Improving Education in the 21st Century

Can investment alone succeed in improving education?

I have just finished reading an article in TechCrunch entitled “Education Technology is a global opportunity” and it leaves me with many more questions than answers.

It is an interesting article … and yes of course there is opportunity. But can investment funding alone be said to be improving education in the 21st Century?

Having been actively involved in the electronic education and online learning market for 20 years, this humble writer predicts  that the vast majority of funds invested in the West, is unlikely to be successful in meaningfully improving education. I also predict that 80%+ of those new education startups will fail as rapidly as the majority of educational software companies failed in the 1990’s.

improving education

Innovating and improving education becomes problematic if we demand the elimination of risk.

There are 4 main reasons why I personally do not believe that investment funding alone will be successful improving education – or provide the innovation in education we so badly need..

  1. Currently 90% of the new education startups offer products or services that do nothing more than provide patch-ups for a 250 year old system of education that continues to try and mass-produce education. The 21st century needs students to be educated as individuals and more adequately prepared for employment with a balance of both academic and life skills. Employer research is telling us this. Are we listening AND understanding?
  2. Most techies and tech businesses simply do not understand education, and technology alone is not a solution.
  3. Education and educators are generally very conservative and few are trained or encouraged to be innovative. The system does not permit that, and proven research is the precursor for any change. True innovation is never possible without some degree of risk.
  4. The vast majority of VC’s and investors also appear not to truly understand education. The billions of dollars they have been investing in Edtech in the last 3 years has been little more than a gamble. You only have to see the “about face” that the Bill Gates Foundation has recently made in their approach to investing in education – and admitted their mistakes in the directions they have taken in the past. The story about the “Gates Pivot” can be read here in The Education Week.

It is a very disappointing situation with over $3 Billion being invested in the US in the last 3 years, and less than a handful of businesses producing anything that is actually improving education whatsoever.

However there are a handful of individuals that do understand how education could be restructured and modernized to suit the needs of each student, 21st Century employers, and society as a whole. I have to ask why those with the investment funds are not proactively seeking out and supporting them, rather than often relying on the advice of “consultants” who similarly lack an understanding of the changes needed.

What do you think?

Is a factory-style approach to educating our young people still relevant in a time when we are seeking to encourage responsibility, creativity, self-motivation and innovation?

1 reply
  1. Nicholas Tee
    Nicholas Tee says:

    There is no doubt that we need significant changes to the way we are educating our kids in the classroom today. With so much money being invested in online education and technology today, it would be disappointing if we didn’t see some of the improvements we need.


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