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Edtech a promising space

The views of a range of stakeholders on what the future holds for edtech.



Mr. Tran Duc Canh, Member of National Education and Workforce Development Board

Vietnam has long had a strong tradition of a focus on education, with the vast majority of families viewing education as their top priority. But many are dissatisfied with the public education (K-12) being provided and seek better quality and more flexible curriculum. Private education is certainly an alternative.

Several domestic and foreign investors have already invested in the education sector, particularly in K-12 and some in higher education. Recent government policies have encouraged private education investment to ease the burden on the public school system and offer families more options. Investment in and the development of private education is set to continue because demand remains high and is growing.

Constant changes to education policies and curriculum requirements and the general inflexibility of school bureaucracies at all levels have made it difficult for private education to operate and flourish. But I believe that change is on the way, making private education more flexible, accessible, and deliverable.

Vietnam’s public education sector is still learning how to adapt to new teaching methodologies and approaches, while the private education sector is much quicker in this regard. Private schools, particularly international schools, possess more advantages in using technology tools to provide education and operate as an educational institution.

The education sector needs to revamp the existing curriculum and teaching methodology to ensure all components are in place to enable students to develop to their fullest potential.

Global digitalization is here to stay, but it can be hard for private educational organizations to access it without assistance from government entities.

Moreover, I believe technological development will help Vietnam’s education sector better connect with the world. It offers more resources and more affordable ways of providing quality education to future generations. It must be the way for Vietnamese students to connect with global education faster, while preserving the proud national identity, culture, and history. 

Mr. Trent Davies,International Business Advisory Manager, Dezan Shira & Associates in Vietnam

Education is highly valued by parents in Vietnam and they invest as much as they can in their children. International schools are often perceived as offering a more international education environment, with higher-quality classes and many extra-curricular activities to help students develop. International schools are therefore a very attractive choice for those that can afford it.

I believe, however, that the education market is becoming saturated, particularly in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and this affects FDI. For example, in Ho Chi Minh City there are already more than 50 international schools and hundreds of English centers.

Given the importance placed on education by Vietnam’s population of 96 million it is important for foreign investors to be able to enroll local students and not be limited to international students. The key positive of the relatively-new Decree No. 86 was the higher ceiling on Vietnamese students at kindergartens and primary, secondary, and high schools, of 50 per cent. The previous limit was seen as a barrier by foreign investors. 

  The decree also provided more clarity around the regulation of cooperation between foreign and local players, giving confidence to local schools in working with foreign investors to develop schooling and services.

  According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, since the decree was issued in August last year there have been as many as 50 new education projects with investment totaling $110 million.

As local and foreign institutions in Vietnam continue to develop, Vietnam will attract more international students from around the ASEAN region as well as further abroad. 

Associate Professor Dr. Nguyen Truc Le,  Rector, University of Economics and Business, Vietnam National University, Hanoi

Foreign institutions have been interested in universities in Vietnam in general and the country’s public universities in particular over recent years. This comes from a desire to transform knowledge in the context of global integration. 

Vietnam is a developing country in which the contribution by the workforce to the manufacturing industry, services, and other industries in the economy is very important. It determines the success or failure of the economy. Thus, the education sector needs to be developed based on a foundation of knowledge and work with the international community to create a quality workforce. 

Vietnam’s education sector has faced many difficulties during Industry 4.0, and sufficient resources and awareness are needed. Each university has its own way of adapting. Our university needs to change the mindsets of the entire teaching staff and employees about the application of technology and introduce changes. The most important factor is defining whether Industry 4.0 will improve the capacity of teaching staff or not, because human beings are the key factor in its implementation. Each university needs to select technology that is suitable for their university and for the education sector in general. 

Ms. Nguyen Lan Phuong, Partner, Baker & McKenzie Vietnam

Private education investors pursuing edtech should be prepared to compete in a fluid and ever-changing market place. Regulations on technology are continuously being updated, revised, and restructured in Vietnam. Recent regulations have covered technology transfer, cyber security, and the protection of children online. Globally, regulators have struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of high-tech innovation. Enterprises operating in regulatory grey areas may soon face new licensing requirements, taxes, or regulatory burdens. In addition to technological challenges, education, as a heavily regulated sector, includes its own regulatory oversight. Operating therefore requires enterprises stay abreast of market developments.

It is also important for foreign investors to conduct thorough due diligence on their investments. Annual compliance checks and staff training are essential to ensuring their investment is compliant with the latest regulations.

Private educational organizations looking to capitalize on edtech can seek foreign partners in order to gain expertise and insight. Ongoing awareness and the development of online technology resources and programs will ensure institutions are ahead of the curve.

Finally, private educational organizations can consider partnerships with organizations outside of the education sector. Many new investors in Vietnam need to develop the vocational skillsets of their workforce, and may be looking for an educational organization to assist them in training for Industry 4.0 and the industrial Internet of Things (IoT). 

Mr. Tan Yinglan, Founding Managing Partner, Insignia Ventures Partners

While Vietnamese culture takes pride in education, the industry has been weighed down by its teacher-centric approach, high cumulative cost to access opportunities, and outdated curriculum. With mobile applications and tools accessible to Vietnamese students, the increasing demand for both soft skills like English communication and technical skills such as programming, and adaptive technologies like AI enabling personalization, there is an opportunity for edtech startups to lighten the burden on the industry.

The key to profitability in Vietnam’s edtech space is winning parents’ trust. Given parents would rather their kids go to study centers than study online, an offline-online hybrid model needs to be embraced. 

An offline presence, usually via a study center, will secure loyal customers and make it easier for them to adopt online tools. Once won over, parents also become great advertisers. This hybrid model brings down customer acquisition cost over time. Needless to say, content and delivery also have to be effective.

Collaboration, not disintermediation, is the narrative for edtech in Vietnam. Online platforms will be enablers for teachers, armed with data and new forms of content delivery, to be more effective in mentoring their students. Data will also aid schools in designing appropriate facilities. 

There is a greater impetus for education facilities to become spaces for this collaboration. Families continue to demand higher quality education to open up more opportunities for their children. On the other hand, government interest in education is growing, with increasing budget allocations and partnerships with institutions abroad.

The momentum for edtech in Vietnam is there, with the confluence of increasing openness to online learning services and the technological capabilities to build these platforms. Given the traditional nature of the country’s education system, it will take a student-centered approach and personalization for startups to succeed in this space.

At its core, an edtech startup bridges the gap in learning opportunities, whether it be to learn a new skill or to apply to a university that best fits the student. Investing in the edtech space in Vietnam means investing in local talent and the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs, who will influence and shape the region. 

Mr. Nguyen Tri Hien, CEO, Green Education Technology JSC

Vietnam’s e-learning market has prospered over the last two years compared to previous periods. Many e-learning projects have penetrated the market since 2017, with content and promotion both improving. Many users have become more confident about online education, and revenue streams have increased sharply. This has resolved most of the negative psychology associated with investing in educational technology. 

Following global trends, total investment in education technology will be higher every year than in the previous year. The flow of investment into online education in Vietnam has increased sharply, particularly in 2018, when total investment stood at some $55 million, and this is expected to be about $150 million this year.

Some large educational institutions are more serious in recognizing the power of e-learning. Educational organizations began investing in their own educational products or worked in conjunction with technology companies to do so. Niche educational institutions include foreign languages, preschool, and courses for working adults.

After a period of continued exploration in 2018 and 2019, 2020 will be the year when foreign investors focus more on Vietnam. The country’s e-learning market is entering its first phase of growth, and the remaining space is still quite large. Therefore, in subsequent years, the market will welcome many names from around the world, and investment will become increasingly vibrant. Growth is expected to be 50 per cent each year.

Decree No. 86, stipulating foreign cooperation and investment in education, has opened up new opportunities. Vietnam is at the top of the most studious countries, possesses a “golden” population of young people, records strong economic growth, and has major appeal among foreign investors. Many investors from countries such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Australia, etc., continue to learn about and invest in Vietnam’s education market. VN Economic Times


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