On Tuesday evening, I attended a meetup event dubbed “Collaboration for an Inclusive EdTech Ecosystem” at iHub. Among the panelists for the event were Christine Namara of Baobab Network, Zacch Opondo of Zeraki, Rebecca Cook of Metis Collective, and Maryanne Wangechi of Aga Khan School.
The session was moderated by Tonee Ndung’u, the CEO of Kytabu. The event’s goal was to bring together key stakeholders in education to explore ways to foster collaboration and inclusivity within the country’s EdTech ecosystem.
The highly interactive and insightful session was attended by teachers, curriculum designers and developers, STEM educators, EdTech startup owners and investors, and government officials, among others.
My takeaways from the event are as follows:
It’s common to everyone that digital technology has a lot to offer in the education sector. It both offers opportunities for tech entrepreneurs and solves critical problems in society.
The majority of the people in the room concluded that the country’s current education sector needs improvement. Some of the words used by panelists to describe the state of education in the country included “work in progress”, “moment of possibility”, “average”, and “dynamic”.
The introduction and implementation of the competency-based curriculum (CBC) by the government was hailed by some panelists and audience as a “work in progress” and “strides in the right direction” while some criticized it, citing lack of quality.
The key challenges affecting the education sector, according to the audience and panelists, are the strict content distribution licenses imposed by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) which results in difficulties in accessing the sector by EdTech startups and the failure by the government to bring together stakeholders while designing and developing curricula which result in poorly designed curricula that lack depth and practicality. Due to the latter, the government takes so much time to digitize its content – work that would otherwise take a Nairobi-based EdTech startup 2 weeks to complete takes 6 months in the hands of the government.
A couple of insightful points were shared on what could be done to improve the education sector. Some of them included enhanced leadership that serves to unlock the creative capacity of the multi-level stakeholders in the sector, increased public participation by parents, teachers, and private sector stakeholders in matters of education (case in point: not many people in the audience attended the public participation sessions for CBC), regular revision and implementation of education policies while taking into account the views and opinions of diverse groups of people, and enhanced collaboration through ownership of the system by parents, government, learners, and private sector actors.
How do EdTech startups approach the challenges facing the education sector in Kenya? Here are some of the points that were shared: engaging end-users of EdTech solutions so as to create impactful tools that are actually addressing challenges faced by all the stakeholders (learners, parents, and government), investing in infrastructure for collaboration by applying modern techniques such as design thinking cycles, being keen on aimless borrowing of foreign concepts and policies, and building highly scalable solutions that reduce the cost of education as a result of economies of scale.
The event concluded on a high note with an official announcement of a partnership between iHub and Mastercard Foundation to launch the “Edtech Accelerator Program” which offers a $100,000 equity-free grant to EdTech startups in Kenya. Relevant parties can apply via https://futureoflearning.ihub.co.ke/.