Upgrading the classroom

Despite advances in recent years, education remains vastly under digitized. In 2020, only 3.6% (or $225B) of global education expenditure was allocated to tech. Although forecasts indicate an increase to 5.2% by 2025 this value can still be considered quite conservative. Why is the integration of effective technologies into formal education such a complex endeavor?

How technology is procured and used, how it is embedded in the classroom, and where the school is located are all critical factors to its effectiveness. When poorly managed, an increase in public spending on tech can bring relatively small improvements in education outcomes.

Tech is not a magic ingredient that will solve all structural problems of formal education, but when used correctly it can be an important support tool for teachers and administrators.

An increase in adoption rates, reducing skepticism towards new solutions and increasing pressure on administrators to increase budgets have all contributed to bringing much-needed hope for the advancement of tech in classrooms.

We’ve analyzed and mapped 50 startups revolutionizing educational technology for teachers and administrators.

Tech for the classroom

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The hurdles of modernizing the classroom

Historically, Edtech has struggled to find a home and scale within the formal educational system:

  1. Fragmentation of markets: the diversity of cultures, level of digital development and languages requires edtech startups to navigate different educational systems that vary on a geographic level, it can be particularly challenging to scale and grow.
  2. Risk aversion: schools aren’t known for being early adopters of new technologies.
  3. School budgets: tight and shrinking budgets that vary within countries.
  4. Longevity of sales cycles: the complexity of selling to schools and universities has been vastly documented. Sales cycles for schools are typically longer than direct-to-consumer. Stories of entrepreneurs seeling to schools in cycles of 6, 12 or even 24 months aren’t unusual (source).
  5. Assessing needs and misalignment of stakeholders: there’s a substantial risk that much of the technology is being poorly selected, implemented and even go underused due to a lack of basic infrastructure. 


Can technology transform teaching?

Updated technology can be a deciding factor in the workplace, as teacher shortages and retention challenges have been linked to the use of outdated back-office technologies. In a post-covid world, teachers are looking at the technology infrastructure and support provided around this technology as a factor in making their decisions.

A survey by McKinsey conducted on more than 2,000 teachers in Canada, Singapore, the UK and the US, asked how much time teachers spend on 37 core activities, from lesson planning, teaching, grading to maintaining student records. Findings show that teachers work about 50 hours per week, and spend less than half of the time in direct interaction with students. Across the four countries, teachers spend an average of 11 hours in preparation activities. The following categories were evaluation and feedback (6.5 hours), and administration (5 hours).

Starting with proven technologies that replace simple administrative tasks can help teachers gain more time for personalized learning. The challenge goes beyond access to digital tools, equally important is developing the necessary digital skills needed to offer a complete and quality education.


Government-led initiatives

Fuel by the pandemic, there’s a clear trend within the European governments and regulators to support the European edtech ecosystem and subsequently modernize the classroom:

Government-led initiatives_Edtech

How are startups playing in the field?

K-12 directly to institutions historically lagged behind B2C. Only 4 of the 70 Edtech unicorns are developing management solutions for the institutional K-12 segment. In VC investment, educational management startups raised $721M out of the $8.4B raised in the K-12 segment in 2021

Global VC funding for in education management solutions for K-12

The previous wave of edtech for teachers and administrators was marked by breaking technology into the classroom, characterized by the shift to cloud-based platforms by providing a portal for coursework, or facilitating basic administrative tasks. 

Today, startups are taking cues from gaming and entertainment to reinvent the learning experience in both online and offline environments. Technology is not coming for teachers’ jobs, instead, it helps facilitate good teaching.

What segments are emerging?

  • Real-time feedback and evaluation: provides data on student understanding through interactive lessons, interactive videos, gamification & activities (example: Nearpod)
  • Community-led tools: enables teachers to build better classroom communities through awards, incentives, and parent-teacher communication tools (examples: ClassDojo, Remind, Edmodo)
  • Immersive tech: tools changing the way that students acquire knowledge by integrating next-gen technology into learning environments such as 3D simulations, VR, and AR into the classroom (example: Inspirit, Corinth)
  • Teachers training: developing and supporting teachers, by helping them acquire new skills (example: KickUp, Guide Education)
  • Administrative tools: software that can automate administrative tasks, such as finance and payroll and HR (example: Zen Educate)

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