How emerging technologies are enhancing access to education

19 November 2019

Educational technology is reshaping the way students learn, providing more dynamic and accessible experiences in place of the traditional textbook-based approaches

“Education is a basic human right and the accessibility of it through new technology channels is creating an entirely new market opportunity for the sector,” says Sam Shah, Global Head of Services, Macquarie Capital.

In today’s digital era, we’re seeing a cohesive blend of technology solutions with paper-based content, says Shah. In the United States, this is especially key for lower income districts that lack the financial resources to embrace purely digital solutions.

As accessibility remains a key principle and social component across education, technology channels are creating an entirely new market opportunity for the sector, Shah says.

“Correlations between educational attainment and social mobility are stronger than ever,” says Shah. “This, coupled with the required upskilling in an age where technological advancements continue to displace workers, is creating a massive opportunity for new companies and their investors.”

In addition to driving enhanced accessibility, EdTech is transforming the ways in which students learn globally. In particular, mobile solutions that deliver quality and efficacy are fundamentally changing education for both students and teachers globally.

By 2020, virtually everyone will have a mobile phone, 2.6 billion people will have smart phones, and 56 percent of people will have Internet access1. Digital learning makes it possible to reach new and excluded learners, lower costs, enhance teaching, and offer new ways for all learners to gain skills.

"With mobile as an increasingly acceptable medium, the notion of education anytime, anywhere is truly taking form."

In addition to mobile learning, Shah cites Artificial Intelligence (AI) as one of the many technological advancements improving student outcomes.

Uses of AI in education are generally categorized based on their deployment method, which include: vision, voice, natural language, algorithms and hardware (HolonIQ). These deployment methods have changed the ways in which knowledge is transmitted, introducing new levels of mass personalization and expanding opportunities to create engaging learning environments.

As AI becomes commonplace throughout the sector, it is allowing constituents at all levels to make more effective, real-time decisions on crafting tailored educational pathways, regardless of age, Shah says.

Through its reach, AI has capacity to address inequities within the education sphere at a global scale. A UNESCO report cites AI as having the capacity to provide "marginalized people and communities, people with disabilities, refugees, those out of schools, and those living in isolated communities with access to appropriate learning opportunities" through virtual teaching assistants and telepresence robotics.

While EdTech may have incredible transformative potential, it is still in the "early innings," says Shah. The education sector is currently a $US6 trillion industry with a market capitalization of just $US150 billion, according to global education researcher HolonIQ.

This compares with the $US10 trillion global healthcare industry which has a market capitalization of $US5 trillion.

HolonIQ forecasts this will change rapidly, with investment in advanced technology in the education sector rising seven-fold by 2025.

Over the same period, it expects more than 100 education companies to reach a market capitalization greater than $US1 billion. In 2015, there were just 10.

Global Education and Training Expenditure is set to reach at least $10T by 2030 as population growth in developing markets fuels a massive expansion and technology drives unprecedented re-skilling and up-skilling in developed economies (HolonIQ).

"EdTech could fundamentally alter societies at speeds that few have witnessed in human history," says Shah.