The Edtech pandemic shock: A global response

Education International's latest research on the commercialisation of education in the context of Covid-19.

While many businesses have experienced a downturn in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, edu-business is booming, according to Education International's latest research.

The sudden emergence of edtech as the result of the pandemic has caused a shock in the landscape of governance in public education.

PPTA attended the virtual launch of 'Commercialisation and privatisation in/of education in the context of Covid-19' by  Ben Williamson (University of Edinburgh) and Anna Hogan (University of Queensland) in a bid to better understand this.

Edtech solutions are necessary  

The researchers acknowledged from the outset that edtech solutions have been necessary and that the formation of international, multisector coalitions to fast track efforts to address short term issues has been admirable.

More than 90% of the student population has been affected globally and ensuring access to devices, internet and platforms for teachers to conduct the learning is necessary to address equity.

The report highlights the need to build a framework of evidence about what edtech tools work and why.

Concerns and tensions

The research also raised a number of concerns and tensions. Commercial edtech players have been offering free to heavily subsidised products but most want to exist beyond the current crisis. Organisations may be fronting up with free trials now but want to mitigate these with later costs.

Some funders and decision makers are shaping the edtech market towards particular suppliers and these companies are using the pandemic to roll out new large-scale platforms and systems – giving schools the opportunity to gather and monitor student engagement data through their programmes. Google, Amazon and Microsoft are the biggest organisations of concern as they are not just increasing the number of signups, but seeking to change the pedagogical landscape. Big players like Pearson Education are across all categories.

Non traditional education actors such as Amazon, with its machine learning for education AI based teaching assistance are competing for education space. And new entrants such as Tiktok are marketing directly to parents through hashtags such as #learnontiktok.

Conclusions and recommendations

The research recommends initial mapping of the evolution and expansion of the edtech industry and the management of education by private actors.

It also advocates further research into; how unevenly schools have experienced edtech, what the rejection rate has been, the effects on families of edtech coming into the home and the implications for teacher workload.

It concludes that unions are the voice of reason and, when informed by research, can pose a central and vital role in promoting and establishing a shared vision of public and state schooling.

Students before profit

Education International president Susan Hopgood emphasised the importance of EI members supporting each other during the pandemic.

She recognised the profound historic shift in the landscape and need to defend public education. Governments must prioritise public education and it's our duty to ensure students come before profit, she said.

Further information

The full research and summary of its key findings can be here:

Commercialisation and privatisation in/of education in the context of Covid-19 (ei-ie.org)

You can find a blog by Anna Hogan and Ben Williamson on the research findings here:

The edtech pandemic shock (worldsofeducation.org)

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) also has interesting reading on the topic:

Education in a post-Covid world: Nine ideas for public action (en.unesco.org)

Last modified on Tuesday, 22 September 2020 16:02