Give a short overview of the business, individual or team and its role.
Established in 2007, Dragons in Europe Limited (DE) is a specialist in the publication and provision of Mandarin Chinese teaching materials and trained teachers to UK and European schools. We currently employ over 40 teachers, we have taught in more than 800 schools and the company provides a wide range of textbooks and online materials, which are currently being used in many primary and secondary schools. DE works in collaboration with Cambridge University Press on the publication and distribution of their resources. In addition, select titles have been endorsed by both the Independent Schools Examinations Board (ISEB) and Oxford and Cambridge & RSA Examinations (OCR) in line with the Asset Languages Breakthrough and GCSE curriculums.
The company's founder, Marcus Reoch, previously worked for Reuters before heading off to China to study intensive Mandarin Chinese in Shanghai back in 2005. On his return, he established the company so as to share his passion for the Chinese culture with primary and secondary schools and to meet the demand of the growing interest in children learning the language. In September 2009, Marcus appeared on the BBC series 'Dragons' Den' in an attempt to obtain investment; whilst he did not receive any investment, he performed admirably and was strongly recommended to grow the business in the online space.
Since then, Marcus has grown the company from a 1-man band to a multi-faceted language tuition service with 4 full-time employees, which has a long-term and defensible mission with exciting and realistic growth opportunities. Shaun (Head of Marketing), Meng (Head of Web & Communications), Elliott (Head of Teacher Training) and Varun (Head of IT) were recruited by Marcus in order to provide comprehensive and quality delivery in terms of Chinese teaching staff management, textbook & electronic publishing and administration thereof. Last year Dragons in Europe successfully recruited Julian Drinkall, currently CEO of Cengage Learning EMEA, who has been invaluable in terms of introducing our products and services to senior figures in the educational community. For more information about the company, please visit www.dragonsineurope.com
Publications and E-materials:
DE has published 16 ISBNs across 6 languages in the primary range (Primary School Chinese) - English (UK), English (US), French, Spanish, German and Russian. You will see some examples below.
DE has published 6 ISBNs in the secondary range (Cambridge Chinese for Beginners) in English. You will see some examples below.
DE currently has 6 online Mandarin Chinese teaching portals in the primary range (for the 6 languages). Please click through for access.
DE currently has 1 online Mandarin Chinese teaching portal to cater for a secondary school audience:
Describe its activities during academic year 2012-13 including, where applicable, a full list of education deals on which it worked.
2012-2013 new products (many of which are listed above).
Textbooks - DE has published 9 out of the 16 ISBNs available in our primary range.
Online - DE has built accompanying e-portals (to support the textbooks) at primary and secondary level
DE has launched the Kung Fu Kingdom™ games portal across both primary and secondary online sites (click through to this feature can be found in every one of our sites and has been translated into 4 European languages)
DE has built an Apple iProduct app called Primary School Chinese App Book 1 which is a tablet style offering based on our www.primaryschoolchinese.com website. The App is built on non-adobe flash software and provides students with tablet-enabled access to entry level Mandarin Chinese, which is both fun and educational.
Cambridge University Press Endorsement and Distribution agreement
In October 2012, DE signed an endorsement and distribution agreement with Cambridge University Press. CUP join a number of the larger educational publishers who, whilst wanting to start selling Mandarin Chinese publications, lack the expertise and therefore a quick start with a specialist makes business sense. The collaboration, which has been a 'game changer' for a small business such as ours, involved the purchase by CUP of our secondary and primary products with a joint agreement to promote Mandarin Chinese across their global footprint.
Increase in international exposure / world tour
In April this year Marcus spent four weeks away as part of a global sales and marketing push for DE, its products and the Cambridge University Press relationship. He attended two national Chinese teachers' conferences in Boston and San Francisco and thereafter visited Sydney, Hong Kong, New Delhi and Dubai to see schools, businesses and educational groups that have an interest in promoting Mandarin Chinese e.g. British Council, UK Trade and Investment. This experience has enabled me to steer the company's interest towards partners with whom we can work internationally and for the long term.
Creation of the Kung Fu Kingdom™ educational brand.
DE has mapped in an online games format into our Chinese teaching portals, both at primary and secondary level. Shaun Howes, our in-house Head of Marketing, has also successfully launched the Kung Fu Kingdom™ educational brand. This is a series of edu-fun Chinese cultural learning tools which enable school children to learn more about Chinese language and culture; the learning tools, which will be sold online and at marketing events and conferences, include Chinese language learning sheets, information about the Chinese zodiac, chopsticks, Chinese character stickers and posters etc.
DE's first retail products will be Kung Fu Kingdom™ 'Fun packs' and T-shirts for children aged 4-12 years old. These are pictured below.
Show how your team demonstrated innovation and excellence in working on a specific deal/number of deals or in providing products and service.
Throughout 2012-2013, DE has been working with their development team (headed up by Varun) to 'take Mandarin Chinese out of the classroom'. Compared with schools in the US and Australia (where Mandarin Chinese is taught anywhere from 1-4 periods per week), there is an average of no more than 40 minutes per week in both the primary and secondary teaching sectors here in the UK and Europe - needless to say, this is very little study time to enable a student to progress. DE is therefore resolving the problem by turning the idea of forced homework style- language study in the home place into a period of fun and education at the computer (whilst learning Mandarin Chinese) - we have achieved this through innovative and imaginative developments in our online portals, which turns the language learning process into an entertaining and effective period of study. In addition, we have given the teachers instant and real time access to how much time their students are spending on studying Mandarin out of the classrooms as well as the online results (through gameplay, auto-marking homework and competitions).
Please find below a list of three key online projects/initiatives which DE have completed over the course of 2012/13; whilst being incredibly valuable to the individual in terms of progress in Mandarin, these developments have been received very favourably by our academic partners (Cambridge University Press, Independent Schools Examinations Board and Oxford, Cambridge & RSA Examinations).
Investment title:- 2012-2013: Innovation and excellence within DE's language e-portals at primary and secondary level/across multiple languages
Investment: circa Ј25,000
DE has built flash tuition and games slides in alignment with the textbooks and curriculum across 6 different languages (English (UK), English (American), French, Spanish, German and Russian. Whilst this has been a huge time and monetary investment, Mandarin Chinese can now be studied and listened to in any place where there is an online connection. In addition, the presentation is in correct alignment with the different profiles and expectations of primary and secondary school students across different geographies.
DE has also built auto-marking homework, based on their curriculums, for all the portals available at primary and secondary level; we built this feature on the back of requests from teachers that we supply to schools and it makes perfect sense to use IT to enable teachers to focus their valuable time on teaching rather than marking.
DE has also built a 'Support & Videos' section for parents and teachers which enables educators to see schemes of work in a real world scenario rather than just written down as a saved document.
2000+ primary and secondary school children using our online games every week.
Huge increase in the amount of time that Mandarin Chinese is studied at home i.e. 'taking Mandarin out of the classroom'.
Native Chinese teachers have cited the time saving element of our products as the main reason for purchase (auto-marking homework).
Vast improvement in the quality of Mandarin Chinese spoken by students at both primary and secondary level.
Investment title:- Innovation and excellence in the Kung Fu Kingdom™ Games Zone, which is a feature in all our e-portals
Investment: - circa Ј15,000
DE has recently launched a new, fun, and innovative way for students to learn Mandarin Chinese through online games and competitions - welcome to Kung Fu Kingdom™! The games format, which can be found in our primary and secondary websites, enables every student to earn points through listening, reading and writing Mandarin Chinese - thereafter, the students move up an achievement ladder and receive a different coloured belt - just like Kung Fu.
In addition, the progress of the students in the games can be monitored by their teachers. Teachers can also reward points for effort/performance or even subtract points for lack of attention or bad behavior!
The games are based on 8 world sports which both engage students and help them to learn more about this fascinating language. There are three testing formats:
1) Testy Tones - this requires students to select the correct English for Chinese recordings that they hear within the games
2) Character Chaos - this requires students to select the correct Chinese character or English based on questions set within the games.
3) Stroke of Genius - this requires students to use strokes to build Chinese characters which are core in the respective curriculum - launching in June 2013.
Kung Fu Kingdom™ is a fantastic tool for 'taking Mandarin Chinese out of the classroom'. Compared with the US and Australia, there is very little of this wonderful language being taught in the UK and Europe; it is therefore key that students have maximum exposure to the language through exciting and innovative online formats when at home on their PC.
Here are some screenshots to feed your interest!
Students love learning Mandarin Chinese in this way i.e. linking language to sports to points/rewards to levels to success.
Helps to build strong relationships between the teachers and the pupils i.e. the reward points system.
Similar to the online games, we are noting a vast improvement in the quality of Mandarin Chinese spoken by students. We are also seeing improvements in their recognition of Chinese characters and in the speed at which they learn new ones.
The system is a great way of reviewing curriculum material before examinations - it test reading, listening and writing in many different ways.
Investment title:- Creation of digital examination documents in order to improve efficiency and lower costs
Investment: - circa Ј10,000
DE has started working with a well-respected and well-known exam board on an electronic version of a Mandarin Chinese reading and writing exam at entry level - this includes auto-marking and collation of results. The objective is to reduce administration, reduce cost (sending out exam papers and listening CDs by courier) increase efficiency in terms of payment, results and scoring and help the exam board to better align themselves with the digital requirements of schools and their pupils. DE has exciting, long-term plans to market this concept and functionality to international exam boards so as to replicate what we are achieving here in the UK.
Please see a screenshot of our drag and drop stroke order functionality for the writing element of the proposed Mandarin Chinese exam.
Standardisation in all areas of the examination process i.e. design can be agreed based on templates across multiple testing subjects, examination images can be pooled and re-used, question rubrics can be stored and re-used for future examination papers.
Large cost savings i.e. no need to courier exam papers to schools/pupils, auto-marking and collation of results.
The examination results will be immediate.
Easy to use: schools would receive digital access passwords which, when entered into the portal, would enable students to sit the exam.
Works across multiple platforms e.g. PC, Mac, iPads and other tablets with drag and drop (with the finger or mouse) functionality.
The whole concept brings paper-heavy exam boards into the 21st century and up to date with current trends
So, why should Dragons in Europe win an award in the category of 'Education content provider' for 2012-2013?
DE's strategic investments in staff and IT have enabled them to gain notable recognition in the marketplace for language provision.
The products that we have created over the course of 2012-2013 have enabled pupils across multiple geographies to learn and love Mandarin Chinese.
DE's imaginative and innovative take on the future of language learning in schools in reflected in their colourful and interactive product range.
DE have started to re-use what they have learnt through Mandarin Chinese products in other disciplines i.e. the auto-marking of examination papers.
DE's growth for 2012-13 is projected at around 60%, which, in this uncertain economic climate, is something we can be proud of and the market should be aware of. As the company provides their teachers and products to more schools on curriculum, growth for 2013-2014 is projected to be at the same level, if not more.
Thanks for your time and consideration in assessing our entry.
Founder and CEO
Dragons in Europe