Last year, technology in education conference EdTechXGlobal, released a report with several interesting stats on the global education market. The price on education has been continually rising over the past few decades, notably accelerating in recent years. Globally, the education market is worth over $5 trillion. $5 trillion is clearly a lot but the true value of education as a market becomes apparent when put into context. It’s around 3 times the size of the global media and entertainment market and 8 times the size of software market.
How the total amount money spent around the world on software each year is utterly dwarfed by that spent on education will likely come as a surprise to many. Isn’t software used in everything these days? We’re even starting to use software to turn our heating on and off and there are smart toasters! However, it’s another statistic that will have been even more interesting for Silicon Valley executives – education is only 2% digitalised. That is clearly a huge market opportunity and one the tech industry is determined to capitalise on.
The U.S. is currently at the forefront of the technology in education trend. The American school market for computers and software is forecast to see sales of $21 billion by 2020. Globally that figure is expected to reach $252 billion. Tech companies and tech vendors are, perhaps unsurprisingly, heavily courting the decision makers at schools and at regional and national level. Corporate hospitality techniques being used by tech companies to influence those who control the purse strings at schools is causing some concern in certain quarters. However, with tech having brought efficiencies to improvements across so many industries, the march into education will hopefully have positive results in the long term.
In the U.S., the school district of Baltimore, which is made up of 173 schools serving 113,000 pupils, has become something of a pioneer when it comes to the use of technology in education. Despite generally struggling with juggling resources, the district’s schools superintendent Dallas Dance, whose role is to oversee all of the schools in the region, took the brave decision to allocate resources to provide every pupil with a school-issue laptop, all the way down to the 1st grade. The investment was considered as necessary to helping pupils develop ‘new economy skills’.
EdTech is one of the fastest growing markets for Silicon Valley and other major international tech centres such as London. In theory, as well as bringing education into the modern world and suitably preparing youngsters for the tech-centred world they will one day seek work in, edtech should also bring schools cost efficiencies. Textbooks are expensive and while the kind of edtech software that is slowly replacing them has to be licensed licenses for additional users should, in theory, be cheaper than textbooks which have to be printed and inevitably also have to be regularly replaced. With education budgets under pressure in the UK and pretty much every country in the world, software replacing textbooks and other learning aids will be seen as an attractive prospect by schools even if it means the upfront cost of providing pupils with laptops.
The size of the market will mean that tech companies continue to invest in edtech products. Schools will have to make sure the benefit runs in both directions and push the edtech industry on pricing.