One on One breaks ground
ONE on One Educational Services is charting an exciting course for the fiscal year, unveiling a string of groundbreaking partnerships for educational innovation. In an exclusive revelation to the Jamaica Observer, President and CEO Ricardo D Allen shared that the company has recently signed a groundbreaking deal with an Austin, Texas-based company to train a large language model using artificial intelligence (AI), akin to the cutting-edge technology employed in ChatGPT.
“We are training the AI to do some incredible things that will lay the foundation for creating a personalised AI tutor,” Allen discloses exclusively to the Caribbean Business Report.
While the AI initiative represents a long-term investment, Allen emphasises the immediate impact of establishing the Content Learning Studios. Originally funded by its initial public offering (IPO) in September 2022, these funds were redirected when challenges related to teacher migration became evident. The company has invested over $200 million in its content studio over the past year and anticipates returns in the coming financial year.
“A part of that is already spent money, and a part of that money is to be spent. Also, you have the content studio, but you also have the equipment that we are putting in the schools. So the entire project is going to cost us $200 million. We have spent so far $150 million, and we have $50 million more to spend,” Allen clarifies on the budget.
The studio, currently located in Kingston, is a creative hub, boasting 6,000 square feet of cutting-edge production space. Allen hints at plans to construct another content studio in St Elizabeth and one in each of the Ministry of Education’s regions, an administrative division. The creative hub, with six state-of-the-art production studios, is poised to double in size, aiming to move that number to 12 soon. It has the capacity to produce 12,000 hours of content annually, with the current status at 98 per cent completion. Allen also shared that some US school districts, impressed by the studio due to teacher shortages, see it as a solution to set up streaming content locally when a teacher is absent. Beyond traditional lessons, the company plans to announce an industry partnership that will disseminate training content nationwide, potentially transforming companies across Jamaica.
In addition to those plans, Allen made more groundbreaking revelations during the interview.
“We just partnered with the Organisation of American States (OAS). We’ve signed the deal, and we are now streaming classes and Spanish lessons directly from Uruguay into our high schools in Jamaica. We started with 10 pilot schools where, at the end of the programme, everybody who participated will be certified as a native Spanish speaker,” Allen told the Caribbean Business Report.
The ongoing pilot programme, started in December 2022, aims to enrol every high school graduate leaving with a B2 certification as a Spanish speaker. The software allows schools to stream from anywhere in the world to learn any language. In addition, One on One has not ventured far from its initial plans to enter into technology, partnering with Microsoft to allow high school students to graduate with a certification in tech-related fields such as AI, robotics, and cybersecurity. Known as TEALS (Technology Education Advancement Leadership), the service has received requests from over 100 schools. However, the company is strategically rolling it out in increments and currently has a waiting list of 75 schools.
Throughout the financial year, the company launched One Academy, addressing the educational needs of students, teachers, and schools with innovative digital solutions, with an investment exceeding $160 million. Allen further highlights plans for its Education Management Information System (EMIS) platform, successfully utilised by the Bahamian Government since 2020 to manage resources in all its public schools nationwide. According to its recently published annual report, The Bahamas Department of Education achieved a significant milestone by generating over 40,000 digital reports on time, establishing The Bahamas education system as one of the most digitised globally. Allen reveals an impending deal with a Singapore-based company, the Community Systems Foundation, to digitise education across small island developing states, replicating the successful model implemented in The Bahamas. However, he acknowledges the potential complications of executing this locally, with Jamaica’s education system not entirely controlled by a central government.
“There needs to be one solution mandated by UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation] where all systems must plug in and integrate so that the ministry and government can do accurate reporting,” he suggests.
Despite the substantial investments, One on One’s revenue remained flat at $266.6 million for the fiscal year ending August 31, 2022, concluding with a net loss of $37.8 million. Allen emphasises the necessity of viewing this loss in the broader context of laying the groundwork for future high-potential recurring revenue models.
“We had to invest in the salaries of key executives, marketing, and research and development. The trend will continue with One on One generating about 30 percent net profits on the revenues we earn,” explained Allen. “Once we get that sweet spot, we stop the investment and focus on running the company.”
Administrative and selling expenses rose to $230.4 million from $171.5 million in 2022, a move expected to pay off in the form of sustained and predictable profitability and shareholder value. Going forward, the company’s primary focus is on bringing its significant recurring revenue-generating projects online for 2023 – 2024 and beyond, cementing its commitment to transformative education in the Caribbean and beyond.