Education and Technology: The New Reality
The education sector has witnessed many changes in recent years, the most important being the advancement of technology within this sector.
At KAPITA, we realized the importance of developing the education sector through our research, training programs, and investment department as it remains the fundamental key to building future generations based on skills-building, data-driven, and ecosystem-empowering grounds.
Recently, due to all the changes, COVID-19 has had on all the sectors in Iraq and especially the education system. Now more than ever, there is a need to develop this sector technologically to help sustain the education system and be prepared to face future challenges.
To understand the current reality of the education sector, KAPITA has organized a business meetup in late May, titled: "Education and Technology: The New Reality". The meetup focused on recent issues concerning the major switch to online education in the last two years, how to improve the online education system to eliminate the need for offline education?, and what is the role of Iraqi startups in developing the education sector?
The business meetup included key figures of the Iraqi ecosystem, education and tech startups, professors, teachers, and students. Mr. Mohammad Jamal - Managing Director, Research at KAPITA started the discussion by asking Azad Hassan - Founder and CEO of Eduba (Iraqi E-Learning startup), "Why do you want to change the education system, and how are you planning to change it?"
To that, Mr. Azad answered: "Truthfully, the education sector is a fundamental sector to building society. The idea of infusing technology in this sector isn't new. We are not reinventing the wheel".
In Iraq, we're late to the advances in technology in the education sector, but it's better to start now than never. The move toward technology-powered education began in the early 2010s, and since then, there have been many applications and online management systems for education like Medrestry and IoT Kids. Following that, private developers started working on platforms for schools which led to the market expansion in developing smart solutions for tech in the education sector. Iraqi startups are also working on taking this movement to the next step by building solid programs and online platforms and expanding their services regionally later on.
Mr. Azad added: "That's why we started Eduba. The journey was long and hard, but after 3 years, I think the market craves such ideas and is ready for the technology. We should also free ourselves of the unnecessary fear of integrating technology into education".
Another critical issue discussed, was the rise of the online education system. The pandemic has forced the new adaptation of online platforms for education. There were supporters and non-supporters during the discussion. "Many professors were unable to portray their teaching skills professionally as good as they did in the offline classrooms," one of the participants said.
The complaints also involved the poor handling of the exam systems with the introduction of the "open book" concept, yet the difficulty level stayed the same; this has resulted in generalized higher grades, which made it unfair for the students.
However, one attendant encouraged: "Because the online sessions are recorded, I find myself more focused, listening to the lectures in the comfort of my own place."
Abwab is an online teaching platform that is also working on changing the scene with top-tier teachers, fun learning techniques, gamification, and motion graphics.
How has been the parents' response so far?
Ahmed Sadiq - General Manager of Abwab Iraq, said: "Abwab is a new way of learning outside the classroom. Today we provide you with new and efficient learning techniques, and we cut down on the transportation fees since our classes are recorded. The parents' responses have been great! In the beginning, they were a little hesitant, rightfully so, but now, they've been seeing improvements, so they're demanding more classes to be added."
Furthermore, Ahmed Al-Maliki - General Manager of the Iraqi EducationalTV, mentioned: "There are many challenges facing the education sector today. It is not easy to change the curriculum. If you introduce new teaching methods, many students will rebel against the system."
There are about 500k teachers around Iraq. It is challenging to make sure all teachers are equipped with the latest and best teaching techniques.
Who are the stakeholders of the reality of the education sector today? Is online teaching the responsibility of the private sector with monitoring of the ministry of education, or is it the ministry's responsibility?
"The ministry of education is not responsible for the infrastructure." Mr. Ahmed said. There is a major issue of digital illiteracy, we have 13 million students, and of course, not all have access to laptops and internet services.
The challenge is extensive, and though the significant burden falls on the ministry of education, collaborations between different sectors are necessary.
Many attempts have been made by the ministry to try and provide better adaptation to the online learning system and bring the education system forward, including:
- Right now, students have the options to choose their source of information. Education by the ministry of education or collaborative work by the ministry and private sector or only through private sector like private schools and online platforms.
- The ministry of education has put out regulations and policies for all the new educational platforms to follow.
- Launched the Question Bank initiative and a hotline service ( 07816557305 ) to answer any of the student's questions.
In conclusion, though many challenges have faced the education sector in Iraq for many years, we are now seeing the results of past attempts to change the curriculum and teaching methods, and they are doing well. For example, the use of the English language in the primary school's curricula in Iraq. The market is ready and in need of smart solutions and technology to support the education infrastructure.
The following 5 years promise a significant change where technology is more integrated and generalized in the education sector.
About KAPITA's Business Meetups:
KAPITA's Business Meetups serve as a space for entrepreneurs, startups, stakeholders, and interested individuals to meet and connect with professionals and help them share their experiences, expertise, and advice. As well as deliver an accurate image of the different sectors of Iraq in an open discussion that targets various topics.
They also provide an excellent opportunity to build professional relationships through networking, in addition to the valuable information that is presented.