Tencent Education’s Latest Moves to Connect the Whole Education Industry
by Siyi Zhang
2020-01-16 22:01:15

In 2019, JMDedu has published several articles unfolding the stories of how China-based internet giants BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) accelerated education push and pivoted their education business. Tencent was undergoing that transformation and formed a dedicated brand Tencent Education in May last year, which was considered as a nod to more internal and external collaboration. Since then, the company has successively launched an array of products such as CODING, Tencent Classroom Intellisense (腾讯智学课堂分析), Study.qq.com (腾讯英语君), tlearning (腾实学院), WeLearning, and Parenting School, covering multiple education tracks and all kinds of user groups. Despite some major adjustments, Tencent has always been committed to its mission in education business, connecting the whole industry by providing infrastructures. 

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Dowson Tong, Tencent Senior Executive Vice President and CSIG (Cloud and Smart Industries Group) President, once pointed out: “Tencent Education is aiming for a starting point with three keywords: connection, content and commonweal to achieve equal, personalized and intelligent education.” This piece will unveil how the internet giant expanded its educational footprint after May, 2019.

WeLearning set to connect the whole education industry

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Last December, Tencent rolled out WeLearning smart education solution, gathering all the data from different products in order to provide services as well as systematic solutions for learning, teaching, management, and other related education scenarios. The Shenzhen-based company aimed for flexing its muscles to conquer China’s burgeoning smart education market.

In fact, “connection” has always been the basic logic of Tencent’s education business. After reorganizing more than 20 products previously scattered in six business groups, Tencent Education as a new brand is set to bring together disparate business lines on the basis of underlying technologies such as cloud, AI and big data, then build a technology warehouse for all the business groups, forming an educational product matrix from ToB to ToC. 

“It is impossible for Tencent to meet all of the needs of different users only by ourselves, so we hope to provide a platform and together with different partners to promote real smart education.” Said Tong. Under the aim of “connecting the entire education industry”, Tencent’s technical capabilities in mobile payment and face recognition can be adopted in offline education scenarios, considered as one of the advantages for internet companies to expand their business from online to offline.

JMDedu believes that WeLearning may become a secret weapon for Tencent Education to win the new war among internet giants, however, the company still needs to cope with future challenges that mainly come from its internal structure and even from understanding education itself.

Developing a product matrix to cover all sectors

Unveiling the whole package of products we mentioned at the beginning of this article, Tencent Education aims to improve its ecosystem by co-developing contents as well as the service system with different institutions. Specifically, Study.qq.com, launched last July, focuses on the demand of users generated from the companies AI translation tool “fanyi.qq.com(腾讯翻译君)”. “We find that most students still look for high-quality English learning products.” Said Li Xuechao, vice president of Tencent Intelligent Platform. Connected to Mini-program, Study.qq.com will be introduced into public schools as a part of Tencent’s smart campus strategy.

In terms of vocational education, Tencent Education released “tlearning” as a program to initiate its business of industry-education integration and school-enterprise cooperation. It provides five main directions of majors including AI, big data, cloud computing, mobile application development and information security with the training plan implemented through jointly constructing laboratory, industrial colleges and short-term training camps.

E-commerce in education space does not seem to work which was proven by the market during the past years. So BAT have all shifted their educational layout from just ToC towards comprehensive ToC business or All-in ToB. And Tencent Education chose the latter one. In addition to providing tools, building connections, and forming the ecosystem, the company enlarges its content pool by self-developing and investing more external items, and aims to complete a closed-loop from consumer to business based on the industrial internet. For example, CODING developed as a platform for kid programming will just reach consumers by collaborating with schools.

As for AI education which is highly promoted by the Chinese government to win the global tech race, Tencent also released a plan targeting the youth at its first MEET EdTech Innovation Summit in December. Under the plan, Tencent will integrate its original AI education products and jointly develop teaching contents with partners to serve 100 underdeveloped counties, build 1,000 smart campuses with digital management and learning platforms by its technology edges.

Commonweal always highlighted by Tencent Education

During a latest interview, we asked Dowson Tong: “What is the biggest challenge for Tencent to promote education business?” 

“Different individual’s understanding of education itself.” Answered by him. From Tong’s perspective, education covers a wide range including diverse sectors such as kid programming, language learning, and knowledge of multiple disciplines; plus, users at different learning stages always have different demands of learning products. The challenge within such a broad industry lies in agreeing on which pain point has become the highest priority to be addressed.

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In December, Tencent Education signed a strategic cooperation with China Family Education Institute, targeting family education. The two sides will carry out a series of projects, for instance, penetrating schools with offline lectures and providing parents with family education courses carried by the Penguin Tutoring platform without additional charges. Penguin Tutoring is Tencent’s self-operated online courses provider for K12 students with the teaching model of dual-teacher live broadcast. The product has witnessed a user increase by 5 times and nearly half of the customers are from the third- and fourth-tier cities.

Teachers from Penguin Tutoring finds out poor academic performances usually root in family education when communicating with students using the platform. That’s why Tencent decides to develop the Parents School. “We hope to promote a more advanced education mindset for all parents, not only those Penguin Tutoring end users.” Said Zhao Erdi, vice president of Tencent Education and general manager of Penguin Tutoring.

Previously, Tong also proposed that Tencent Education adheres to empowering people-centered education by leveraging its tech strengths and platform capabilities. “We are willing to make such effort to optimizing Chinese family education, moreover, guide parents and their kids to develop themselves together. This is always a part of commonweal highlighted by Tencent Education.” said Zhao Erdi.

Zhao also revealed that tens of millions of funds will be injected into Tencent Parent School, covering 100 schools and 200 thousand parents in 2020. Meanwhile, Tencent aims to provide management departments with timely process feedback with its technological means so that they can make better decisions based upon data. So far, Tencent has served more than 18,000 schools, over 400 provincial and municipal education bureaus, reaching more than 90,000 educational institutions and 400 million users.