Harrow, Westminster, Dulwich, Marlborough, Repton, the list of Britain’s most prestigious, and ancient, private schools with outposts abroad gets longer with each passing month.
But where is Eton College, arguably the most distinguished of them all?
No chance of Eton signing an agreement with some ambitious Chinese or Thai businessman eager to have his/her name associated with the very best of British education. Eton may be the paragon of educational elitism but the school has so far avoided treating the business of education as, well, a business.
At least it has until now.
You may not yet have heard of EtonX but you surely will do.
Eton, for 600 years the iconic educator of countless British Prime Ministers, royals, international politicians, aristocrats, nouveau riche, and a few film stars, has now declared itself to be very much in the business of education. And EtonX is its new brand.
Catherine Whitaker, CEO and head of learning at EtonX, explains just what this new company is about:
“We are a wholly owned subsidiary of Eton College. When Eton decided that it wouldn’t open an overseas branch, they figured technology was a different way of extending their reach… Eton is genuinely interested in seeing what could be done with virtual class technology…EtonX’s ‘future skills’ programme — a set of 12 courses — will help regional schools and universities address gaps in the teaching of vitally important soft skills…The EtonX platform aims to distill the best of the school into online courses for international students.”
Yes, Eton has deliberately sidestepped any move into overseas franchises of its illustrious name and instead launched EtonX, offering pure-play virtual classroom courses, such as ‘critical thinking’, ‘communication skills’ and entrepreneurship’.
And EtonX’s initial target market is the Gulf Region. Already the take-up of Eton’s online courses has been strong, with ‘around 20 GCC-based schools on its books for the start of the academic year in September 2019.’ In addition, the company has recently signed an MoU with GEMS education.
‘We have effectively distilled what makes an Eton education valuable into a [online] series that can be done by anyone, anywhere”, said Whitaker.
Not only is this an astute move by Eton to protect its brand name while exploiting the rapidly growing international education market, they are clearly recognising that education in the 21st century will be much less about traditional learning methods and acquiring fixed knowledge, and much more about developing ‘soft skills’.
“The days of relying on knowledge from university are over. It’s all about being able to think critically and spot opportunities and solve problems creatively. Entrepreneurship is a mindset. Our course encourages students to have their own ideas.”
Eton may have been around for six centuries, but they are very determinedly not behind the times.
Dr Stephen Whitehead (opinions are author’s own)