Education: Fast Forward to the Future

Accelerating Edtech Adoption in a Post-COVID-19 World

As well as a big problem in its own right, COVID-19 has brought a number of other challenges to the fore, including political and social unrest, all of which have combined to put the very fabric of the modern society under significant pressure.

It is tempting to dismiss these effects as one-off; that at some point things will ‘go back to normal’. In practice, it seems likely it won’t be that simple.

In terms of education, COVID-19 has created one of the most significant disruptions in history. Closures of schools and other places of learning have, based on UN data, affected nearly 1.6 billion learners in 190+ countries — 94% of the world’s student population, and nearer 99% in lower income countries.

In the vast majority of cases, educators have done a heroic job in adapting to these extremely difficult circumstances. But COVID-19 has not only revealed a significant gap in terms of preparedness to deal with the sudden onset of 100% online learning, but  shone a bright light on some of the pronounced and profound inequalities existing in many educational systems around the world. Longer term, the inevitable fiscal pressure caused by the governments’ response to COVID-19 is in danger of exacerbating these inequalities and the impact they have on individual and societal wealth, health, and happiness. At the same time, what has happened does bring with it some hope.

Although education is an area few argue is unimportant, it is nevertheless an area that — relative to other industries — has been perhaps slower to adapt/evolve than other industries. On one key metric — the adoption of technology — education is a significant laggard: spending on technology barely represented 3% of the overall market (worth $6 trillion+) in 2019. And why is this? It is not, by and large, because the technology does not exist. It is mainly because of inertia: a sense either it’s not affordable, it’s not worth it, it doesn’t fit with certain political/ philosophical beliefs, or it’s simply not how it has always been done.

COVID-19 to Accelerate Edtech Adoption

Our survey work shows while there is a real sense of the risk posed by COVID-19, the crisis represents a watershed in terms of attitudes to technology/education technology (edtech) amongst educators. Some of these sources of inertia may finally be swept aside as the value of technology — in terms of improved outcomes, finding new sources of revenue, offering variety in the mode of teaching, reducing costs and, now with COVID-19, building in redundancy — is truly being realized. In short, necessity isn’t the mother of invention, for edtech, it is the mother of adoption.

And the implications couldn’t be more significant. Looking at the education market, we see the current crisis driving an acceleration in edtech growth. We see the market doubling over the next five years to around $360 billion  but note the ‘Edtech Gap’ — the gap between share of usage (50% of all study hours being digitized) and share of spend — is potentially almost 8x this at $2.7 trillion.

For society more broadly, we see benefits from the greater adoption of edtech being felt not only in better outcomes/lower costs but also in increased access/reduced inequality, which could have a meaningful impact on economic growth, especially in less advanced economies, but also at a global level.

So while COVID-19 brings challenges, it also brings with it an opportunity to fast forward to a future, which is potentially brighter for all.Authors: