Hailed as ‘the next fintech’
, education technology (edtech) is one of the fastest growing tech verticals in the world.
Global edtech revenues exceeded US$17.7 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow to US$40.9 billion by 2020, according to global research firm Research and Markets
. Much of the edtech sector’s growth is driven by demand from Asia Pacific – the region is projected to represent 54 percent of the global edtech market by 2020
In Singapore, the industry has seen sustained growth.
“Edtech in Singapore has evolved. In the early days, it was limited to online content access. Today, edtech has grown to include learner data analysis, gamification, social learning, and personalised learning solutions to help students learn more efficiently,” said Shivanu Shukla, CEO and co-founder of edtech firm Teamie.
Teamie is a seven-year-old homegrown success story that has clients in Singapore, Malaysia, China, the US and UK.
An appetite for learning
The origins of edtech’s phenomenal growth in the city state can be attributed to a strong commitment to education in Singapore.
73% of Singaporean parents plan their children’s education before they start school, while 52% of Singaporeans are willing to go into debt to fund their kids’ education, according to the HSBC Value of Education report
This commitment to learning has since grown beyond school walls. In recent years, the Singapore government has gone all out to promote life-long learning, which supports the Smart Nation vision and getting current students to be skills-ready for the future economy.
“When we first started our company in 2011, our clients were mostly schools and universities who wanted online repositories and assignment solutions,” Shukla said.
“With government initiatives encouraging life-long learning, we’re now getting enquiries from enterprises and training service providers, who want personalised solutions such as skills assessments and modules that match learning paces, for students of all ages. Edtech is not just for students now,” he continued.
This trend can be seen across the industry. Learn Anything (https://www.learnanything.sg/#!/about-us), facilitates connections between students and tutors through an online portal. Singaporean students and tutors now have the option to learn not only academic subjects such as languages or mathematics, but also skills such as swimming, baking, singing and even grooming!
Technology penetration aids edtech’s rise
The widespread use of electronic devices in Singapore has reduced the friction for edtech adoption. According to social research firm We Are Social, 91% of Singaporeans have a smartphone
, which they use to browse the Internet every day.
Device use in Singapore is especially prevalent among children. A study conducted by the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2018 indicates that the average 12-year old Singaporean child spends close to seven hours a day on electronic devices
The high incidence of mobile internet use in Singapore presents opportunities for edtech companies to provide personalised learning solutions.
“Online learning used to be about everyone gaining access to content from providers around the world. But with newer forms of technology development, such as big data analysis and gamification becoming mainstream in Singapore, edtech can move beyond providing access to learning to making online learning an engaging, immersive experience,” Shukla explained.
One of the earliest utilisers of big data in Singapore’s edtech scene is Cialfo
, a local software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. Established in 2012, Cialfo helps Singaporean students secure places at overseas universities by analysing a student’s academic profile and shortlisting universities that he/she has the highest chance of acceptance. Cialfo has since expanded to India and the United States and has even tied up with popular social platforms such as WeChat.
Government initiatives enhance edtech growth
Besides encouraging life-long learning, the Singaporean government has also rolled out other initiatives to encourage the growth of edtech in Singapore. One such move is the formulation of masterplans to promote the use of information, communication and technology (ICT) for education In Singapore.
Currently in its third iteration, the ICT Masterplan includes initiatives like infrastructure upgrades, increased connectivity in schools, as well as ‘edumall 2.0’, an integrated portal of global learning resources and approaches that teachers can access to plan their lessons
In addition, government agencies such as Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) provides grants, licensing services, and proof-of-concept projects that can be adopted by various sectors, including edtech.
Edtech firm Commontown, which produces language learning-based solutions, is one recipient of A*STAR assistance. A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) provided financial and research assistance to CommonTown to develop a speech-acquisition portal.
The portal, sanctioned by Singapore’s Ministry of Education, utilises speech technology to help more than 400,000 students in Singapore speak mother tongue languages (Malay, Mandarin and Tamil) accurately.
Edtech for after-school lessons
For many Singaporean students, attending tuition classes is a common rite of passage. On average, Singaporean parents spend S$155 – S$255 a month on tuition
for their children.
The need to find cheaper, more accessible tutoring and learning solutions has created a demand for virtual learning solutions.
From tutor sourcing to assignment assistance, edtech opportunities abound in this space. For instance, Miao
is an app which utilises blockchain technology and AI-powered chatbots to helps students solve math questions. The platform is also able to suggest similar questions that the student can practice on to improve their understanding of math concepts.
Opportunities abound in Singapore’s edtech sector
There are many opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs to capitalise on edtech’s growing demand both within and outside the country’s borders.
Initiatives such as the Lithan Digital Skills Accelerator have been set up in Singapore to encourage the formation of new edtech companies. To date, Lithan Singapore has awarded 2,497 certifications and produced 7,619 graduates, with 90% of the graduates saying that courses offered on Lithan has enhanced their careers.
Those looking to start an edtech venture in Singapore stand to benefit by establishing themselves as early as possible before the field gets saturated.
“Edtech is a maturing industry in Singapore that is exploding with opportunities. As learning moves beyond the classroom, edtech applications in Singapore will appeal to increasing segments of the community as they embrace lifelong learning. It is up to us to provide personalised, targeted solutions that enhance their learning experience,” Shukla said.