Startups are Bringing Digital Education to Emerging Markets


Startups are Bringing Digital Education to Emerging Markets

Seedstars Global

JUNE 4, 2021

Critiques on the traditional education system have been going around for some time now: from the same learning systems based on standardization and memorization, to ignoring the needs of the labour market and inaccessibility of education. The current education model was set up after the Industrial Revolution and taking into consideration how different society and technology are now in comparison to how they were over 200 years ago, the situation is somewhat mind boggling.

Digitalization of the educational system has started after the turn of the Millenium, but like many older systems (think also healthcare or banking for example) it is taking some time to get everyone on board. However, the pandemic gave schools and universities across the world the needed push. According to the World Bank, around 1.6 billion children were out of school due to national lockdowns, the majority of them in developing countries. Human rights organizations fear that many have not returned to school even when it was possible, as the looming economic recession will force children into work to help support their families.

Using the pandemic as an opportunity for a shift in education

What the pandemic also showed is the divide between certain economic and social classes as not every child had an equal opportunity to participate in remote learning. Certain infrastructural requirements like access to the Internet are still an issue in emerging countries, but also owning a laptop or a tablet for school isn’t a realistic expectation in countries where families live on a couple of dollars per day. Even in wealthier countries such as Norway or the Netherlands, not every child had access to home learning. Governments around the world have used the opportunity to bring action plans focused on making education and training fit for the digital age.

Access and infrastructure are only part of the problem in shifting into digital education. Another important aspect is the lack of digital skills. Even though younger generations are growing up with technology, old-fashioned education is not preparing them for the labour markets of the future. Vital skills for navigating the digital world such as recognizing disinformation, understanding of deep tech, and data analytics are not being taught even when those are some of the expected skills needed for work in the future.

EdTech is one of the most profitable startup sectors

In the world of startups, EdTech solutions have been a hit for a number of years. This sector is predicted to be among the biggest and most profitable digitized sectors. Global venture investments in the industry have been rapidly growing since 2010 and came to seven billion USD in 2019. Recognizing the importance of technology for the future of education, Seedstars has been working with external partners for years on programs supporting EdTech startups and investing in them as well. There are currently six EdTech companies in the Seedstars portfolio and they are working on several impact verticals: access to education, digitisation of education services, and inclusive education. Startups in the portfolio impacted over 740,000 learners and helped over a thousand students get into universities of their choice.

With partners such as TRECC and the School of Management Fribourg we have supported the most promising ventures in the sector and thus provided thousands of children with education opportunities. Startups such as Asafeer Education Technologies (Qatar), Edves (Nigeria), Schoolap (the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Programa Valentina (Guatemala) have won The Transforming Education Prize in the last couple of years. This year’s winner of The Education Prize was Orcas, who are looking to create the largest tutoring marketplace in the MENA region where they connect students with early-career professionals and teachers. You can listen to our podcast with their CEO Hossam Taher here.

Digital Education was a big part of this year’s Seedstars World Competition 2020/21 Grand Finale, not only because of the Education Prize awarded in partnership with HEG Fribourg, but a significant part of the Finale was the discussion on 21st Century Education for 21st Century Skills and the Mag on EdTech. Both can be rewatched here.

More like this