COVID-19 Education tech Job market

Why The Future Of Education Is Just As Important As The Future Of Work

Illustration of Zoom meeting on Laptop.

By Gauthier Van Malderen

Remote work and remote education have been the subjects of endless debate over the past two years, as companies, educational institutions and governments have scrambled to ensure minimal disruption for workers and students.

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However, while there has been a general acceptance that how we work has changed forever—with new working arrangements leading to increased productivity, companies giving up office leases, the rewriting of hybrid work policies, and an increasing number of remote-first businesses—the same can’t be said for education.

Gauthier Van Malderen, co-founder and CEO of Perlego
Gauthier Van Malderen, co-founder and CEO of Perlego

As we enter the third academic year disrupted by the pandemic, we should be having the same conversations around permanent change in education to improve access and outcomes for learners.

To secure the best possible future for students—and the global education system as a whole—the tech ecosystem needs to rally around building solutions for hybrid learning the same way it’s rallied around remote work. Now is the moment to rethink how education is delivered and build a hybrid model with greater accessibility, affordability and inclusivity at its core.

Pandemic investment boom

As the workplace faced radical disruption, there was an explosion of investment into tech companies that facilitated remote work. Startups, scaleups and public companies that could connect remote workers or alleviate the pressures of remote operations experienced rapid growth. Zoom’s share price, for example, rocketed 450 percent to a market cap of more than $80 billion, while people management startup Papaya was recently valued at $3.7 billion at Series D.

Three years ago, a total shift to hybrid work was unthinkable. Today, it’s big business and clearly here to stay.

Edtech is on the rise, but there’s a huge way to go

Much like the workplace, the classroom should be changing.

We have already started to see positive movements toward this hybrid future in education, with HolonIQ data showing that investment in edtech is on the rise. Unfortunately, successes still lag behind other sectors, including remote work.

Europe, for instance, has only just crowned GoStudent, it’s first private edtech unicorn at Series C, while HR scaleup Remote became a unicorn at its Series B. Taking into consideration two IPOs during the pandemic, online learning company Coursera debuted at $5.9 billion while the workflow organization platform was valued at $7.5 billion.

While the edtech sector is indeed experiencing growth, there is still a vast opportunity for investors to capitalize on the momentum.

During the pandemic, according to UNICEF, 83 percent of governments faced with the closure of schools chose to utilize online solutions to deliver education. However, while 50 percent of education time is digital, less than 5 percent of spending is on digital education tools, according to Brighteye Ventures. This is an opportunity worth more than $2.7 trillion.

What’s more, there is clearly headroom for growth, as HolonIQ predicts spending on education is expected to reach $10 trillion by 2030, far more than the cloud services sector, which Allied Market Research predicts will reach $1.6 trillion by 2030.

Edtech delivers more than returns

Beyond the investment opportunity, edtech holds the potential to better shape our future workforce. The next generation of workers and leaders deserve a set of purpose-built tools that allow them to succeed educationally in the same way that workers have enjoyed new tools that allow them to excel remotely.

After all, better access to education leads to better outcomes for the economy and society by stimulating employment opportunities, social mobility and diversity in the workforce.

While the pandemic has forced work and education to be adaptable, this can’t be a flash in the pan. We must continue to build and adopt technologies that lead to permanent change and double down on edtech’s momentum to secure our future.

Gauthier Van Malderen is co-founder and CEO of U.K.-based Perlego, an online library that provides students with unlimited access to more than 650,000 academic titles with built-in learning tools.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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