In the wake of the pandemic, the concept of traditional schooling has undergone a seismic shift. As educational institutions scrambled to adapt to the digital realm, the world witnessed a profound transformation in the way students learn. But this transition to online learning is just the tip of the iceberg. Edtech startups are leading the charge, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in education. They’re not simply replicating classroom content; they’re revolutionizing the entire educational experience, opening up a world of opportunities to prepare students for the future.

EduSpaze, Singapore’s pioneering edtech accelerator, has been at the forefront of the changes in the region. Operating under the Spaze Ventures umbrella and with the support of Enterprise Singapore, this accelerator programme is now in its seventh iteration. The programme has been successful with previous participants like Flying Cape, Noodle Factory, Binar Academy, and myFirst experiencing remarkable growth. EduSpaze provides a nurturing environment for early-stage startups, offering up to S$500K in seed funding and fostering collaboration with key stakeholders.

Startups from EduSpaze cohort 6 discuss the edtech in Southeast Asia

In the latest cohort, we got a chance to ask Celine Ting, Managing Director of OpenAcademy and Kendall Lo, CEO and Co-founder of Kazoo Technology (Turtle Learn), about edtech in the region. Both founders are current members of the edtech accelerator programme, and were able to provide insights in the current landscape.

Congrats on joining the EduSpaze programme. What are your goals for the programme?

CT: Thank you! My goal for OpenAcademy through this programme is to tap into the growth opportunities present within the Edtech scene. This programme is unique as it is an industry specific programme, which means the learnings, partnerships and opportunities presented are more intentional and curated.

KL: Joining the EduSpaze programme is a significant milestone for Turtle Learn. Our primary goals for the programme are to expand our reach in Southeast Asia, collaborate with regional edtech innovators, and refine our learning products and platform to cater to a broader international audience. Given our success in Hong Kong, we believe this programme will open doors to further partnerships and help us adapt our offerings to diverse learning environments.

How has the edtech scene evolved in the last 12 months?

KL: The edtech scene has seen rapid growth in the last 12 months. With the challenges presented by the global pandemic that is now behind us, there has been an increased emphasis on digital solutions in education. Schools and educators have become more receptive to technological innovations. Platforms like Turtle Learn that offer unique, interactive, and engaging learning experiences have become increasingly important. The move towards blended learning, where physical and digital tools work in tandem, is a significant trend we’ve observed.

CT: With the end of the pandemic season, all the trends that were present are definitely still relevant but you can see the edtech scene becoming more focused. People are becoming smarter and also intentional with the Edtech platforms they want to go on. So considering the customer’s journey, personalizing the experience and value of the product has become even more important.

What can we expect moving forward, especially as AI continues to be a hot-button topic in the industry?

CT: Players in the Edtech field should definitely look into the possibilities of how AI can help or enhance their current technology and systems. While AI is a transformative force in education, it often works together with other technologies to deliver the best results.

KL: AI’s role in edtech will continue to grow exponentially. For platforms like Turtle Learn, AI provides the opportunity to offer personalized learning experiences, automating processes that were previously human-dependent. We anticipate more platforms leveraging AI for real-time feedback, analytics, and adaptive learning paths. Additionally, AI will play a crucial role in content curation, ensuring students are exposed to the right materials at the right time.

Where do you see the most potential in the industry?

KL: The potential lies in addressing traditional challenges in education with innovative solutions. Learning Chinese, for instance, has historically been a significant challenge for children. The language often involves brute-force memorization, which can be both tedious and overwhelming for young learners. Turtle Learn’s features – such as the unique interactive smart cards for character recognition, AI-assisted writing assistance, and bilingual learning for both Cantonese and Mandarin – greatly alleviate this challenge by making learning more engaging and intuitive. In fact, our school trials in Hong Kong have been promising, indicating a 15% to 20% increase in Chinese subject scores after students used our products. This suggests that there’s vast potential in the industry for tools that not only leverage modern technology but directly address and mitigate traditional learning challenges.

CT: In terms of potential, personally, I feel like there’s still potential in many areas in the industry. But the biggest challenge for all Edtech players is to ensure how it can be accessible to more communities and personalize their services and products to their target audience, I think this will allow for any Edtech players to excel in the industry!

What’s next for you in the next 12 months?

CT: In the next 12 months, OpenAcademy is planning to expand to other countries across SEA, to be able to connect the people of SEA to learn and upskill directly from industry practitioners in bite sizes.

KL: For Turtle Learn, the next 12 months are about consolidating our growth and furthering our expansion. We’re thrilled with the initial traction we’ve gained not just in Hong Kong but also in SE Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia. As we roll out our products and platform for Simplified Chinese characters, we aim to reach an even broader international audience. Alongside this, we’re considering the possibility of adapting our platform to support other languages in the future, given the success of our interactive and AI-assisted learning methods. We’re also focusing on strengthening our integration with Turtle Teach, refining and expanding its functionalities based on feedback and evolving educational needs. Our mission remains unwavering: to revolutionize language learning for young children worldwide, and the forthcoming year is packed with initiatives and strategies geared towards this ambitious goal.