The future of education is in the hands of EdTech startups

Classrooms have moved beyond the clunky desktop computers and square televisions wheeled out on a trolley that were once the norm for students across the UK. The new standard is for classrooms to be tech-infused with tablets, interactive online courses and sometimes robots.

Despite this, 50% of the world remains offline, with many missing out on opportunities due to being disconnected from society. The question of who gets to benefit from the internet and its associated advantages is in favour of the developed world. This divide exists not only between the developed and undeveloped world, but also between rural and urban populations, and between men and women.

Education technology, or EdTech includes hardware and software technology used to educate students virtually to improve learning and enhance education outcomes through more engaging, inclusive and individualised experiences. The UK is a powerhouse in the industry, with the largest EdTech sector in Europe. What’s more, London based startups have raised £18.55bn making it the fourth highest city for VC investment globally.

The global EdTech market was valued at $106bn in 2021, expected to expand at an annual growth rate of 16.5% from 2022 to 2030. Despite this huge value, the education sector accounts for less than four percent of funding worldwide.

Digital poverty

There are incredibly underserved groups, including those who are disabled, those living in remote communities without access to the online world and those without access to the correct hardware or software to make going online possible.

To put this into perspective, 80% of disabled students said they’d like to have the opportunity of remote learning available to them going forward, and not just something to help the world navigate through a pandemic. Many disabled students feel indignant, having pushed for accessibility for years. However, it took a pandemic for this to become a reality. Every student needs the software that the rest of the world is excited about, and the hardware to begin with to level the playing field.

This proves that a one size fits all education no longer works in a world where everyone is so individual. Education must become more personalised and accessible, and life-long learning will become normal. With this, over 1,000 EdTech firms are working together to fix a broken system. It’s critical to look at how startups can address digital poverty going forward.

The UK has never been in a more capable position to work with the rest of the world on transforming access to education, especially within the global and national skills crisis everyone is searching for talent for. Simon Nelson, CEO, QA Higher Education is a big believer in universities working with EdTech companies to help them innovate and encourage universities to adopt the right kind of risk profile: “They need to grab the opportunity we’ve got out of COVID as we are wonderfully positioned.”

Future innovation

EdTech allows what was deemed impossible by standardised education. Educational technology offers 24/7 access to learning, with the help of IoT and AI, learners can tune into material when it suits them, without stepping foot in a classroom. EdTech applications also help to streamline communication between students, teachers and parents, as well as the grading/feedback process with automated grading. It also provides huge benefits to the environment allowing a paperless classroom, reducing the need for printed worksheets and materials as resources can be accessed online.

The industry will continue to evolve, utilising more technologies. In the next few years, expect to see more individualised learning, the ability to gain field experience, attention grabbing lessons, project based learning and greater student involvement.

The beating heart of learning

EdTech solutions are expected to continue to evolve in line with technological advances, such as IoT, AI and AR/VR, contributing to the market’s growth. Simon encourages everyone, whether an institution or EdTech provider, to work in partnership going forward, instead of disrupting digital transformation.

As innovation continues, technology will transform education in a way that doesn’t replace the beating heart of learning that is fundamentally human. Growth will continue, and the potential is exciting. Of course, the future of education remains in the hands of the startups community who must continue to lead using a proactive approach.