Wednesday, May 29, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

How the pandemic pushed EdTech into the forefront of education in Bangladesh

‘Our primary aim is to democratize access to high-quality education for all students’

Update : 06 Feb 2022, 02:13 PM

Edtech has been around for a few years now but the pandemic has really pushed it to the forefront of education. 

When children in Bangladesh were out of schools for almost two years, the UN warned that this will have a lasting effect on their learning ability. 

This is where technology in education has been a lifesaver for many. 

Startups like Shikho, Science Bee and 10 Minute School have contributed to the rise in the sector.

EdTech is basically the use of technological processes and resources to improve education and facilitate the learning process. Only last month, one of the popular organizations, 10 Minute School, raised $2 million in seed funding from Surge, a rapid scale-up program for startups in India and Southeast Asia.

Shikho on the other hand is relatively newer, only launched in November 2020, it has been downloaded more than three hundred thousand times.

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Shahir Chowdhury, the founder of Shikho said: “Our primary aim is to democratize access to high-quality education for all students in Bangladesh, and by creating a digital, mobile-first solution we are able to break down geographical barriers.”

There are currently 45 million students studying for the Bangladeshi National Curriculum but most of the quality educational institutions are clustered in urban centres as often well-trained teachers are still hard to find in rural parts of the country.

According to him, at the moment Shikho users are already spread across all 64 districts in Bangladesh including urban, suburban, and rural parts and it currently has courses for the SSC, HSC, university admissions and they plan to release courses for classes six to eight as well.

According to Shikho, students fully prepare using only the app and the price of each course is also reasonable considering the materials within.

For example, the Higher Mathematics first paper course costs only Tk2,450 for which students can have access to 136 animated videos, 1,000 smart notes, 160 quizzes, 2,500 questions and answers and 600 tables and diagrams.

The platform is not limited to guided courses only as it also contains live courses such as the “SSC’22 Revision Course” and others. Presently each live course costs as low as Tk1,500.

“Our business model is to provide structured high-quality educational courses at affordable prices, and we are able to do so because it's catered to a very large audience. We are providing significantly more value, as it's a holistic solution including notes, questions, analysis amongst many other things,” he said.

The growing demand for Edtech is not only limited to Bangladesh, for a matter of fact it's rising all around the world. 

According to Statista, the global market size for EdTech was valued at $254.8 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $605.4 billion by 2027. 

The demand for online education can also be seen in the South Asian region and one such example is India. 

The Indian EdTech market, including K-12, test preparation, online certification, and skill development is projected to reach $10.4 billion by 2025. 

The neighbouring country, India is the most relevant example given they are culturally very similar. Indian Edtechs have raised over six billion dollars (vs $5 million in Bangladesh) and the country has four unicorns and two decacorns. 

BYJU'S– the largest Edtech company in the world is rumoured to go public very soon at a valuation close to $40 billion. 

“Shikho is the very first education technology company that started building a scalable solution with venture capital,” Shahir said.

In October 2020, Shikho raised venture funding from the largest education technology investor in the world, LearnCapital— a Silicon Valley based venture capital firm. 

Education technology in Bangladesh is still largely restricted to small enterprises that typically host videos on YouTube and take live classes on Zoom.

While asking the number of students enrolled with Shikho, the founder said it is against their policy to disclose the exact figures, but the company is seeing a month-on-month growth rate of 140% of paid users. 

The growth in the number of users is a result of many factors. The pandemic being one of them as the founder and CEO of Science Bee, Mobin Sikder also said. 

Science Bee has been around since 2018 and has similarly also enjoyed a steady growth, currently with around six hundred thousand students enrolled with the organization.

“The Covid-19 pandemic had a major impact on our education system, as all the institutions and coaching centers were closed, and during this period the Edtech market boomed rapidly. People have understood the potential and the positive sides of online education,” he said.

He added saying online education is much cheaper and way more convenient, especially in a time like this and seeing the benefits and its usefulness, parents are now also becoming more accepting towards online platforms as a medium of education.

The sector has seen substantial growth over the last couple of years as more and more companies are coming up with innovative ways to improve the means of education countrywide. 

EdTech is beyond just the digitalization of traditional textbooks or the use of gadgets in classrooms, but it is the application of digital technology to transform education delivery and provide a new form of learning architecture. 

“Shikho has the potential to redefine the learning experience to one that is adaptive and democratized, through offerings such as video content, gamification and immersion. EdTech will become increasingly data-driven and with the use of artificial intelligence it will enhance analytics and insights,” Shahir added.

“Our vision is to become synonymous with digital learning in Bangladesh,” he added. 

The company recently acquired Bohubrihi- an online-based platform for skills and professional courses, that includes web and app development, digital marketing, exam preparation and data science and analysis.

Shikho also bought another online platform Mainly Coding– a coding platform to provide high-quality education material for all ages across the learning continuum from classes six and above. 

From the data collected, we can see that these EdTech startups are gaining momentum fast, as an alternative source of learning for the students. These startups are advancing and it is safe to assume that the momentum will continue even after the pandemic subsides. 

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