Asia Pacific has experienced an immense shift in education over the past few years. The emergence of internet platforms has been significant in breaking down long-standing educational boundaries. Technology has made learning more accessible, inclusive and efficient for millions of students across the region.
The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 brought a new challenge to education. At the pandemic’s peak, most schools across the world had to transition to online learning. However, students with no access to the internet had a hard time adjusting to this shift. According to an article by the World Bank, only Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia have internet penetration rates above 80%. By contrast, less than 60% of the population in Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia has access to the internet, and in Myanmar and Vietnam, that number is only about 40%.
This digital divide impacts vulnerable populations most, increasing the crisis's impact then and its continuing consequences now. Many students do not have dependable internet connectivity or the reliable equipment required for efficient online learning. To address these challenges, some institutions and governments have established loan programs to give students the gear they need to tackle their studies effectively.
According to the Asian Development Bank, even before the pandemic, the rise of innovative technology and the shift to Industry 4.0 emphasized the growing relevance of digital technology in education. The implications are obvious: digital skills are critical, and education systems must become more digitally savvy to meet these needs.
While technology is a strong enabler, it is essential to understand that digital technologies alone cannot address deeply engrained educational difficulties, particularly those connected to poor learning outcomes. As a result, the key focus of digital strategies should be on using technology solutions to increase educational quality by improving learning overall.
The development of EdTech — a system grounded in online learning, personalized learning and machine-based learning — was accelerated because of the pandemic. EdTech changed not only how education is provided but also how students interact with learning materials. And regarding its implementation, it’s the private sector’s huge investments that drive the expansion of EdTech.
According to Metaari, a company that tracks private investments in learning technology, investments in EdTech companies totaled $16 billion in 2018 and $18 billion in 2019, a sum greater than the total investment in this market during the previous 20 years. By 2025, the market is predicted to have over 100 EdTech start-ups. The majority of these companies are in the United States and China. India is also emerging as a rising star, with five start-ups collecting over $100 million in investment in 2019 alone.
In a post-pandemic environment, the ability of EdTech to reach low-income homes and bridge educational gaps is crucial. To meet this promise, equal access to connectivity and devices is required. However, devices alone are not enough; governments must investigate technology-as-a-service approaches in order to stay up-to-date with rapidly emerging technologies while also ensuring accessible and equal access to quality education. The latter is exemplified by Amazon Web Services or Khan Academy’s formidable offerings to schools in the US. There are also important capacity challenges when it comes to delivering the instructional leadership necessary in the transition to technology-enabled education and training.
Online learning platforms allow for customized learning experiences that respond to individual needs and learning paces. Adaptive learning tools, such as those by DreamBox, an American online software provider, evaluate a student's progress and adjust the curriculum as needed. This ensures that students receive the assistance they require, whether they are struggling to learn a certain idea or developing at a rapid pace.
The Asia-Pacific region is witnessing significant economic expansion and industrialization — growth that requires skilled labor to fuel innovation and progress. Online platforms have responded by providing a diverse range of courses and certificates to help learners prepare for the job market.
LinkedIn Learning, for example, offers an opportunity for professionals to learn new skills and earn certifications. This platform provides classes in a variety of subjects, including technology, traditional business and the creative trades. Professionals can improve their employment chances by obtaining relevant skills through online courses, allowing them to break past career stalls and hurdles.
While digital solutions have the potential to transform education, the ultimate goal should be to ensure the quality of learning. Through personalized learning, real-time assessment and adaptive learning technology, EdTech can be a strong tool for enhancing learning outcomes. To do this, governments must establish clear policies regarding assessments, tests and learning progression. With these in place, students can receive the access and results they need to be best prepared for their futures.