The EdTech industry is in rapid expansion around the world. Zooming in, we can see that every country has its own ecosystem uniquely influenced by tech literacy, attitudes to technology, education systems, resources, access to the global market, and language, to name a few factors.
The global leaders in the field are the United States, China and India. Although these dominant countries have thriving and well-established EdTech industries, this is not to say that smaller markets are slow on the uptake. Two countries with growth in this sector are Australia and France. Each of these is following its own trajectory, although they share common obstacles to their progress. Their examples offer a fascinating insight into their competitive local arenas and international horizons.
EdTech in Australia
Australia boasts quality education, a thriving EdTech industry and a global mindset. This industry currently brings in revenue of 2.2 billion dollars.
Australia ranks highly for investment in tech research and development. Surprisingly, on the other hand, the nation is challenged in the skills department. For local innovators, this can mean needing to outsource to overseas talent. Nevertheless, Australia’s EdTech industry is on a sharp and sudden climb. A census run in 2017 and again in 2019 showed that the Australian market grew and matured significantly over that two-year period.
Growth from between 2017 and 2019 includes:
· An increase from 350 to 600 companies
· A shift from a majority of start-ups to a majority of scale-ups
The same 2019 census asked how Australian EdTech businesses rank their concerns. Responses show these innovators are primarily looking for ways to find new customers, expand internationally and find talent for their projects. These businesses show they are willing to work with off-shore talent if they can.
The market is open for different types of outside investment, including partnerships between international and Australian EdTech companies.
In 2019, an overview of EdTech sectors in Australia looked like this:
· secondary 60%
· primary 58%
· university 55%
· vocational 42%
· corporate 38%
· early childhood 24%
· language learning 18%
· other 9%
Note that the sum of these segments does not add up to one hundred per cent due to overlapping of sectors.
Australian EdTech is known for its quality and is one facet of Australia’s fourth largest export: That is, the country’s highly valued education. To understand this position, we will first take a glance at the Australian education system.
The largest groups of EdTech companies in Australia are involved in K12 education, an area supported by government involvement. Each state and territory of Australia has its own curriculum and educational system, which impacts on how EdTech is used and regulated in K12 education. While the nation is productive in creating EdTech options, there are still many hurdles for increased application of EdTech. These obstacles include teachers’ receptiveness toward technology, school resourcing, and students’ personal access to technology. Research from March 2020, early in COVID lockdowns, showed that students from advantaged and disadvantaged communities have significantly different degrees of access to home internet.
Australia’s EdTech sector benefitted from growth in response to challenges from COVID-19. This is particularly the case in higher education, which holds a huge segment of Australia’s EdTech industry.
How does this relate to Australia’s reputation for quality education? A look at K12 systems shows fluctuations in government investment by sector, some crowding of classrooms and below-average enrolments in early childhood. The most challenged sectors report being under-resourced, with a particular focus on teacher shortages. We might wonder how creative EdTech solutions can bolster these stretched systems. Although the world-class status of Australian education is claimed in broad terms, it is most applicable in the context of higher education. Importantly, Australia’s K12 education is not an export, unlike its higher education. The tertiary sector is thriving, with significant investment from facilitating domestic and foreign students. This is viewed as the most profitable area and one that adds to Australia’s image and reputation on the international stage.
Australia’s EdTech industry hub EduGrowth aims to promote international expansion, and supplies a range of excellent resources and insights on their website. To see a list of Australian companies, visit the Australian EdTech Directory.
EdTech in France
The French EdTech marketplace is characterised by fast growth and a tough monopoly. The market is currently valued at 650 million Euro. As comparable to Australia, the French market has grown significantly in a short period of time, increasing by 47% between 2018 and 2021. Most of these businesses are small and working hard to establish themselves, while a minority has risen up to dominate the arena. For the newer and smaller companies, international markets are often considered the best place for a breakthrough.
In France, there is a much greater focus on use of EdTech for professional purposes, which may be related to rates of unemployment and greater need for upskilling. This is reflected in the following breakdown of sectors from 2020:
· professional training 63%
· higher education 46%
· K12 39%
Once again, these companies sometimes overlap in their target sectors. As an example, out of forty-six percent of companies servicing higher education, only eight percent are exclusive to that sector.
Like Australia, the French government has initiatives aiming to facilitate EdTech for schooling. These are also are hampered by previously referenced problems of teacher hesitancy, under-resourcing of schools, and low student access to technology. One difference in this area is that France is assisted by the EU broadband program and has higher rates of home internet.
Despite this, data taken near the start of the COVID lockdowns in France showed that twenty-five per cent of secondary students did not have access to a personal computer or tablet.
When schools first closed due to COVID, the association EdTEch France launched a “call to action”. This was an invitation for companies to offer their services voluntarily to help schools, universities and corporations cope with the sudden upheaval. This movement led to exposure for EdTech companies, but has also created financial stress for some companies working hard to supply increased need but without gains. Nevertheless, the pandemic showed huge gaps in available EdTech resources and many existing EdTech businesses have come about as a response to this situation.
The association EdTechFrance is responsible for promoting the rapidly growing industry and offers a range of market resources.
What is the global future of EdTech?
Worldwide, EdTech was already growing rapidly prior to the coronavirus pandemic. This global crisis has only spurred on a thriving global industry to identify gaps and increase its accessibility to those in need. The industry is constantly innovating new products, but there are still many challenges to its practical implementation in homes, workplaces and educational institutions.
Polling in the United States has shown that eighty-six per cent of teachers believe EdTech in the classroom to be “important” or “absolutely essential” and ninety-two per cent of teachers would like to increase their usage of EdTech. However, the same polls show that less than twenty per cent of teachers appear to actively incorporate EdTech in their programs. For this data to come from a country that is a global leader in wealth and technology, tells us that education systems around the world are lagging in their engagement with technological advancement. Globally, governments and institutions are challenged to explore why this is the case, and how better to support the use of technology in this field. Even after it finds its way into the classroom, EdTech is ever in need of further refinement to become more effective. As one example, students and teachers in the most technologically rich environments can become overwhelmed as they juggle their various devices and accounts. These users need improved organisation and streamlining of their apps and programs for greater efficiency.
Globally, the education sector can be resistant to change, following the adage that what isn’t broken doesn’t need fixing. Longstanding flaws are easy to overlook when there has never previously been a clear solution. New technology brings opportunities we once could not have dreamed possible. Where traditional approaches that have so often failed to recognise diversity of needs and abilities, EdTech offers the personalised learning experiences and teacher support that can finally break new ground in education.
Through COVID, the world has come to a unique point of solidarity, striving together to draw on the rapidly emerging industry of EdTech. The pandemic has given a much-needed push to overcome common industry obstacles and open the doors to a global pool of resources. As international markets mature, we will certainly see greater interest in expanding to seek out new, brilliant and much-needed innovations from around the globe.