Putting Global Edtech into Perspective: A Conversation with Edtech Leader, Kapil Jain

hand holding globe

Last Updated on November 17, 2017

Attending SXSWedu this year inspired us in a multitude of ways: to understand exactly where the gaps are in educating our world’s youth and how we can work together to fix it; to enhance our product to make the lives of educators and students even easier as they empower students with our platform; and to never stop questioning and learning. In this spirit, we sat down with some of the key panelists from the global educational conference to get their perspectives on some questions we not only had on our mind, but questions that we are hearing the entire educational community ask. Questions such as: What kind of change must be affected in education? What kinds of technology are you using to affect that change? What kinds of patterns do you see emerging in the field? What’s next?

And now, we want to share the answers we found with you. Because only by sharing the views of all of us working to affect change in education — from the thought leaders we interviewed to every single teacher changing lives in the classroom — can we open up the conversation and begin to move the needle.

This is one post in the #eduinnovator series highlighting quotes from key thought leaders of education. Read on for an exclusive interview with educational changemaker and SXSWedu speaker Kapil Jain, where we go in-depth on the key trends in education, innovation, and what the future holds.

Kapil’s Journey Through Education

My journey with education started way back in the day, and can be categorized into two main phases.

classroom chairs against a blackboardThe first phase happened soon after I finished my college. With a group of passionate people, we started thinking of different ventures and ideas, and from this eGurucool.com was born. eGurucool was an online venture in the highly competitive test prep market in India. This was in the first wave of the dot-com days, and we quickly worked our way to becoming the top brand in online learning. eGurucool was phenomenally successful in India, and we ended up selling the venture to a larger established education company in India, NIIT. Soon after, I decided to continue my own education and joined business school.

My second phase is marked after I finished my MBA and went into management consulting. One of my clients was Rosetta Stone and, at that time, it was looking to explore its growth options, especially beyond its core US consumer business. I joined them to help scale their B2B subscription business, targeted at K-12 and higher edschools, and corporations. During my career at Rosetta Stone, I worked in many different capacities, expanding the business different markets around the globe, expand its product portfolio into literacy, English for ELL students, Spanish for Healthcare, etc. From there, I moved on to join Blackboard and also started mentoring start-ups through incubators such as 1776 and GSV.

Asian vs. American Edtech Markets: What’s the Difference?

student studying atlasWhile the stakes for kids — when it comes to impact of education on their future — is the same, I see a difference in the level of parental involvement in these two markets. When I look at the Asian market, the majority of the purchases are made by parents and grandparents for their children’s education outside formal schooling. Whereas if you’re looking at K-12 market in the United States, the majority of funding is public; this means product design to pricing, etc. must be done with a different type of procurement system. In some places in the US, we also see after-school programs investing in and leveraging edtech, but when compared to Asia, there is still no comparison. In the Asian markets, so much of investment in such educational programs is being driven by parents, and the amount of money they are willing and able to spend outside of school.

The Correlation Between Educational Vigor & Edtech Consumption

We see a large contrast in the general mindset  of parents and students in Asian markets as opposed to the United States. In Korea and China, we saw that students and parents were naturally eager to get their hands on supplemental material, because they thought that the curriculum in their formal schooling systems was not rigorous enough. In India, the curriculum is rigorous, and it has become a norm to have such a high level of competitiveness when it comes to trying to get into the top colleges and professions; as a result, a disproportionate share of monthly household income is spent on educational tools and resources outside of formal schooling system.  

student at desk studying with books and technologyIf you look at the consumption and usage of education technology across the different countries, you’ll see an interesting correlation. In the United States, we needed to work closely with clients to figure out how how to drive usage of the product. Because once they use it, they will see the outcomes; but the challenge is getting them to use it in the first place. In some of the Asian markets, we saw that users that did not need that much help from us. In fact, we faced a situation that was actually the opposite of what we saw in the States: our content ran out from the aggressive consumption levels. For example, we would find ourselves in situations where we’d run out of live teaching sessions, because the student demand and consumption would far outnumber the content created.

Global Adoption & Appreciation of Edtech

The sheer number of technology devices and access points today, gives rise a much larger market. People have more access to technology, which means schools are more connected, and the audience is now bigger for those trying to empower schools with technology. And we see this in its various forms from country to country, market to market. In emerging markets, students and learners expect your product to work without requiring them to be on the grid all the time. Whereas in more mature markets, connectivity is often taken for granted.

The general appreciation of edtech has changed. There is a lot more awareness in terms of what technology and supplemental tools can do to drive better outcomes for student success. And this varies by country. In emerging markets like India, while tech tools are useful, they still cannot be a standalone solution. They must be bundled with a classroom program. Similarly, in a country like Brazil, they will invest thousands for a classroom bundle because the online-only program does not cut it for them. Thus, standalone online-only ed-tech programs have a different level of appeal and demand in emerging markets vs. that in more mature markets. Discipline and rigor differs from country to country, and this determines the level of appreciation of the technology and how it is used, be it online or in the classroom.

k-12 classroom of students

Differences like these all stem from a cultural level, of course, and can be seen woven throughout the different artifacts of education. Everything from testing patterns, to pressure on students, are all contributing factors to how much investment in and consumption of education technology happens in each country.

More About Kapil

From founding and selling a transformative international educational technology in the dot-com days, to leading and advising at top educational companies like Rosetta Stone and Blackboard, Kapil Jain brings a solid track record of working with high tech businesses that deliver meaningful impact. At SXSWedu this year, Kapil spoke on “Winning the Asian EdTech Market.” For even more insights and highlights from SXSWedu, check out the full recap.


Open Up the World with 100mentors

Now that we’ve learned what is happening in the schools of the world, are you ready to follow innovative educational leaders like Kapil and empower the world’s youth? Join 100mentors as we take your students on a mission to explore the professions and places from around the globe, with the help of the world’s brightest minds. Educators using 100mentors have replaced regular classroom lectures and assignments with a “Classroom Mission” curriculum, where they empower their students to connect with mentors from across the world (from NASA scientists and Google data scientists to Hollywood cinematographers and New York Post Editors, and more) to expand their learning — and life — horizons. So, what do you say?

Take Your Class on a Mission: Learn More

As Digital Marketing Manager of 100mentors, Lucy is helping craft and spread the #100mentors message across the globe. Outside of 100mentors, Lucy actively seeks to spread good vibes, and collaborate with the great tech and marketing minds of the world.

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