Official rankings place Israel’s education system as one of the most advanced in the world. According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Israel is the third most educated county after Canada and Japan, outranking Korea, the UK, and the US. In addition to half of Israelis having a higher-education degree, Israel stands out through the high GDP share it spends on primary and secondary education. In the past decade, high-school drop-out rates have also decreased considerably thanks to differential funding policies.
But behind these impressive statistics, our education system has its weak spots, especially when it comes to preparing students for life outside of school and honing the skills that they need to succeed in the increasingly digitized modern workplace. This is something that the EdTech sector is hoping to solve.
Mapping out the Israeli EdTech scene
According to HolonIQ, the global education market is set to reach $10 trillion in the next decade and one of the major characteristics of this new wave of innovation will be the growing influence of technology, automation, and re-skilling. Offering a favorable eco-system for tech-driven startups, Israel could play a key role in the re-shaping of educational strategies. Currently, it hosts approximately 500 EdTech startups and accelerators that nurture EdTech startups, such as MassChallenge and 8200 EISP.
EdTech Israel, a portal that connects Israeli entrepreneurs with international investors, has also rolled out a global index of EdTech startups where thought leaders from all over the world can learn more about the progress of local companies and start partnerships. Israeli EdTech startups themselves are looking to expand abroad and even compete with Silicon Valley.
One of the most ambitious projects, MindCET, aims to create a collaborative environment between innovators, investors, and schools, and advance the education system in Israel through gaming, AI, and machine learning. Launched in 2012, MindCET now counts dozens of successful alumni, including CodeMonkey, a play-based coding software where users write code to help a monkey navigate its way through an obstacle course to collect food. Focusing on the impact of visuals and interactive user interfaces, the platform takes users from basic to advanced programming notions, redefining the conventional learning process.
Live online courses, another important feature of EdTech, are also being explored. As proven by numerous studies, many students do not get all the help they need in the classroom, which is why they resort to one-on-one web conferences with remote tutors to consolidate certain notions or learn for exams. Moreover, students who are unable to come to school for geographic or health reasons can use these platforms as a way to bridge the gap and get access to quality education, adapted to their needs. Initially, schools and universities were competing directly with online learning platforms, but just like in the case of banks and FinTech companies, the two sides started to co-exist and embrace collaboration. One such Israeli platform, CirQlive, is used by universities in Europe and the US to facilitate student access to online courses.
Other notable examples include:
- TinyTap: a huge platform developed by teachers, which features more than 150,000 educational games for kids.
- CopyLeaks: an AI-based plagiarism detection platform designed to help schools identify students with poor writing skills and help them express original thoughts in their assignments.
- Storyball: this MindCET alumnus is actually a smart toy that helps kids learn by using stories and challenges and compiles data about their progress in the dedicated app.
- Agree Online: with conflicts being an inevitable part of the educational setting, this platform aims to resolve these conflicts in a safe, neutral, and supportive environment. The platform brings children and mediators together, helping them solve disagreements in a calm, constructive way, before they develop into cyberbullying. Agree Online is currently being used in 10 Israeli schools.
- Labs: while most EdTech startups are geared towards children, CoQua.Labs focuses on a frequently neglected category, adult education. This platform uses AI to analyze content consumption habits, helping universities and online courses providers deliver relevant lessons for each learning profile.
How does EdTech drive the paradigm shift?
The Israeli startup scene is one of the most dynamic aggregators of new technologies. From AI to machine learning, the startups above and not only use the latest tech to create fun new platforms. However, in EdTech, the tech is just a means to an end. In spite of the heavy use of technology, digital education as a service actually places the human element at its core.
In EdTech, learning is all about the user experience. Unlike conventional education, which has been known to focus only on rough facts presented in a rough, purely informative manner, educational technology wants to redefine the learning experience, make it more engaging, and follow these three principles:
- Personalization. The traditional classroom model where the teacher recites the same facts to 20+ students and uses the same evaluation methods has long been proven to be outdated. As such, EdTech uses AI to deliver information in a personalized way and guide the student throughout the learning process, respecting their own rhythm and abilities.
- Accessibility. Failing to address the needs of students with physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities is a major problem of the public school system. By collaborating with EdTech companies, schools can facilitate learning for everyone, in spite of their challenges.
- Flexibility. No two students are the same and it’s the mission of EdTech to embrace diversity. Some students are visual learners, others learn better through gamification, while others prefer learning through collaboration.
In other words, the student is at the center of the learning process and technology is just a tool used to achieve performance. Ultimately, EdTech aims to teach students in a language they love and understand, helping them gain the skills they need after they finish school. In the long run, this can increase employment rates and help the economy too