planet Earth. Because, where someone was born shouldn’t stand in the way of receiving a high-quality education.

Why is this one of the most important problems to solve? Because it’s a the problem of problems. Improving education has hugely positive second order effects. What I mean is that not only does a better education provide a better life for the individual human that received it, it also helps solve other problems. Better educated people contribute more to innovation and to economic growth. Better educated people make better policy decisions that will help us solve the climate crisis, have less wars and social injustice. It’s a virtuous cycle.

Therefore, I believe that providing affordable, high-quality elementary and secondary education for everyone, no matter their background or wealth, is one of the most important problems to work on today.