Edutech in a post-pandemic world: Where do we go from here?

Technology has changed the way people learn. From the creation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) such as the Khan Academy to virtual classrooms and on-demand video tutors, education technology or ‘edutech’ has emerged as a rapidly growing sector, attracting significant investor interest.

Edutech refers to the utilisation of technology in developing tools in the education sector. For example, it could be in the form of classroom management software, interactive apps to educate users on various topics and platforms, or connecting tutors and students virtually.

The global edutech market was estimated at US$ 89.5 billion in 2020 with an expected CAGR of 19.9 per cent until 2028.

Edutech adoption in Southeast Asia has lagged in comparison to regions such as North America, Europe, and Australia due to the long-held belief that education must be conducted in the classroom for a qualification to be credible. This was further compounded by inconsistent access to internet connectivity. This changed after the pandemic.

The adoption of technology in education

Many school-going children and university students in Southeast Asian countries were affected at the height of the pandemic. When infections were rampant and vaccine rollout was just beginning, schools were forced to close and adapt to the new normal of online learning.

The difficulty to adopt online learning in schools is apparent and shows the lack of technology adoption among students and schools today. This, coupled with a lack of customized learning and a reliance on expensive private tutoring poses a systemic risk to the current system.

In Malaysia, where national examinations are the gateway to placing into tertiary education of choice, over 40,000 SPM (Malaysia Certificate of Education) candidates had to postpone their academic advancements as the exams were repeatedly rescheduled owing to multiple nationwide movement restrictions.

Also Read: ‘Edutech will be a hot commodity going forward’: GREDU co-founder Rizky Anies

The state of the Malaysian education system already had its fair share of challenges prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 just exacerbated the situation further.

The Department of Statistics found that the number of primary and secondary school students in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor increased by 1 per cent, while the number of teachers reduced by 1.3 per cent in 2019.

Over in Indonesia, national exams were cancelled entirely as a result of the pandemic and accelerated learning loss in the country. Indonesia already has one of the highest numbers of out-of-school children in the region according to UNICEF. Other ASEAN countries such as Thailand and the Philippines also faced the same issue.

The inherent issues in education systems in Southeast Asia, combined with a high internet penetration rate and a growing number of smartphone users, has catalyzed the rise of edutech in the region.

For instance, Indonesia’s learning management system Ruangguru boasts a user base of over 10 million individuals and has a valuation of US$830 million in its recent funding round.

US based accelerator programme Y-Combinator has spurred startups in the region which includes Avion School in the Philippines and Malaysia based Pandai. Avion provides remote learning for aspiring students that aim to become software engineers, while Pandai is a customised learning platform.

Funding in the region has seen healthy growth with US$200 million invested in 1H 2021, according to a report by Temasek, Bain, and Google.

Rise of edutech in Malaysia

Closer to home, we saw many edutech startups emerge in the country.

Anak2U is a kindergarten classroom management software that aims to help teachers with lengthy class preparation times, tedious administrative tasks, and a lack of teaching materials.

Social media app Quadby takes a different approach by fostering student communities and conversations. Its concept is a lot like the Clubhouse app where there are virtual rooms for intellectual discussion.

Meanwhile, Pandai focuses on the K-12 segment. It allows students to interact through its student communities, compete with others via gamified quizzes and seek to improve students’ academic performance using its extensive question bank.

All, in accordance with the Curriculum and Assessment Standard Document (DKSP) issued by Malaysia’s Ministry of Education (MOE).

Also Read: How edutech is solving the global teacher’s crisis

Students can benefit and learn from their mistakes by employing a range of learning tools with Pandai’s solution bank and report card feature, which is accessible exclusively on its premium subscription. Compared to other services, the startup’s offerings are more holistic.

It found that 73 per cent of parents in Malaysia felt that learning materials provided by schools were insufficient. Parents were spending more than US$900 per year on additional classes, supplementary workbooks, and 1-on-1 tutoring. Materials were often found to cater to the masses and not tailored to the requirements of students.

With issues circulating Malaysia’s education system, edutech stands to provide massive opportunities to startups that seek to provide solutions for this pertinent sector.

That said, the Malaysian government is taking steps towards building a tech-enabled education system. As outlined in the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025, the government is actively aiming to leverage ICT to scale up quality learning across Malaysia as ICT usage in schools continue to lag expectations.

Further to that, the Malaysian MOE promised to distribute 150,000 laptops during the pandemic to allow less fortunate students to practice online learning.

Edutech, not only provides students with the opportunity to empower their own learning paths but further enhances our education system by bridging the technology gaps that exist.

With support from the government and the success of our local startups, Malaysians stand to benefit from the plethora of education choices available online. Possibly, we could see the next Malaysian unicorn to be in the edutech space.

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Image Credit: allensima

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