With increasing tech advancements, having a collaborative approach to edtech has become more apparent to educators. The edtech sector in Southeast Asia has seen about US$480 million in venture capital funds invested over the past five years. Additionally, with the coronavirus pandemic, institutions around the world were compelled to undergo a digital shift instantaneously, which has contributed to driving the adoption.

Countries across the region are starting to propel innovation in edtech, each at a different pace according to their developmental stage. In Southeast Asia, the popularity of edtech is starting to surface. Just recently, the edtech industry raised the most funding in one week. As there is a growing awareness to collaborate between educators and technology in order to future-proof education, edtech accelerators, such as EduSpaze have stepped in to introduce a plethora of startups to work with partners to realize the emerging differences and provide context in a relatively new market. 

One of the issues that has been raised in quite a few edtech startups in the region is the challenge of accessibility. Moving forward, there is a need to take a closer look at the lessons learned from COVID-19 to proceed in fostering a vibrant collaborative ecosystem.

The impact of the pandemic on the education sector

With an estimated global projection of $404 billion by 2025, there is a magnitude of opportunities to be tapped into. However, with its current value sitting at barely 5.5 per cent of the entire education sector, edtech is still far from reaching its full potential. Schools in Southeast Asia are still slow on the adoption of education technology solutions, as is highlighted by COVID-19.

We explore the role of AI in edtech and education in Southeast Asia

With the ongoing pandemic and subsequent shutdowns of educational institutions, one of the quickest and most easily available solutions at hand was to turn to video conferencing apps that reduced education into merely content dissemination, presenting limited exchange of knowledge or feedback. Furthermore, hackers were quick to exploit the technology to the dismay of several unsuspecting learners and teachers.

At the beginning of the switch to online learning, there were instances of hacking incidents in Singapore where Zoom lessons were taken over mid-stream with lewd videos. Seeing that this could happen even with globally established video-conferencing apps, one can only imagine the limitations of unverified small organisations. 

One of the highly aspects in education is that schools need to keep their learners in a safe and conducive space; which is why edtech solutions are the need of the hour to warrant security and efficiently equip teachers with the relevant teaching tools. The situation has enlightened educators about the prospects of edtech and the promise of pursuing a tighter partnership between the two. 

Working together for a better tomorrow

There is a crucial and growing need for educators and edtech to co-create in order to construct a progressive home for learners. Instead of shunning technology, educators should integrate this tool into teaching. Perhaps one of the reasons that adoption has been slow has been due to the misconception that edtech solutions are complicated and costly, or might reform the system as a whole. Contrary to belief, edtech does not seek to change the idea of education, but its delivery.

Edtech has been identified as one of the seven key growth areas in the Emerging Singapore Taskforce. This government-backed alliance can not only provide an opportunity for the local brand of education to cross boundaries across the region and beyond, the premium network of education partners can promote innovation through real-world experience. It will help nurture a broader ecosystem to solve sector-specific challenges in the region with forward-thinking innovation. 

Pursuant to this goal, EduSpaze recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Kaplan— one of the world’s largest and diverse education providers, to support the edtech startup community and provide real-world learning opportunities for students in this sector in Singapore. The collaboration aims to foster adoption of modern edtech solutions in over 20 edtech startups to improve aspects of their business. Through this, the startups can eventually scale with better onboarding processes, logistics and polished operations. EduSpaze is supporting Kaplan in co-developing new pedagogically meaningful solutions with edtech entrepreneurs. Additionally, following the graduation of its first cohort, EduSpaze has opened applications for its second cohort inviting seed-stage edtech startups based in Singapore and overseas to apply for a 100-day accelerator programme that begins in January 2021. 

With these collaborations and initiatives, EduSpaze seeks to enable a robust education ecosystem that fosters better learning and stronger outcomes. The post-pandemic world calls for an increase in partnership between all integral roles of the education landscape. 

With the need for a tailored and personalised environment, more focus has to be put on designing products and services in edtech to satisfy the real needs of educators. This can only happen when more key stakeholders come forward and help foster partnerships within the industry.

This article was submitted by Niko Lindholm, Programme Director at EduSpaze

About the author

Niko Lindholm is the Programme Director at EduSpaze Edtech Accelerator. He is originally from Finland and before his role at EduSpaze he has been building the Edtech Innovation Ecosystem of Finland for 10 years in multiple roles: Running an Edtech Innovation / Export Cluster in the R&D&I arm of the Government (Business Finland), building the Edtech Innovation Ecosystem as Head of Programme & Edtech Ecosystem Development at xEdu Edtech Accelerator and also building Edtech Innovation Platform (Test Bed) at the Smart City Unit at City of Helsinki.