As a result of the pandemic and the rapid adoption of technology in the education sector, the workforce of tomorrow is being shaped like never before. Jack Larkin, Trade and Development Executive at Enterprise Ireland MENA writes about the role of Irish EdTech in helping to revolutionize learning.
As schools and universities faced severe challenges during the start of the pandemic, it propelled education institutions to find rapid solutions to limit the disruption to students as classrooms and lecture halls closed requiring a model based on remote learning to be put into place overnight.
This moment in time gave rise to the most significant advancement in the adoption of digital technology in education like no other, creating a leap not seen in generations for the mainstreaming of digital learning, and propelling the digital classroom of the future.
With the global education technology market size valued at $89.49 billion in 2020, the sector is experiencing a level of annual growth not seen before which is forecast to be 20 per cent from 2021 to 2028. This will see the market value grow to near $400 billion over the coming years.
This rapidly growing market contains an array of innovative offerings that are not only just designed to support the remote learning challenges derived from the Covid era. The market is servicing the changing needs and expectations of the digital savvy youth as well as those educators who are looking at the benefits of technology to revolutionise teaching.
What the future holds for education
As we increasingly prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it has become an imperative that education systems adapt. Many of today’s children will work in new job types that do not yet exist, with advanced technology driving this new future, and therefore we need to prepare and equip young people with these new skills for the new jobs of tomorrow.
We are seeing EdTech solutions that are in line with the advances in the latest technologies, such as the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality, which are all contributing significantly to the market growth.
By focusing on these types of advanced technologies, young people can not only benefit from a different learning style, engaging in more immersive learning, they are also learning what these technologies can do and how they can be applied.
One example of this is how virtual reality can be applied in the education setting. Irish company, Immersive VR Education offers virtual reality-based learning providing an immersive teaching method that allows students to interact with concepts or situations that no longer can be experienced such as experiencing what it was like on the Titanic when it struck an iceberg or being in space on a mission, opening many possibilities that did not previously exist, especially helpful in a home-learning setting.
On AI, we only have to look at what is happening here in the UAE with the strong focus being placed by the UAE Government on fostering an environment that harnesses the possibilities that can be enabled from the application of the technology. Through the National Programme for Artificial Intelligence, the UAE is aiming to be a global hub for AI techniques and legislation and to become world leaders in AI by 2031.
The economic benefits are clear; it will create new economic and social opportunities for all and will lead to the generation of up to AED 335 billion in extra growth for the UAE. With both this goal and the resulting economic prize that is on offer, the trend set by the UAE will only continue further and indicates in sharp focus the need for the workforce of tomorrow – the children of today – to be skilled in these types of technologies in order to fuel the national ambition.
A shared ambition drives UAE’s and Ireland’s learning ecosystem
Like the UAE, Ireland also shares the clear focus for embracing innovation to shape the future, which is why so many of our Irish companies have innovation embedded into their DNA. The Irish ecosystem is rooted in innovation with the substantial national priority placed into research and development over the years by successive Irish Governments.
In the EdTech sector this is no different; for example, the Learnovate Centre based at Trinity College Dublin is home to a research and innovation centre that is solely focused on learning technologies. Funded by Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Government’s trade and innovation agency, the industry-led centre helps companies transform employee, student, and customer learning experiences. The centre also actively identifies what the latest trends are and how that translates into setting priorities for research to support product development.
The vibrance of the Irish EdTech sector is linked to the strength of the wider technology sector, where some of the world’s most advanced digital technology companies have grown up alongside global tech giants. With Ireland’s exceptional talent, vibrant investment activity and a renowned research base, it has helped to create one of the world’s leading tech hubs, with over 1,000 companies generating €35 billion in exports annually.
Initiatives such as Ireland’s €500 million Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund is further driving the pipeline of digital innovation, providing funding for collaboration between Ireland’s research base and industry and enterprises to develop disruptive technologies and applications on a commercial basis.
Irish start-ups revolutionising education through innovation
In EdTech alone, there are over 157 Irish start-ups operating across a range of segments of the educational landscape, all highly innovative, and all helping to transform learning, and playing a key role in shaping the workforce of the future.
With this sector thriving, their innovative solutions are present in educational institutions around the world. Innovative platforms support the real-time assessments of students, such as the product provided by Skilly who have devised a complete dashboard to help teaching staff to track progress for every student, class, and year group whilst also monitoring engagement levels. With around 40 million annual users, Learnosity also provides a suite of powerful assessment tools that provide a fast-track solution for building more engaging learning products.
Irish edtech companies are revolutionising learning. Enabling young people to learn about computer coding is at the core of what Robotify enables. The company guides students to produce original ideas, with the tools, resources, and freedom to grow their capacity for creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration skills, using a simulation platform to make robotics accessible to everyone. The Irish virtual robotics company has just signed a deal with former Apple pioneer, Steve Wozniak to change the future of millions of learners with WOZ ED, K-12, his education company.
With the catapult towards the future, the classroom is being reimagined, challenging the status quo of how young people learn, and importantly, they are experiencing the benefits of a more technology-enabled learning experience. Our young people are beginning to be equipped for the Fourth Industrial Revolution for a world embracing new disruptive technologies, led by the vision of preparing students for the automation-driven workplace of the future.
Jack Larkin is Trade and Development Executive – MENA at Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Government agency that works with Irish enterprises to help them start, grow, innovate and win export sales in global markets.