10 Minute School founder and CEO Ayman Sadiq told TBS why traditional educational institutions have failed to attract students to online classes and why edtech platforms have instead flourished.
03 February 2022, 12:30
Last modification: February 03, 2022, 12:43 p.m.
According to a report by the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE), 56% of secondary school students were absent from online classes. Moreover, during the forced closure of educational institutions by Covid-19, 87% of students showed no interest in additional lessons broadcast on Sangsad TV.
On the other hand, online education platforms in Bangladesh have grown exponentially over the past couple of years. This phenomenon is attributed to the pandemic, with offline courses and exams on and off.
Ayman Sadistfounder and CEO of 10 Minute School (10MS), spoke with The commercial standard why traditional educational institutions failed to attract students to online courses as edtech platforms flourished.
According to a recent DSHE report, 56% of school students have not participated in online classes. The report also stated that 87% of students had no interest in classes broadcast on television. Why do you think public and traditional institutions have failed to have a strong impact?
One of the main reasons is that most Bangladeshi students do not have a smartphone or high-speed internet. or neither. As far as I know from the current statistics, smartphone and internet penetration is only around 40%.
If the stat is true, more than half of students don’t have access to it by default. Also, the cost of internet is quite high and broadband facilities do not cover rural areas. In my opinion, mobile data is excessively expensive.
One must consider these macroeconomic factors before assessing the state of online education in Bangladesh.
For example, when Jio launched its telecommunications services in India, including broadband, TV and phone services, internet and market penetration saw a revolutionary change. The growth of digital services skyrocketed as Jio provided internet and smartphones at very low prices.
Unless this kind of industry-wide change happens in Bangladesh, most students will stay out of the realm of online education.
It’s not like we [Edtech platforms] suddenly conjured up something new when the pandemic hit. On the contrary, our platforms have been doing it for a long time. Subsequently, we have a competitive advantage. We are familiar with the processes of teaching students online.
To talk about 10MS, we have seven years of experience. We have structured it through the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Naturally, we are more efficient.
How do you think edtech platforms like 10 Minute School can collaborate with mainstream educational institutions in the future? Do you have such plans?
We have worked with Bangladesh Professionals University (BUP) on several projects. In particular, we wanted to build a learning management system.
For example, we already had an application through which we trained employees of different companies. We have several corporate clients such as Unilever, IDLC etc.
We actually suggested something like this to BUP. Specifically, we suggested a model where we can organize videos by lesson where teachers can take lessons and assess students. But for some reason the project didn’t go much further.
In fact, the university is a big institution and making so many changes was difficult.
And more importantly, taking exams online is a complicated task. You cannot simply give degrees online without due process. From Bangladesh’s perspective, the mechanism [required to sustain online degrees] hasn’t made enough progress.
In many countries, degrees are issued online. But this [process or system] did not take off in Bangladesh. Also, the University Grants Commission (UGC) does not allow online degrees. Universities aren’t comfortable doing it either.
For the same reason, there are no university-level ed-techs in Bangladesh like Coursera or edX. Even India has university-level educational technologies such as Upgrad. We don’t have that ecosystem. The scope of providing an institutional degree online is very limited.
We have also collaborated in some government initiatives where we have provided technical support with many videos shot in our studio.
Ayman Sadiq. Illustration: TBS
Ayman Sadiq. Illustration: TBS
What has been the trajectory of edtech during the pandemic? Learning from the experience of the pandemic, what would you recommend to traditional institutions?
The shutdowns associated with the pandemic and the closure of educational institutions have led to the growing popularity of edtech platforms in Bangladesh.
We have seen a big shift in parents’ perception of online learning.
Even before Covid-19, 10MS had thousands of students across the country. And millions of people knew us.
But their parents still looked at us suspiciously. They worried about the usefulness of online courses.
The pandemic has changed the context. From now on, parents know our method: live and interactive lessons, regular quizzes, in-depth notes. And parents are increasingly accepting online education platforms.
Yes, the number of students has certainly increased during the pandemic period. But I think the most important thing that the pandemic has contributed to is the strong acceptance of our platforms.
Second, teachers and students had to deal with a new system of learning and teaching. So there was a learning curve at both ends.
When there is a major and radical leap from one system to another, it is always the younger generations who can better cope with it. Generation Z already knows how to use technology.
But the experience is not the same for teachers. In many ways, the inability to adapt to a new system has led to unattractive teaching modules and generally uninteresting courses.
When I was taking online courses and making videos, I looked at a lot of other courses from top-notch content creators. I have always sought to do better.
Whether online or offline, teaching is an art. And you have to continually learn the different teaching methods.
10MS has raised $2 million in funding from Surge, Sequoia Capital India’s rapid scaling program, as the first major edtech company in the country to do so. Can you tell us more about the fundraising experience and how you plan to use this opportunity?
While we also chat with other top investors, Sequoia Capital is one of the top five VCs [Venture Capital] companies around the world. So getting funding from them would open other doors for us, as well as other platforms. I think overall, the whole startup ecosystem will benefit as well.
For the past seven to eight years, I’ve only thought of 10 Minute School. Although there was a desire to do much more, it could not be done for a long time, as there were no funds available.
Many plans have materialized halfway through and come to a halt. Whenever something like this happened, I always told myself that I could only have continued if I had the money. The past year has been spent raising funds to fulfill those unfulfilled desires.
During all this time, I was actually a little deprived of a lot of things. Now that the money has become available with everyone’s cooperation, it’s time to make those unfulfilled dreams a reality.
We haven’t been able to make 3D videos yet. Now we want to make 3D videos on all difficult topics. In addition, we want to set up a research and development laboratory, where we will always work on new products.