October 5 is known as International Teachers’ Day or World Teachers’ Day. This day has celebrated the contribution that teachers make to society since 1994 and is annually observed throughout the world by more than 100 nations, following a UNESCO recommendation concerning the value teachers bring to our societies. The purpose of the day is to “acknowledge, evaluate and enhance the instructors of the world”.
However, during the same week of this valuable celebration in our education calendar, the internet was awash with girls “twerking”. The most memorable image was of a girl making a suggestive dance with the young man extremely “happy and satisfied”. Others were locked in a kiss in front of a class holding cupcakes.
Social media also carried an “SOS” from a headmaster who had simply had enough and thus requested parents to come and take their children. Parliament was in outrage and parents cringed with horror and embarrassment. Overall, a dramatic week indeed.
The blame of course was heaped on the absent teachers. There is no doubt that there is indeed a crisis and we hope that all parties will solve the current deadlocks amicably. However, it is prudent to note that we need a “new speak” in terms of balancing what has gone wrong vis-a-vis how we should relook the needs and new direction that the education sector is going. A good education system drives society and the economy.
What are current trends in the education sector?
Antoni Verger a member of the Globalisation Educational and Social policies UAB research centre in Barcelona, notes that “Education is increasingly populated by actors and firms motivated by profit-edubusiness.” He adds by pointing out that, there are competitive dynamics between edubusinesses and conventional public providers. Another major trend is access to financial capital markets as a way to support the activities of the industry. Commodification of schooling and the increase and influence of financial institutions were also seen as important trends. Lastly the prominent role of information and technology cannot be underrated especially after Covid-19.
Is the sector worth investing in?
The education sector is high value system that translates into millions of dollars. Research from GSV advisors, a leading advisory firm devoted to entrepreneurs and owners in the education sector, calculated that the value of the education sector globally speaking was US$4,9 trillion in 2015. To this end venture capital investment in education companies reached nearly US$2 billion the following year.
It is noteworthy to point out that, the sector has produced its fair share of billionaires. Bertil Hult, the 75-year-old founder of EF Education has a net worth of US$5 billion. The billionaire made his fortune by organising summer trips to the UK so his fellow Swedish students could learn English in the basement of his dormitory. He was dyslexic so learning via textbook was quite difficult. EF is an international education company offering study abroad, language learning, cultural exchange and academic programmes around the world. The organisation operates in 73 countries.
Chang Pyung Soon, founded South Korea’s Kyowon Company in 1985 to sell educational products and services for children. The company is now South Koreas’ largest sales organisation with 30 000 agents selling to over three million customers. Its products include among other things, hands on experience programmes to eBooks. The company employs 13 000 teachers.
What is the education value chain?
The education value chain is also increasingly growing sophisticated and consists of a broad spectrum of value chain players. There are chains of private schools. However, in Zimbabwe, a new breed of private school is now visible forcing traditional trust schools and mission schools to notice their prowess. Schools such as Milestone and Knowstics College in Manicaland, have even surpassed powerhouses such as St David’s Bonda in producing good results.
Publishing firms are providing a range of educational books and educational software. Consultancy firms probe the dynamics and trends within the education sector. Providers of elearning services are now rife. According to Research and Markets the global online education market is expected to be worth US$319 billion by 2025 with North America anticipated to provide the highest revenue generating opportunities.
In Zimbabwe, we have certainly seen a boom in the education sector. But what has been most prominent is the rise and emergence of private schools in both low and high density areas? There is no doubt that the rise of the population has created gaps within the education sector itself. However, despite these inroads there are still clear gaps that are still existent. For example, in emerging settlements there are still problems with schools in those areas and pupils are forced to walk very long distances.
The curriculum has evolved and this is especially true in Zimbabwean schools. Parents are now looking for a dynamic curriculum that moulds a holistic product. Thus curriculum that provide more content outside traditional subjects.
What are the emerging opportunities on the ground?
Alternative home school network
The bad behaviour that was mentioned at the start of this article is pandemic across most schools. In addition, we have seen a lot of abuse especially among girls. A study conducted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Ghana, Malawi and Zimbabwe indicated widespread abuse of girls by boys and teachers. These acts went largely unpunished in most educational institution.
Socialisation of children is obviously very important. But for parents who would like to protect their children from negative influences, home schooling is increasingly being seen as an alternative when compared with traditional methods. A study conducted in the US revealed that “91 percent of home-schooled students had parents who said that a concern about the environment of other schools was an important reason for home-schooling”.
Teachers can thus start home-schooling services. Within the home-schooling ecosystem, creative entrepreneurs can create websites or social networks for home schoolers.
Educational venture capital
A deep dive survey by SODECO, shows that educational funding is largely coming from personal savings and the banking sector. In Zimbabwe, there is no dedicated venture capital dedicated to funding the educational sector. In the US, venture capitalists have diversified from funding collegiate to primary level initiatives.
EdSurge, an independent education technology consulting firm, estimates that $1,45 billion of venture capital was invested in education start-ups in the US in 2018. In Zimbabwe there are also opportunities for venture capital funds dedicated to funding the education sector as well.
There is no doubt that social media has played a crucial role in moulding the behaviour of these youngsters cited above. This group is what we call Generation Z (GenZers) and they are famous for spending copious amounts of time on the internet.
Research has shown that 55 percent of Gen Z are on their phone five hours or more a day. Studies have also revealed that, there’s a group of Gen Z (12 percent) that are on their phone 15 or more hours a day.
This energy needs to be channelled somewhere else. Studies have shown that camps have been known to have positive effects on behaviour. In Zimbabwe one of the few camps run by Scripture Union needs to expand. Not many camps dedicated to teenagers exist in the country.
The pandemic has brought to the fore the need for elearning. In Zimbabwe we have certainly seen an upsurge of elearning platforms. elearning is estimated to reach US$325 billion by 2023 Educational apps are far the greatest movers in this industry. Some useful apps are; Mental UP Educational Games and Science 360 to name just a few.
As we celebrated Mental Health, we are cognisant of the fact that we still have a long way to go with regards to sorting out the myriad of mental health issues that faces our children. According to studies in 2017, 7 percent of students attempted suicide. The same research showed that 17 percent of the teenagers, reported that they had “seriously thought” of committing suicide. Counselling services dedicated to the educated sector are thus especially needed.
Specialising in special conditions
What do Richard Branson, Orlando Bloom and Albert Einstein have in common? They all have dyslexia, a learning disorder that involves difficulties in reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding).
Another condition, Autism, is a condition that refers to conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours and speech challenges.
In the US, the Autism Speaks organisation estimates that 1 in 54 children are autistic. In the African context these conditions are rarely understood and yet there are parents and children who are negatively affected by the misinformation that follows such conditions. For starters entrepreneurs can create resources that educate populations
As shown above entrepreneurs now need to see the education sector as green with opportunities. According to Benjamin Franklin ”An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”