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New educational technologies: all depends on innovation

Step foot into the homes, schools and education ministries of any country worldwide, and you may well hear the same discussion: How do we bridge the gap between what adult life requires and what school education provides? While the working world is rapidly changing, regularly undergoing technological transformations, more traditional school curricula and education systems are struggling to keep pace.

Israeli organization MindCET, established by the Center for Educational Technology (CET), believes it has the answer to fill the void across the world – and it all depends on innovation. “We looked at other industries, such as the automotive industry, to understand their success and their answer was always speeding up innovation,” Dr. Lea Cecilia Waismann, vice president of research & development of MindCET, told The Jerusalem Post.

“Our answer was therefore to bring the same entrepreneurial culture inside the education sector.”

Inspired by the borderless flow of information online, MindCET turned its focus to not only boosting innovation in Israeli education, but also building a network of educational technology “clusters” around the world. Today, MindCET is considered one of the leading companies worldwide in incorporating innovation into education systems. “What was the major ingredient that made this Israeli initiative a global conversation? For Israelis, trying something out across borders is considered a challenge, not a problem. They see the world as their playground, and tend to have one foot inside the country and one foot outside,” said Waismann.

In order to give educational technology a stronger, global voice, MindCET initiated in 2014 the Global EdTech Startup Awards (GESA), which has since become the world’s largest educational technology start-up competition. Over 2,500 start-ups from 80 countries across six continents competed in this year’s contest, with the 15 most promising innovators due to gather in London on Wednesday for the award finals. While there are cash prizes available for the winners, it’s the exposure and possible connections with investment that truly attract competitors.

“Some 75-80% of all educational technology investments today head to the US, but the reality is that the US constitutes less than 35% of the educational market,” said Waismann. “The idea of the GESA is to strengthen the global ecosystem and allow every single country to have a global voice, and to share a space where start-ups from every country will be given their say.”

What is unique about the initiative, Waismann says, is that there is no major sponsor of the event. Rather, each educational technology cluster invests its own resources and runs local campaigns for start-ups to apply and travel to the finals. Numerous winners have gone on to receive investment and greater market access. “Whereas other industries have been able to quickly incorporate innovation, education is definitely a much harder industry to penetrate,” said Waismann.

“On the other hand, we all still send our youngsters to spend seven to eight hours per day in a system that we all know is not really meeting their needs. Nobody can deny that education, like technology, has to be a global interest and we have to join forces to reach that goal.”

Eytan Halon