Gaps in Egypt’s edtech leave room for private-public partnerships — and British companies have the appetite: Despite being largely nascent, education technology in Egypt has been gaining ground in the past few months, with nine investments made in edtech startups last year, according to our internal trackers. Local and international private sector companies operating in the edtech space see plenty of potential in the sector in Egypt, according to speakers at an edtech showcase hosted by the UK Embassy last week. However, edtech offerings and infrastructure within both our public and private sector schools need to be developed to build a system that can keep pace with tech developments and create a resilient and sustainable education system, speakers said.
First things first: What exactly is education technology? Edtech largely refers to tech used to promote and access education — not only can schools incorporating edtech make classroom teaching more engaging and innovative, but it enables education to be far-reaching. These tools are key to overcoming geographic inequalities and problems caused by distance-learning, which was a major issue during the height of the covid-19 pandemic, when schools moved classes online. Edtech can streamline school management systems, be used as a pedagogical tool, or be provided in the form of hardware and software.
British companies have already begun to make inroads in Egypt and are keen to do more: At last week’s showcase, 11 UK-based education companies presented their products to owners and C-suite executives of local British and international schools. All members of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), the companies advertised a range of products from: Educational content, AI software tools, school resources, data and analytics tools, technical software support, teacher recruitment and training programs and assessment content and tools. Century Tech, an advanced machine learning platform that builds personalized learning paths for learners, has been in the Egyptian market since 2012 and has been working with international schools in Egypt for four years, International Schools Manager Ciara Morris told us previously. Century Tech has worked with international schools including Cairo English School (CES), the British International School of Cairo (BISC), and Kipling School.
These companies are looking to invest now: The companies at the showcase included CES Holdings, NetSupport Software, Planet Bofa, Everybody Counts, 2Simple, Renaissance, Oriel Square, Charanga, and Tes Institute. These companies were selected to join the showcase based on either their readiness to enter the Egyptian market or based on their prior experience in the market, BESA Deputy Director General Julia Garvey told Enterprise at the event. Many of these companies are now eyeing the Egyptian market as the government’s far-reaching educational reform program is looking to focus on driving the use of edtech in Egyptian schools, Garvey told Enterprise.
It’s not all robots and the metaverse: Education is about “human relationships and interaction,” education consultant John Collick told Enterprise at the showcase. Edtech should serve as a support for teachers, helping them to develop rapport with their students, Collick said. His thoughts were echoed by Ahmed Daher, deputy education minister for information technology, who said that there is a divide between Egyptian students and their education. Harnessing edtech to improve attendance levels and student engagement is key.
And there’s a window to branch out beyond student applications: Community Brands — which is new to the market — is also keen to partner with the Egyptian government and Education Ministry, using their data to bring value to educational policy as they have done in the UAE, Bahrain and KSA, Community Brands Vice President of Analytics and AI Matt Woodruff said at the showcase. Community Brands is an educational data and analytics aggregator that helps schools review their operations in a manner that makes sense for their tech ability. Moving schools from analog methods to use of the cloud or helping to prepare them to incorporate AI takes “stepping stones,” Woodruff said.
What’s driving the interest? We’re ripe for growth and development: For those entering the market for the first time, the room for growth and innovation in Egypt through well-targeted and priced products is appealing, according to company representatives Enterprise spoke with, while the old-hands cited the government’s commitment to developing and expanding the education sector. BESA is organizing similar showcase events in other markets, including China, Cambodia, and Saudi Arabia, Garvey told us. These countries are either in the early stages of edtech adoption, or have a strong vision for change. Egypt is among the countries where BESA sees a strong vision for change, with the adoption of its national reform strategy, she said.
That readiness for development was made evident — and accelerated — by none other than covid-19: At the outbreak of the pandemic, the closure of schools affected at least 24 mn pre-university education students, according to a Euro-Mediterranean Economists Association report citing CAPMAS data. The degrees of readiness varied between schools, in terms of communication and information technology infrastructure. In Egypt, only around 8 mn people are subscribed to ADSL services out of a population of 100+ mn and many children in rural areas don’t have access to a laptop or tablet to attend lectures. As a result, the 2020-21 academic year saw the beginning of a shift towards more edtech targeting learning rather than management systems. Among other measures, the government created and rolled out digital content to all grades through the Egyptian Knowledge Bank and live streaming. “Covid-19 accelerated the shift to edtech by five years,” Garvey told Enterprise.
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