The Open Education Challenge co-organizes the Global Education Startups Awards with our Israeli partner Mindcet and a worldwide network of edtech incubators.
Winning the awards is not the most important part of this initiative. The objective is to invite education startups to share their objectives and problems and prefigurate a global marketplace for education startups worldwide. Our joint experiences working with education startups demonstrate how challenging is their task. Education remains a conservative domain protected by laws and practices that date back a couple of centuries. Education as a public good is often opposed to the edtech movement as if education entrepreneurs were driven by greed and not inspired by a true vision to change education for the better.
Education startups are reinventing education and ask public authorities to reconsider their approach to innovation in education. There is no question in accepting the fact that education should be the most precious of all our public goods. The problem is that in the last century, inequalities haven't stopped to grow, preventing social mixity and creating a gap between a social elite that will always access the better jobs and the rest of the population. The PISA test has also revealed the weaknesses of the education systems in the developed world and their resistance to change.
In the past years, entrepreneurship has been seen as THE response to all our problems in all sectors, except education. Entrepreneurship education, considered as crucial to foster innovation in our societies, doesn't include naturally entrepreneurship in education. Even if most incubators and accelerators found out that education startups represent around 30% of all their hosted startups, there is still a tendency to consider education as a second class domain when compared to transport, energy, health or cybersecurity.
Investors have usually been extremely cautious when deciding about their investments in education startups... except in the US where a few dozens of startups have benefitted of an insane market valuation.
The US market has been seen until now as a more secure and mature market for edtech startups. It seems not to matter that the US education system is one of the worst and most uneven systems worldwide. It doesn't seem important that a growing number of university students are unable to repay their loans without which they would never have entered college.
Our belief is that things are going to change as education startups all around the world are increasingly looking in another directions.
Europe is a good example of both a global and fragmented market. Investors will never stop arguing about the extreme fragmentation of the "education market" divided into tens of countries, each of them with their own policies and curricula. Whoever have thought of entering the french or the german market would have looked at the extreme centralization (in the case of France) or decentralization (in the case of Germany) as main reasons to retrocede quickly. We should certainly stop considering education as a forbidden area. Just think of textbook publishers that are still trying to defend their market shares in each market also thought as "impassable" for private entities. Aren't textbook publishers private companies? Haven't they demonstrated that public and private interests can coexist for the benefit of the whole system (and their own).
Textbooks are no longer the answer and their digital counterparts are just another example of wrong answer to new challenges.
Learning differently requires new skills and new tools. This is just what education entrepreneurs are doing: creating new learning paradigms, inventing new learning tools.
Edtech startups are just a sample of education entrepreneurship. Technology per se doesn't bring innovation into the classroom. Many - most - entrepreneurs have often an initially naive or childish vision of education, applying reminiscences of their childhood to create new apps and thinking this will be enough to change it all. Design thinking has been for long the missing step in the innovation in education process. Which are the true challenges? Who are the true beneficiaries and which are their needs? Basic questions that haven't been answered yet.
For many - most - entrepreneurs in education, schools (and teachers) are not doing their jobs correctly. Is that true? Is it that easy? Most of the entrepreneurs haven't entered a classroom since they were students or have done so just when they were taking their own kids to school. This is not enough to prevent them to innovate but it will make a lot of sense to associate closely the teachers either as privileged users (and not only customers) or are fellow entrepreneurs.
Who innovate in the classroom? Teachers or Entrepreneurs? Can a teacher be a good education entrepreneur? Would an education entrepreneur be a good teacher?
A market place for education startups will gather teachers and entrepreneurs. Schools are testing beds for innovations but all innovations can't be tested. Those that really benefit the teachers, help them to rethink their role without questionning their professionalism will be successful.
The European startups that are among the GESA finalists for Europe illustrate the diversity of an entrepreneurship movement that will progressively irrupt into the classrooms.
Our European partners: Yves Lehmann from ed21, Amy Keith from versaripartners and Ian Fordham from ednfoundation have carefully selected"their" winners to fuel an essential debate about the future of education.
A jury composed of Avi Warshavsky CEO of Mindcet, Edouard Ullmo co-founder of the Open Education Challenge, Carolina Jeux-Condé, CEO of Telefonica Educación Digital, François-Xavier Hussherr CEO of Gutenberg Technology, Yishay Mor Head of the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Education at Levinsky College will decide on the European winner that will then join the global GESA final at Bett in January 2017.
Winner will be announced on November, 21 at an event organized by P.A.U. Education and Open Education Challenge with the UPF (University Pompeu Fabra). Israeli artist and educator, Hanoch Piven, will give a masterclass and then teachers and entrepreneurs will be invited to present their innovative practices and tools to a panel of education experts composed of Davinia Hernández-Leo (UPF), Judit Llavina (Teach for All), Pierre-Antoine Ullmo (P.A.U.) and moderated by Manel Jimenez (UPF).
Featuring teachers and entrepreneurs side by side is a symbol of our original approach to innovation in education.