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Historically education transformed from being siloed to unified

Education evolved through various phases throughout human civilization. During ancient times, due to the lack of a transferable medium, all the knowledge in the world was stored in peoples’ minds and the only mode of access to that knowledge was through interaction. One of the greatest inventions of history that has facilitated knowledge transfer was paper. It gave humans the ability to physically record knowledge. Initially, these were confined within the walls of churches, temples etc. Only the people belonging to the highest echelon of the society had the privilege of getting access to this knowledge. After the invention of the printing press, education system reached its democratized stage. English emerged as a global language and enabled people around the world to spread knowledge amongst each other.

Technology is taking over the education landscape

Technology is taking over all aspects of our lives and education is not an exception to that. Education is being digitized all around the world. EdTech is the new sheriff in town. Children can now learn basic lessons through visual representations and students of all ages, sitting at any corner of the world, can learn any desired skill from the best teachers out there on digital educational platforms. Combining classroom learning and online learning methods, modern students are now able to reach newer heights.

Large EdTech contenders have a global reach:

After the advent of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), specialized education has become accessible and affordable to millions across the globe. MOOC is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via web. Most of the MOOCs are free but one can get a certification of the completion of a course by paying for the course. The Khan Academy laid the foundation for the development of MOOCs by starting its operation in 2006[1]. It provides video lessons on various topics on public platforms like YouTube and its own websites and also provides supplementary exercises, notes and resources for free to learners and educators around the world. Coursera emerged as the top ranked MOOC platform last year due to its impressive selection of learning pathways and course features.[2]  It generated revenues totaling USD 140 million in 2018 and has more than 37 million registered users.[3] The education process here is that some experts prepare video materials and upload it on Coursera, students enroll into the courses and learn from these videos and materials and can get certified after completion of the course by paying. A few other mentionable players in this field would be edX and Udacity. edX is a similar platform to Coursera with over 18 million users and a revenue stream of USD 60 million last year.[4] Udacity mainly specializes in tech-centric ‘nanodegree’ programs and has 10 million users worldwide and had revenues of USD 90 million last year.[5]

Asia is not far behind in the EdTech market

Looking at a narrower horizon, EdTech has been growing exponentially in Southeast Asia. Increased internet and technology penetration has resulted to an appropriate landscape for EdTechs to work properly in this region. Some mentionable ones would be:

  • Byju is an India based online learning platform which raised USD 200-250 million for funding its global expansion plans.[6] Byju’s app currently has more than 15 million users overall.[7]
  • XuetangX is a Chinese MOOC platform which has registered its name among the global leaders with over 16 million users worldwide.[8]
  • Ruangguru is an Indonesian educational startup focused in a “one-stop learning” model, which was founded by two young Indonesians. It is a mobile app with videos and practice tests in a variety of subjects plus a chat function for access to a standby tutor.
  • XSeed is a Singapore based B2B firm, which sells educational equivalent of enterprise software to schools. It has learning apps for students and lesson plans for teachers, which allows schools to buy an infrastructure and a curriculum at a relatively cost-effective package.
  • Yola is another platform which teaches English skills through an app but their key motive is to bring students to their in-person programs at Yola’s training centers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City areas.

New waves of EdTech firms are entering the education scene in our neighboring countries and have potentials of transforming the entire learning procedure in this region.

Education system in Bangladesh mostly still functions offline

With a rising literacy rate of about 73 percent[9], Bangladesh has come a long way in terms of education. The education system has three tiers- primary, secondary and higher education. Primary level is upto 5th grade, secondary level is from 6th grade to 12th grade and higher education is all levels after 12th grade. There is also option for vocational and technical education. All these mainly follow traditional brick and mortar pedagogy. Even though now there are digital classrooms with access to internet in a few institutions, most of the teaching system still takes place offline. Complete digitization has not yet been released in the country’s education system.

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Coaching systems are detrimental both financially and education-wise

The education system of the country struggles with creativity as the belief of grades superseding learning exists in classroom and education has been commercialized in various ways. Despite the government’s pledge to outlaw the practice, coaching centers are still an inextricable part of our education system.  It is due to result oriented education and poor classroom teaching at most of the educational institutes that parents and students opt for this alternative. Lack of quality online study materials is another reason for this practice. It is most of the time seen that students spend more money on coaching education than institutional education.

Introduction of a quality online education platform might address this alarming situation.

The ICT Industry is growing and although EdTech is a niche segment it has multifold potential

It was not until very recently that Bangladesh got introduced to EdTech platforms. Due to increasing penetration of internet and technology, Bangladesh is catching up with the rest of the world in case of education technology. There are quite a number of players in the EdTech market of Bangladesh, which are receiving much appreciation even at global platforms.

The first name that comes to the minds of Bangladeshi students if you ask them about EdTech platform is 10 Minute School. It was founded by Ayman Sadiq and is perhaps the most extensive online educational platform in Bangladesh. Its YouTube channel has over 700 thousand subscribers and has about 3.5 thousand videos on it.[10] These videos focus on the board exams based on the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) syllabus, university entrance exams, skill development and professional courses. It is being funded by Robi Axiata Limited while being supported by the ICT State Division. Although 10 Minute School is an EdTech platform, it identifies itself as a social education platform and it is not a profit driven business entity. But 10 Minute School has shown that the market demand is there and new entrants can release broader opportunities in monetizing their venture.

Another key market player is Repto Education Center. It is somewhat similar to Coursera model. Courses from different fields of education like programming, digital marketing, graphic design, photography, English language, MS Office, database, entrepreneurship, etc. are available on Repto. It has about 150 courses with over 100 thousand students and generates tens of lakhs of revenue per month.[11] Champs21.com is another online education platform which was recently launched by the Daily Star and Team Creative. It is the country’s first assessment website focusing on Mathematics and Science for school students of classes 3 to 10. Students can take chapter-based tests on this platform for conceptual comprehension as well as functional and relative clarity.

The government is also putting forth effort for the development of online educational platforms in the country. Shikkhok Batayon is project of the government that aims to bring digitalization of education of our country into a reality. The site mainly is enriched with PPT presentation slide contents explaining different terms and topics of school-level academic studies. Contents based on all 3 mainstream curriculums (General, Madrasa & Technical) are present on the site. Platforms specially focusing on competitive exams for jobs are also present. For example StudyPress is a hub for students who want to excel in their competitive exams such as BCS, government job exams, and bank jobs exams. Recent questions, study materials and model tests are available on the site.

There are tremendous opportunities for investors to tap into the EdTech market of Bangladesh

EdTech has been gaining much traction in Bangladesh. About 2 percent of our GDP goes to education related spending, which means that the market value of education of our country based on education ministry budget is over USD 6 billion[12] EdTech has the potential to grab a large portion of this market. Taking the cost component into account, let’s say an average course in Coursera costs about USD 39-79 per month, which is quite expensive for a middle income country like Bangladesh. On the other hand, similar courses can be provided on Bangladeshi EdTech platforms at a much lower cost, which would make it much more accessible for mass public and would also become a decent source of revenue for instructors. Distance education is an important alternative for educating mass people in Bangladesh for many socio-economic reasons. However lack of opportunity is a major threat because limited access to technology in some part of the country will result in a divide between the categories of student. But if the accessibility barrier can be addressed then we would be looking at a skilled, technologically sound and informed population some years from now. Digital technology can supply the framework for supporting new learning approaches. It is ascertainable that even though EdTech industry in Bangladesh is still in its nascent stage but it has tremendous potential in driving social impact and also in creating profitable business opportunities for new investors.

Marzina Akhter Prottasha, Trainee Consultant at LightCastle Partners, has prepared the write-up. For further clarifications, contact here: [email protected].

References

  • [1]“Whitepaper on Digital Learning Market in India”, Technopak.com, 2016, Accessed on: 30.04.2019
  • [2]“The Best MOOC Platforms”, Review.com, 2018, Accessed on: 30.04.2019
  • [3]“Coursera, edX, Udacity Grew Their Businesses By Over 20% in 2018”, IBL News, 2018, Accessed on 30.04.2019
  • [4]“Coursera, edX, Udacity Grew Their Businesses By Over 20% in 2018”, IBL News, 2018, Accessed on 30.04.2019
  • [5]“Coursera, edX, Udacity Grew Their Businesses By Over 20% in 2018”, IBL News, 2018, Accessed on 30.04.2019
  • [6] Byju’s, Wikipedia.com, 2019, Accessed on 30.04.2019
  • [7] Byju’s, Wikipedia.com, 2019, Accessed on 30.04.2019
  • [8]“XuetangX, China’s Open edX Platform, Reaches 16M Learners”, IBL News, 2019, Accessed on 30.04.2019
  • [9] List of countries by literacy rate, Wikipedia.com, 2019, Accessed on 30.04.2019
  • [10]10 Minute School Channel, YouTube.com, 2019, Accessed on 30.04.2019
  • [11]“How REPTO Has Become A Revenue-first Online Education Company In Bangladesh With Ishtiyak Sheyam, CEO, REPTO”, Future Startup, 2018, Accessed on 30.04.2019
  • [12]“Education lacks due attention”, The Daily Star, 2018, Accessed on 30.04.2019

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