When Covid-19 closed down schools and turned education remote, it revealed the world’s creative potential by forcing it to develop innovative alternatives to in-person learning.
In Sierra Leone, the fifth poorest country in the world, education ministries implemented radio programming to reach children through the household radio. Over in the Southeast, the Malaysian government broadcasted 17-hour educational television programs every day for the 95% of Malaysian households that sported a television set. Climb up the GDP ladder some more and you’ll find Japan’s GIGA School Program spent $4.4B to pump out laptops for every K-12 student in the country in an unexpected effort to outstep the demands of continued, distance education.
But despite these creative solutions, educational breakthroughs have not been enough to mask the host of other repercussions and restrictions the global pandemic produced — except, of course, for those who could afford them to.
Throughout the entire Covid-19 Greek alphabet, the uber elite tapped into a caliber of innovation that was neither a product of government strategy or burgeoning ed tech. Indeed, the most innovative of solutions to the Covid-induced education crisis, the national lockdowns, the social distancing and the strict travel restrictions was one that only money could buy: the superyacht.
Through a global pandemic, the superyacht has served as the all-in-one do-it-all solution for the wealthy to skirt around fluctuating Covid restrictions. When clubs closed down, European DJs were flown in to curate lavish “outdoor” yacht parties. When travel restrictions kicked in, families decided to charter on country waters and cruise along northeastern coastlines.
In the past year alone, wealthy families have spent over $1.1 billion dollars—a whopping 25% increase from 2020—on superyachts to create a new sense of normalcy. According to Boomer Jousma of Italian Yacht Group, a top producing yacht broker, the yacht trend is running bullish as more and more of his clients are choosing to buy bigger and better yachts.
“We have eight yachts being built for clients that are larger than ever before,” said Jousma. “Families are recognizing the need for additional accommodations for teaching staff and other amenities such as ‘classrooms’ onboard for excursions around the world for extended periods of time.” Jousma is currently negotiating a $90MM megayacht for a private client located in Miami, whose intention is to include a full service educational facility for his three children on the yacht.
Superyacht buyers have also been riding the waves of great escape from unpredictable school closures. When New York schools closed down, middle-class and low-income families made the transition to remote online learning. Then, when New York schools reopened, students made the transition back into the classroom fully masked with desks six feet apart. But while all of this was happening, groups of deep-pocketed parents were turning their second homes in the Hamptons into open-air micro-schools, avoiding indoor gathering restrictions altogether.
The superyacht boom unsurprisingly coincides with an even larger trend toward using homeschooling to evade a Covid-ridden world. And while this would only seem reasonable, it proves to be a more innovative approach in tackling the many burdens that more common forms of remote learning have imposed.
What the one-way radio programs and television curriculums lack is an element of interaction. Even staring at a laptop screen for six hours with state of the art, two-way ed tech has its limits, as any Zoom-fatigued pupil will testify. As Covid still continues to be of concern, education trends among the rich are committing to less eye-straining modes of learning for the long term.
Tiffany Sorya, CEO of Novel Education Group, a leading private homeschooling firm based in New York, believes that the pandemic sparked a continuing trend of innovative, home-centered learning approaches. “More families are requesting full-time 24/7 teachers to live and travel with them. We’ve had requests from families who want to live on yachts for 1-2 months at a time and want their children to continue having full access to top tier educational support in-person,” says Sorya.
While the opportunity to hire at-home, full-time learning services is not viable for many families, it seems like this is a lasting trend for those who can afford it. The pros, in their eyes, far outweigh cons.
“Families are not returning to the traditional school system,” insists Sorya. “They realize that the amount of flexibility they have to stay together as a family and with remote learning, it doesn’t make sense for some of our families to stay put in one area. They don’t want to sacrifice on the quality of education and learning, so it’s a no-brainer for them to hire a full-time teacher to travel and live with them.”
In addition to these benefits, the flexibility that at-home schooling presents means families can travel the world while ensuring that their children are staying on top of their education. Through this learning approach, children also receive far more individualized attention than they would at school. And then of course are the health benefits, as students are shielded from a world in which health risks are more apparent than ever before.
Although we have arguably made it through the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s clear that this global shakeup has had a lasting impact on global education trends. From colleges canceling standardized testing to the shift toward innovative remote learning opportunities, the past couple of years have upended the norm when it comes to education, and it’s likely that these changes are here to stay.