Edtech sector gains momentum in region
Edtech is a natural progression of how education is evolving to meet the current needs of students.
Remote learning and teaching have both gained momentum globally, as well as in the UAE. The coronavirus outbreak has led to a regional spurt in distance learning, and the education sector has witnessed a paradigm shift in both learning and teaching; most people prefer staying indoors and continuing with their lifestyle.
Philip Bahoshy, founder and chief executive at Magnitt, said: "EdTech startups focus primarily on the education of students, children, and working professionals in the Middle East and North Africa, with the last few years seeing an acceleration in the investment in the space. Lately, there has been an increasing focus on coding education specifically, as students and employees look to improve their technical skills."
According to Magnitt data, the number of edtech deals surged from four in 2016 to 30 in 2019, and funding during same time moved up from $2 million to $21 million.
Karim Beidas, founder and CEO at Kidzapp, said: "Edtech is a natural progression of how education is evolving to meet the current needs of students, but it does not mean that physical teaching institutions are obsolete. They both complement each other and edtech can further enhance a student's learning by allowing them to explore and go deeper into subject areas of interest to them. Edtech is also an opportunity to support youth, who have limited access to quality education, which is a universal right."
Online learning platform, Coursera, has announced that it will provide every impacted university in the world with free access to course catalogue through Coursera for Campus. Universities can sign up to provide their enrolled students with access to more than 3,800 courses and 400 specialisations from Coursera's top university and industry partners. These institutions will have access until July 31, 2020, after which they plan to provide month-to-month extensions depending on prevailing risk assessments. Students who enroll on or before July 31 will continue to have access until September 30, 2020.
Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera, said: "As a global community of educators, we are honoured to be serving fellow institutions and student communities during this crisis. Over the next few days, we will also hold webinars and share more resources, including experiences from our partner community, to help institutions looking to transition online during this crisis."
The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is the most serious global health security threat in decades. In many countries, restrictions imposed by government agencies have disrupted daily routines for millions, including students. Many universities in the impacted regions have suspended face-to-face seminars, closed campuses, and are scrambling to find a solution to minimise disruption for their students.
Recently Dubai-based Wamda invested in Jeddah-based Aanaab, an education technology (edtech) platform that has raised $1.5 million in its seed round. The round was led by Wamda and Nour Nouf Knowledge Company, with participation from others including a group of angel investors in the education sector.
Aanaab is an online platform specialised in the professional development of Arab educators through open learning. Aanaab caters to individual teachers, schools, and organisations as a high quality, scalable way to continuously develop their personal and professional skills and capabilities through online lectures, meetings, reading material, discussion boards and evaluation exercises, among others.
"We have confidence in the impact Aanaab's founders will have on the educational technology (edtech) sector's future growth," said Fadi Ghandour, executive chairman of Wamda. "Aanaab is building an innovative platform that focuses on teachers' qualifications, which is at the core of improving knowledge acquisition in schools in Saudi Arabia and the region."
The platform currently offers both short courses for free on various teaching training topics, as well as paid certification programmes offered in collaboration with regional and international institutions such as Cambridge International and The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia.
"Aanaab is looking to develop initiatives similar to global models such as the Singaporean model, which encourages teachers to get 100 hours of professional development annually. This keeps them up to date with the latest developments in their field and improves their classroom practices through professional learning communities," said Naila AlKhalawi, co-founder and chief operating officer (COO) at Aanaab.