TeachBuddy: Equal opportunities in education thanks to peer-to-peer mentoring

TeachBuddy: Equal opportunities in education thanks to peer-to-peer mentoring

In a world where equal opportunities in education are far from a given, TeachBuddy comes as an encouraging alternative. Rik Roosenstein and his associate Thijs Nederlof first introduced the digital platform in 2020, inspired by the ‘peer-to-peer mentoring principle’. The platform pairs students who need tutoring with fellow students who want to help. This technology reduces the workload for secondary school teachers and contributes to their ultimate goal: equal opportunities for all students.

A hars confrontation
As a child, Rik struggled with the challenges of dyslexia. However, tutoring helped him to successfully navigate through his school years. But when Rik started tutoring himself in Rotterdam-Zuid, he was confronted with a reality check. His hourly rate was higher than the hourly wage of the mother who hired him. Rik: “Even with a lot of inequality of opportunity in Rotterdam, it is ridiculous that something like tutoring isn’t available to everyone.” Committed to addressing this inequality, Rik started talking to secondary schools. He was looking for a solution that would sideline tutoring companies with extortionate prices.

Addressing inequality in education
Rik: “I met a tutor who, although passionate about making a difference, was struggling to match tutoring candidates with tutors. In addition, the administration was time-consuming, and there was a lack of clarity as to whether the pairings were a success.” Despite the practical implications, Rik believed in bringing students together. The missing piece of the puzzle was a platform. His vision for a fairer education system couldn’t become a reality without technical know-how. Which is why he went looking for a techie for his network. Rik: “I was referred to Thijs. When I asked him if he could build an app, he said that, although he’d never done it before, he was willing to try.” Combining vision and technology, together they created TeachBuddy.

A platform where students help each other
Based on the concept of peer-to-peer mentoring, TeachBuddy brings together students who need help and students who can mentor. Rik: “It all starts with a request for help. After that, the matching technology of the platform ensures quick pairings based on need, knowledge and availability.” The app relieves administrative pressure on teachers. But it’s more than just a tool: it fosters a culture in which students help each other. Rik: “Many schools reward tutors with a fee or extra free time. Yet, we are also seeing that half of our tutor students provide tutoring without wanting to be rewarded for it. That’s great, isn’t it?”

From two to eleven collaborations
Rik: “Thanks to the accelerator program of imec.istart.nl, the coaching of Novel-T and the help of business developer Tim de Kraker, we have grown from collaborations with two to eleven schools in no time at all.” In addition, a recent pilot has shown that students who use TeachBuddy achieve an average final grade that is half a point higher.

The ambitions are big. For example, Rik hopes to make traditional tutoring companies superfluous by making peer-to-peer tutoring a part of education. Not only in the Netherlands, but beyond. Rik concludes, “TeachBuddy is more than a platform; it is our contribution to a fairer education system.