The education sector in the Middle East and North Africa must pay more attention to capital efficiency and innovation rather than rely on incumbent models of learning services in order to keep up with the rest of the world, says a leading education technology expert.
Michael Staton, Partner at Learn Capital, believes the missing piece of the puzzle in the MENA region is early stage capital that supports innovation and is willing to risk failure to create larger success.
Speaking ahead of his participation in the Education Investment MENA conference, running from 10-13 November at the Address Hotel Dubai Mall, he commented: “Private equity and mid/top tier schools are able to grow and expand to meet the growing demand of families. There is, however, very little early stage capital to support innovations not just in school models but also in technology-based services to schools and directly to learners across incomes, life-stages and media preferences.
“I believe that if something should exist, there is a demonstrated market need. The trick is to do the work to track early stage teams, support their growth as entrepreneurs and pick the teams that will win the opportunity. Ed-Tech investors win on team selection in addition to opportunity selection.”
Education Technology (Ed-Tech) is a major theme of the Education Investment MENA conference this year, as increasing numbers of investors see opportunities beyond the traditional premium K-12 space.
Dino Varkey, Group Executive Director and Board Member of GEMS Education, said: “Online education is part and parcel of what we do but I think the future outlook of online education is yet to be determined. Our world is changing fast, making it challenging to forecast the future of this trend with any degree of certainty.
“The perceived challenges of online education might be from the perspective of parents because they are more comfortable with the idea of their children at a school in conventional classrooms and teachers who are physically present. I think this perception about the concept of online education will change but predicting further details remains challenging.”
In partnership with HUMANSOFT, the four day conference this year will identify how to increase investment in education across the board, from premium K-12 schooling, through to Higher Education, Vocational, Special Educational Needs and Ed-Tech.
HUMANSOFT is a global company investing and promoting well researched, innovative, technology-driven ventures related to Learning, Human Resources Management and Health Services.
Following a welcome address by Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Chairman and Director General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the opening panel discussion, ‘Positioning the Middle East as a global hub for educational capital,’ will see Dino Varkey joined by Victor Saad, Vice President and Board Member of SABIS® and Svava Bjarnasson, Principal Education Specialist, International Finance Corporation.
Ahead of the conference Saad said: “Educational technology is certainly a main focus of any successful education provider today but our responsibility is to ensure that the disruption to our industry caused by technology is to the benefit of all our stakeholders, and most importantly the students in our schools.
“Our belief is that this can only be done if the aim of new technology is to improve the learning process and outcomes, enhance school efficiency and provide a better platform for communication with stakeholders.”
One of the core challenges in the regional education sector is in making investments into private higher education more viable and finding a model which works well for both the educational institute and the financiers.
Varkey added: “The challenge is typically related to finding alignment of shared values and objectives amongst operators and investors at the outset of the relationship. It is typically the case that private operators tend to have very high valuations of their business, whereas financial investors would naturally have lower expectations.
“Furthermore, the objectives of providers and operators will typically be long term due to the nature of education itself, as opposed to the objectives of financial investors which may typically look at a shorter horizon. It all comes down to whether both parties can find common understanding.”
A series of free to attend Ed-Tech seminars feature on Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 November for delegates to explore the latest innovations which can transform teaching methods. Topics include using gamification to deliver fun educational experiences, e-assessments to improve learning results, encouraging school administration to think digitally, and ensuring digital safety.
Education Investment MENA is held in partnership with HUMANSOFT and supported by Gold sponsors GEMS Education, SABIS® and Laureate International Universities, and Silver sponsors Ryan International Group of Institutions, Clyde & Co, Colliers International and IT School Innovation.
– Education Investment MENA