The business of education is the business of our future.
Within its field and scope, the minds of an entire generation yet unrealized are being sculpted, refined, and polished. While its practice is timeless and ubiquitous to human society, it’s only been within the last couple of centuries that an identifiable market has grown around the institution of education.
As the old practices we’ve inherited from its early years are questioned, and the technologies we use to pass lessons on to our children are perfected, the 21st century is seeing faster and more exciting growth than ever in the business of education.
Making education our business
The reason why education has become such a big business is simple: companies benefit from an educated workforce.
Educated employees work harder and smarter; they’re more creative and adaptable; learn skills more quickly; are more productive; and can quickly work their way into more specialized roles. It’s very much in the private sector’s interest to ensure that education succeeds.
The private sector is poised to push the edtech sector forward.
Further, there are increasing ways in which private companies can provide for and enhance the educational process. The most obvious means is the production of textbooks, which will always need to be updated; but there are other means as well.
One of the more exciting fields that is opening up revolves around technology and its role within the classroom. Whether we’re talking about interactive white boards, individual laptops for students, or cloud-based educational services and storage, digital technology is involved more and more with the day-to-day tasks of students’ lessons.
This affords greater flexibility and customization for teachers in lesson planning, and provides further ways for students to engage with their material and take control of their learning.
Throughout it all, the private sector is poised to push the edtech sector forward. Products produced by Google, Microsoft, and Apple are used in schools across the country. By the year 2020, it’s estimated to be an industry worth nearly $100bn and will continue to grow further over the next decade. While some schools and educators may prefer to rely on more tried-and-true traditional methods and materials, it seems inevitable that classrooms will grow more digital as the century rolls on.
Making the right decisions
That said, this growth into the education industry is not without risks.
The principle mistake that newcomers to the field make is to forget that education is not an institution founded on a for-profit basis. Education got its start either as an altruistic enterprise, intended to uplift people to a better standard of life, or else as a utilitarian measure to help create a more productive and effective workforce for the economy.
Companies that forget this and focus more on the bottom-line than providing quality education, or materials thereof, will quickly find themselves in trouble.
[The] primary purpose is to make money to educate students, not to educate students to make money.
While a more corporate attitude is filtering its ways into schools, the goals and practices of business and education are quite different from each other. Always remember that your primary purpose is to make money to educate students, not to educate students to make money. Failure to do otherwise will just sink the venture.
For example, remember that most schools will be operating on a budget. Their capacity to even afford the products that companies are offering depends entirely on their funding, which will vary wildly from state to state, district to district, and school to school. So, it’s often better to produce something that’s highly cost effective, to ensure it will be more widely bought.
Also remember that education is not a venture for the short term. It can sometimes take a decade or two before the company really gets going, and lucky breaks are extremely hard to find. It’s a truly meritocratic venture—success only comes to those who earn it. Make sure your products are high quality, easily attainable, and can be relied upon by educators.
A changing world
Technology is moving at such a pace within schools that by 2030, many aspects once considered timeless may well become things of the past. It’s important for businesses to keep abreast of these to not be left behind.
For example, the biggest anticipated change is going to be the disappearance of school textbooks. No more will children be told of how exciting it will be when man finally walked upon the surface of the moon in a textbook printed in 1955. Instead, it’s more likely that students will refer to online databases like Wikipedia, that are constantly updated on the fly, accessed by personal laptops.
Other developments may include:
- Use of VR and AR in the classroom to provide more immersive education in fields such as biology or engineering
- The rise of “smart classrooms” more individually tailored to specific students
- Digital games used to create more engaging lessons
- More effective one-to-one feedback between teachers and their students through online tutoring and digitalized feedback on projects
Another changing aspect is the nature of a person’s educational life. The workforce is shrinking as the demographic ages and young people are coming into work with fewer skills. Furthermore, it’s rarer today for people to enter a job and stick with it for the rest of their lives. People are likely to change employers several times over their working life, and thus need to learn new skills.
In effect, school will continue, running parallel to work.
People no longer drop out of school and end their learning. It’s increasingly the case that people will continue to require vocational learning for the rest of their employment, which their employers will need to provide. In effect, school will continue, running parallel to work.
In this, private companies stand ready to provide the resources and products necessary.