Technology, when thoughtfully deployed, can be a powerful tool to improve learning outcomes for children in every corner of the globe. However, as in any other industry, it is not easy to deploy and implement technology in education sector.
There are lots of processes in between to make it happen. Moreover, and too often, technology is not equally distributed leading to huge disparities between access and use of technology by higher income versus lower income children. So what do we do? Well, in order for edtech to live up to its true potential, it must improve education for all children, regardless of their family income or location.
But how to incorporate equitable edtech into an education system on a national basis? It turns out that the key is in the ecosystem, the multiple actors — in this case that includes government agencies, educators, innovators, investors, and philanthropies — who need to not only align but to collaborate to create an environment where equitable edtech can thrive and sustain. In this post, we bring you the key traits and players of Australian edtech ecosystem.
Australia as a global education hub
Australia has historically demonstrated strong performance in the provision of onshore international education, consistently ranking as a destination of choice across many of the major source markets. It is not surprising that international education is Australia’s largest service export and the nation’s fourth largest export overall – after iron ore, coal and natural gas. The measured export earnings from the sector in 2014-15 stood at $18.8 billion. The unmeasured borderless activity suggests its size is even greater still. A 2015 research report by Deloitte and EduWorld on “Growth and Opportunity in Australian International Education” has suggested that Australia’s onshore international education sector is capable of increasing from 650,000 enrolments, as of that year, to 940,000 by 2025. It has further suggested that over the next two decades, international education is predicted to be among the fastest growing sectors globally, firmly positioning it as one of five sectors as capable of driving the next phase of Australian economic growth. No wonder, the primary reason why this destination is so attractive for international learners and the resultant country’s economic growth is because of the quality education it provides.
Key traits and players of the Australian edtech ecosystem
Some of the resources available to Australian edtech companies may be listed as sector champions, investors, grants, accelerators and incubators, and events that support the industry. While every edtech company or startup may have all the above resources, a supportive environment facilitated by every player is one of the most important traits for edtech companies to thrive and succeed. It is not surprising that Australian edtech companies enjoy a huge privilege on this and there is no reason why the country’s edtech sector will not flourish even more in the coming years.
Sector champions in Australian edtech ecosystem
To create an environment for edtech companies to thrive and succeed, role of sector champions are inevitable. Australia has enough champions who exactly facilitate that platform. The two main champions in edtech sector are EduGrowth and Austrade (Australian Trade and Investment Commission). EduGrowth is the not-for-profit peak body for Australian edtech and offers programs, webinars, and meetups to support edtech companies at different stages of maturity. For Australian edtech companies, the EduGrowth newsletter is the first port of call for staying abreast of events. EduGrowth also runs a Slack group for the sector. Austrade on the other hand supports Australian exporters in a number of sectors, including education. It offers several relevant programs, including Landing Pads, in several startup hubs around the world, webinars, and study tours.
Investors in Australian edtech sector
Australian edtech sector has already gone global in its customer and investor base. A wide variety of investors took part in the deals, including angel investors, venture capitalists, strategic investors, and government or university-backed entities — both from Australia and overseas. Most of the major Australian venture capital firms invest in edtech. For instance, Blackbird Ventures, AirTree Ventures, OneVentures, Rampersand, Uniseed, Follow [the] Seed, Black Sheep Capital, and Tank Stream Ventures have all made at least one investment in the sector. Two Australian strategic investors — Navitas Ventures and SEEK — have also invested in edtech.
Grants available from Australian state and federal governments
A variety of grants are available from Australian state and federal governments for the country’s edtech companies. Examples include: The Export Market Development Grant (administered by Austrade), The Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) grant for collaborations between industry and researchers, and businesses located in New South Wales can access grants from Jobs for NSW and the Office of State Revenue.
Accelerators and incubators supporting Australian edtech industry
Australian edtech startups receive support from a number of non-sector specific accelerators and incubators. These include Muru-D, Startmate and H2 Ventures. University-based accelerators and pre-accelerators also play an active role in supporting Australian edtech startups. INCUBATE (University of Sydney), iLab (University of Queensland), Melbourne Accelerator Program (University of Melbourne) and UNSW Founders Program are some to name a few.
Australian edtech events
Edutech is probably the main event on the Australian edtech calendar. It runs in Sydney every June. While Edutech includes a paid conference track, its expo is free to attend by all companies. A number of meetups and webinars are also available to facilitate companies and startups to interact, share and work on the projects. Not only that, different capital cities, which include Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth, also have their own meetup groups.
With all concerned stakeholders playing their respective role in supporting the industry, in addition to already well-structured education system in the country, it is safe to assume that Australian edtech sector is poised to grow all the more in the coming years. Being always a destination of choice by students, and having a strong tie with major source markets, Australia would continue to attract talents from across the world.
Key drivers to create a strong edtech ecosystem
For edtech companies to thrive and succeed, building a supportive environment or strong ecosystem by all stakeholders is required. And the key drivers to create such an ecosystem are: a vibrant marketplace for education innovations and edtech entrepreneurs; a technology infrastructure to support the distribution and use of edtech; a bold edtech policy that is backed by legislation and fair funding; and committed leaders and educators at every level who have the skill and passion to bring this vision to life. In short, key factors were necessary to activate an ecosystem that is both scalable and sustainable to help make edtech a primary tool for improving education.