What a year the edtech industry has had with COVID-19 accelerating edtech adoption across the world. Southeast Asia’s edtech industry has grown from strength to strength, which has led to greater usage of technology within the education ecosystem.

We spoke to edtech entrepreneurs and experts about Southeast Asia and how the industry evolved over the last 12 months. Here is what they had to share.

Nick Hutton, D2L

The Regional Director of Asia for D2L shared a great overview of the industry and how it moved on quickly from the initial knee-jerk reactions to sustainable and long-term conversations around edtech.

Before 2020, Edtech in Asia was deemed a good-to-have for any institution or organisation. The knee jerk reaction from the pandemic saw many schools, institutions and corporates that were not using technology for teaching and learning scrambling to move onto synchronous video delivery to replace the in-person classes. It was the quickest reaction to the situation to avoid delays to the school terms and company operations with the many free online tools available. However teaching is not necessarily learning. The act of delivering classes by imitating in-person classes through online means left many educators and facilitators having to navigate through new situations. They had to figure out the best means to engage and assess learners, the sort of class rules needed in place and most efficient ways to adapt their existing courses to an online environment.

As months rolled on, people became more exposed to the options of online learning platforms available, beyond the video conferencing or online collaboration freeware. Asia became more active with exploring more sophisticated platforms and solutions, gained a better understanding of the needs and desire to future proof for adversities and disasters. Additionally, there have been more open conversations around how learners today like to be engaged in their education and learning which actually points towards moving out of a physical classroom and into a digital space.

For schools, institutions and organisations that have always used technology, though they might not have experienced the same level of challenges as those that never had, there was still a need to adjust and adapt. We’ve had various conversations with our customers: From their need to move partially online courses to fully online, to campus-based online examinations that needed to be fully remote examinations, and even regular internal training courses had to be revised to incorporate updated news pertaining to COVID19 and disseminated across regional offices quickly and efficiently. People started to realise the great level of flexibility technology and connectivity brought to the various situations and it helped organisations be in the driver’s seat to respond. 


We look at how Southeast Asian edtech startups are creating innovative trends

Dr. Woo Yen Yen, Yumcha Studios

This early education startup uses art and theatre to teach children. They looked at how the industry has had to come to terms with infrastructure issues in 2020.

With the many school shutdowns and lockdowns caused by the 2020 pandemic, there has been increased adoption of edtech products, which has allowed us to do significant stress-testing of our systems. We have also seen the cropping up of various edtech implementation issues that those of us in the industry should be advocating to change. The most significant issue is inequality in access to hardware and high-speed internet connection, and the next is the privacy and security of student data.

Jamie Tan, Flying Cape

Flying Cape saw a lot of changes during the pandemic, as the tuition and enrichment centres had to close their physical locations. Jamie shares her insights into the changing environment and what this means for the edtech in Singapore in the long-term.

Before Covid-19, EdTech had received varying levels of interest and adoption in different countries. Countries with a more sophisticated and established education history, like Singapore, tend to take a more conservative approach, choosing to rely on more conventional tried-and-tested routes of teaching. On the other hand, countries that are fast developing or larger in sizes, such as China or Indonesia, have generally been more receptive to the benefits that technology can bring to the table. As such, Edtech has gained momentum in these countries, allowing for a proliferation of edtech learning solutions and greater adoption among the masses. 

The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 has thrown the global education system into disarray. Due to school closures, educators were compelled to use technology to support remote learning which helped to pave the way for EdTech as a rising industry. During this period, we have seen new entrants into this space in the form of formerly brick and mortar centres now going online and an explosion of “freemium” solutions by EdTech companies seeking an entry to the mass market. At the same time, learners from all ages have become more receptive to try out EdTech solutions while confined in their homes.  

The outcome of Covid-19 in 2020, is seeing shifts in:

– Public Sector Support and Adoption of EdTech Solution. For instance, in Singapore, MOE has relaxed the guidelines enabling teachers to explore technology to help complement their teaching. The government has also set up more incentives, programmes and grants to help promote start-up initiatives relating to EdTech. 

– Private Sector Support for EdTech initiatives ranging from a rise in venture capital investments to awards and accelerator programmes designed specifically for the EdTech industry. EdTech investments would have increased by another billion USD dollars from 7 Billion in 2019 to 3.2 Billion in Q3 2020. And this is expected to continue to rise. We also see the community coming together to help form more structure and support with a new EdTech committee being formed with the support of SGTECH.  

– Last but not least, an increasing acceptance of EdTech for EdTech solutions for learners of all age groups, particularly for parents with the younger age group of children, are all positive indicators that the EdTech industry will continue to proliferate. 

Stanley Han, Koobits

Koobits CEO looked at it from a startup perspective and how it has opened the doors to the investment into the industry. As many industries stalled during this period, edtech grew and this led to more investor interest and investment.

From the customers’ perspective, there were a lot more users trying various kinds of EdTech products than before. Whether they liked the experience is a question mark, but we can definitely say the year 2020 has been a big year for trials of EdTech products.

From investors’ perspectives, there were a lot more investors who tried to understand the EdTech market and business. I have received numerous requests from new investors who were interested to find out what we do and how we see the market. So I would say the year 2020 is a big trigger for investors to pay attention and learn more about this space.

At Tech Collective, we want to know what you think defined edtech in 2020. Share your thoughts in the comments or drop us a message. We’d love to hear from you and also share your thoughts and opinions with our community.