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Bringing the EdTech Revolution to All Students

Bringing the EdTech Revolution to All Students
Team No Student Left Behind on tour.

Alumni support for special projects gives INSEAD impact across a wide range of priorities shared by our community, including in the realm of education.

The intersection of "education" and "technology," EdTech is a term for hardware and software that improves classroom teaching and learning. Tablets, interactive whiteboards and screens, online content delivery, MOOCs (massive open online courses) — all are now part of a contemporary digital education toolkit. 

Over the past few years, start-ups specialising in EdTech have gained traction, measured in investments and growth. But research shows that EdTech is not equally accessible to all learners, with notable lags in the K-12 segment, which receives only 1% of total venture capital funding worldwide. As a result, K-12 students often lack access to the growing advantages of EdTech. 

How can we close the gap, bringing technology's benefits to all students, across ages, cultures, and life circumstances? That's the question investigated by a group of INSEAD MBA students as part of 'SSUP — a venture exploring entrepreneurial hot spots in Europe and Asia, founded by students in 2017 and led by students today — with support from the Hoffmannn Institute.

Forming the No Student Left Behind team, MBA'22D's Sarah Kreik, Pallavi Kaul, Ilia Villanueva Garcia, and Michele Soeryadjaya embarked on an EdTech tour that has implications for underserved youth worldwide. The team's explorations took them to Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and France, with special emphasis on vulnerable communities, including children from migrant backgrounds and those with no social network in European countries.

Along the way, the team met with founders of several EdTech enterprises. Among them, Revisely gives teachers a high-quality, efficient way to grade and provide feedback on projects and papers. The Tomorrow University of Applied Sciences uses technology to integrate rather than replace in-person interactions and democratises access to quality education. And Anywyse has jumped on the podcast bandwagon with a platform that leverages the power of listening, especially helpful for students with disabilities such as dyslexia.

Why haven't creative applications like these gained more traction among K-12 schools? How can we create incentives for entrepreneurs to introduce revolutionary technology in an industry tied to public institutions? Part of the challenge, the team learned, lies in marketing and outreach. Education entrepreneurs often target individual schools through a B2B sales model rather than going after school districts and public contracts, making it difficult to scale up and expand their start-up's reach. Enterprises might also sell directly to parents who are eager to equip their children with digital advantages — an appealing approach to investors, but acquiring new tools can be a stretch for vulnerable families. Another outreach model, which shows promise, involves marketing education products to corporations, which then make them available to schools.

The greatest challenge, the team found, is finding an approach that makes products financially viable for EdTech entrepreneurs and accessible to underserved K-12 students who, without resources, risk falling behind. At the end of the tour, with its many insightful conversations, the No Student Left Behind team concluded that three ingredients are needed to deliver the full benefits of EdTech to every student: motivation, creativity, and public support. By incorporating all three in their business models, EdTech start-ups can grow their bottom lines, increase their social impact, and help educate the next generation of leaders.

During SDGWeek — dedicated to exploring sustainable development goals — the Hoffmann Institute is running a session on how the EdTech industry can bridge the education gap in underserved countries. Learn more and register for the 4 November session here.

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