Walk into any classroom in Vietnam where the students are studying with a foreign language teacher and you will hear them chanting “game, game, game.” Gamification is necessary for capturing the interest of students, and EdTech now appears to be an essential component in most core curriculums. And for good reason.

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What is EdTech?

EdTech is continually redefining itself. Generally, it refers to learning through the use of computers, such as submitting assignments online, courses that are taught remotely, and mobile phone apps for learning or parent-teacher communication. As it evolves, we now see personalised study programs with tutor matching for Skype-based lessons, as well as the implementation of Webquests for classroom study and testing, and even project-based learning: the much sought-after student-centered activities engaging students through critical thinking and problem solving, for relevant, real-world issues.

Why is EdTech so important?

Plain and simple, EdTech makes learning fun. Students are more motivated to learn with features that EdTech can provide. They study more intently, learn more quickly, and retain information more thoroughly than without this added tool. Many students have been playing computer games, using the internet, and operating mobile phones since they were babies. The learner is met with what they know and are comfortable with, making the teacher’s job easier.

For home-based learning or in-class education, technology assists both teachers and students by providing convenience, a wealth of information outside of the standard library, and the benefit of familiarity. This is especially helpful for students whose exposure to academics may seem daunting. Confidence is gained when learners can feel comfortable and sure of themselves.

The EdTech market

From an investor’s perspective, EdTech is important because the field is wide-open, and so far, no unicorns have risen to prominence in the Southeast Asian market. The conditions are ripening, so it is only a matter of time before a startup discovers how to engage diverse audiences in this market.

Top 5 EdTech companies making waves in Southeast Asia

Cialfo, Singapore

Awarded the EdTech service provider of the year by EducationInvestor Asia 2018, Cialfo is a college guidance platform that aids students through every step in identifying best-fit universities. Cialfo aids students in the application process for universities abroad, and monitors them throughout their university years to ensure the most favourable outcomes. Mentored by Blackbox, a non-profit based out of Silicon Valley, western board members are now contributing to the success and expansion of this startup into Malaysia, India, Indonesia, and China. Cialfo’s website states that their mission is “to help one million students get into their dream universities by 2020.”

Topica, Vietnam

Originally based out of Hanoi, offices have expanded to Danang and Ho Chi Minh City, while also making waves in Singapore, Manila, Bangkok, and Jakarta. With a company-wide mission “to promote high-quality online education among learners in Vietnam and Southeast Asia”, Topica has these four main areas of specialisation: an online Bachelor degree from a university, online English language tutoring with native speakers, and an early-stage startup accelerator program. With Bill Gates offering up an initiative, they are paving the way for EdTech to adapt new technologies such as Google Glass, smart watches, and virtual environments to the learning atmosphere.

Taamkru, Thailand

With the ambitious goal of fixing the ailing education system in Thailand, Taamkru is celebrating the five-year anniversary of their award-winning web- and app-based learning platform. As it gains traction in Thailand, Singapore, and now Vietnam, it is attracting students at the preschool level with its online test, and compares their results across the board. It retains users with its ultra-cute content, incorporating fun, gamified lessons, and teaches valuable skills in math and science. Boasting Asia’s largest database of test questions, this app prepares the youngest students for their successful entry into primary school. Catering to the culture of Southeast Asia, parents are able to monitor and assess their child’s progress. Taamkru has so far received $620k from investors, and plans to keep expanding into the emerging Southeast Asian market for EdTech.

Frontlearners, Philippines

Frontlearners offers “blended learning” —  learning that incorporates classroom time as well as online assignments — to a range of K-12 public, indigenous, and private schools throughout the Philippines. The goal is to expand enrolment and the solution is to lower barriers to EdTech by increasing access. Hardware is provided on loan, and the program itself is priced affordably, catering to even the most impoverished schools. With an aptly-named solution, e-School-in-a-Box, content is easily adaptable and ready to use both online or off, in or out of school with students able to set their own pace. Run by a retired couple with years of experience in the education arena, they are graduates of the 2015 IdeaSpace Foundation incubator program, which the couple credits with launching them into the EdTech community.

HarukaEdu, Indonesia

Since 2013, HarukaEdu has been providing online courses and degree programs by way of turn-key partnerships with local and international universities. Serving working professionals in Indonesia, the emphasis is on quality, affordability, accessibility, and sociability. Courses are in varied subjects from technopreneurship, coffee cultivation, English language, and the nuts-and-bolts of job hunting. A unique offering is the Enabling Purposeful Dreams program designed to engage the student in discovering their passion and purpose in life through a combination of online and offline meetups. In 2016, HarukaEdu participated in the Google Launchpad Program and is now an early-stage venture with $2.2M USD in funding.

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EdTech is full of innovators, exciting start-ups and incubators, with new applications being dreamed up every day. Hitting the jackpot in Southeast Asia is a matter of making an application that is scalable and can be adapted across the mosaic of different cultures and communities throughout the region. With the upcoming EdTech Asia Summit in July 2018, more is sure to be revealed.

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