On June 21, China’s largest online small-class education firm, Spark Education, submitted a prospectus to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, applying to list on the Nasdaq under the stock code “SPRK”. Underwriters include Credit Suisse, Citigroup, CICC, Futu Securities and UP Fintech Holdings.
The prospectus mentioned that 40% of the funding raised this time will be used to improve teaching methods, courseware and educational content, as well as for further expansion of the courses.
Established in December 2017, Spark Education mainly aims at training in mathematical thinking for children aged 3-10 years old and focuses on online small-class courses. In 2020, the net income of Spark Education was about 180 million dollars. In March 2021, over 370,000 students were enrolled in its courses.
Spark Education has completed several rounds of funding before. In 2020, it underwent three funding rounds of D+, E1 and E2 in April, August and October, respectively. From 2018 to 2021, Spark Education secured eight separate rounds of funding.
According to the prospectus, the products of Spark Education are mainly online small-class live courses, supplemented by an AI course “Little Spark Enlightenment,” which covers three subjects: mathematical thinking, Chinese and English. A typical class has 4-8 students. Among its courses, mathematical thinking makes up the firm’s main income. In 2019 and 2020, the net income generated by its online small-class courses accounted for 99.2% and 95.6% of the total, respectively. Among them, the mathematical thinking course represents the main part.
According to China Insights Consultancy, the domestic K-12 after-school tutoring market has experienced significant growth in recent years, and has become the largest such market in the world as of 2020, in terms of total income. It is estimated that the market will reach 22.48 billion dollars in 2025. Small-class courses allow students to have more frequent interaction with teachers and typically cost less than normal after school courses, allowing the platform to meet the different needs of students.
However, recent influence from Chinese government supervision has brought uncertainty to online education companies such as Spark Education. For example, according to Article 33 of the Law on the Protection of Minors, which came into effect on June 1, kindergartens and off-campus training institutions are not allowed to provide primary school education for preschoolers. Spark Education cannot determine whether its service for preschool children will be recognized as primary school curriculum education.
Under such pressure, Luo Jian, founder and CEO of Spark Education, mentioned that the company will develop further courses to cover more children with more diverse needs in the future.