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The digital education revolution: time to invest in digitalization

In an era marked by the profound technological uproar and intense global competition in new frontier industries, emerging markets are striving to improve and adapt their education systems to reconcile the demands of the modern economy.

Booming Demand

Edtech companies in developed countries came into prominence in the early 2000s. In the US, the subsector’s advent was made possible by well-developed nationwide ICT networks, a large economy and successful innovation hubs, such as Silicon Valley. By 2018 the US edtech market had grown to be worth more than $8.38bn, according to the Software and Information Industry Association. In Europe, the centre for edtech is the UK, home to around 1000 edtech companies, 200 of which are based in London.

Although the US and the UK have traditionally led the field, Asia has quickly become the fastest-growing market, with the region forecast to represent 54% of the edtech market by 2020. Asia is home to over 600m K-12 students and is the emerging global centre for online education. Many Asian countries place a premium on education, and both governments and parents are willing to spend a substantial amount on such services, particularly in the region’s developed markets. Parents in Singapore, for example, spend an average of more than $70,000 each year to educate their children, while over 70% of secondary school students in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea hire private tutors after school. While parents in emerging markets in Asia have less discretionary spending power, there lies great potential in these countries to utilise their burgeoning innovation ecosystems and develop new, cost-effective edtech solutions. For example, the value of Indonesian tech company Ruangguru was estimated by the country’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to reach over $1bn in 2019, as it rolls out its one-stop learning services app across South-east Asia.

Global EdTech started the last decade with $500m of Venture Capital invested in 2010 and finished 32x higher at $16.1B in 2020, nearly 2x the previous investment record in 2018

Through 2020, the shock of the global COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in disruption to learning on an incredible and global scale, with the rapid acceleration of technology uptake supporting education continuity at all levels and highlighting the massive inequalities in technology access and community connectivity.  Venture Capital investment in EdTech has witnessed a corresponding surge, with the historically large markets of China and the US continuing to grow, along with the spectacular rise of India as an EdTech powerhouse.


Disruption is here: are you ready?

If established schools, colleges, and universities fail to meet this student need, there are plenty of organizations waiting to fill the gap. The education sector is being disrupted and for now, it is technology companies, not educators, that are leading the way. For the traditional education providers, our pedagogic heritage is perhaps one of our biggest barriers to digital transformation – but it can and must also be our greatest strength for digital education. We have been educating students in much the same way for a hundred years or more; we are experts in education, not technology, so the full-scale transformation is no small challenge. But this is not about starting from scratch. The techniques that have worked for a century still work, but should be complemented with hi-tech capabilities. The best of the old education world combined with the best of the new world is a powerful pairing. Our focus on pedagogical needs and learning outcomes must remain the number one priority for any education transformation project. This is why we believe it is so important for traditional education providers to lead the digital transformation of our industry. We will need help, for certain, from technology startups and disrupters with fantastic new ideas on how to create engaging content and how to deliver interactive lesson formats, but the key principles of teaching and learning that are so important for successful outcomes reside in us. It is time for our industry to embrace change and use our advantage to create a digital transformation revolution that is driven by education, supported by tech, and not the other way around.

Transformational Potential

Indeed, as digital methods of teaching and learning proliferate across the globe, they are having a democratising effect by widening overall access to information. Online programmes are being leveraged in a number of emerging economies in Asia to address disparities in both access and quality. “Technology allows us to keep the quality of education consistent between different cities because it enables us to teach two or more classes at the same time. Therefore, no one will be able to say that students in Yangon are far more advanced than students in Mandalay or Myitkyina, for example,” U Tin Maung Win, managing director of the International Language and Business Centre Myanmar, told OBG.

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have also become widely accessible throughout Indonesia, enabling users to learn anytime and anywhere. In a similar way, edtech has provided some much-needed support for teachers working in refugee camps in the Middle East. For instance, the non-profit platform Edraak, which provides MOOCs in Arabic, was launched in 2018 for refugee children in Jordan, Egypt and Syria. The platform gives students access to sequential learning materials and allows teachers to successfully create more interactive and engaging learning experiences.

Digital education is a high-value investment, with high-value returns

Investing in digital education is invaluable, if done correctly. There is no denying that, at the outset, this is a costly investment, both financially and in time and effort. But the fastest returns are the most important – with improvements in education quality and student satisfaction

We expect the benefits to extend further to reap greater operational efficiencies, which should in turn bring financial savings. Investing in digital education is an essential move for the industry, not for the financial gains, but for the education gains it brings. Profmax is proud to maintain its heritage as a pioneer, innovator and leader in education, and our digital transformation project is helping us to deliver motivated, curious, entrepreneurial students, who go on to thrive in successful careers , we hope to help the whole education sector grasp the opportunity of digital education, for the benefit of students everywhere.

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