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Chasing China: What the U.S. and China are Doing Differently in Edtech

Chasing China: What the U.S. and China are Doing Differently in Edtech
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Within the past few years, the US educational system has undoubtedly been scrutinized. Technological advancements have changed the overall landscape and it is increasingly difficult for institutions, educators and students to keep up with the changes. Many countries have started to understand the importance of education technology in this process and have designed their own specific strategies, in the hopes that their efforts will be enough to counteract the rise of unemployment and overall lack of critical career-specific technical skills within their borders.

What’s more, in this highly globalized business environment, many students don’t hesitate to look at other countries and what they can offer them as far as education, as well as professional development- leaving their home countries struggling to maintain a healthy workforce. In this increasingly competitive and challenging job market, embracing innovation is essential to ensure students can find employment once they finish their degrees. In fact, skills that have now become essential in the workplace are yet to be taught in educational institutions, often leaving recent graduates and professionals on their own to get themselves up to speed with what is required to succeed in their chosen careers.  Internet has completely changed the way we handle our day-to-day lives and has provided an invaluable opportunity to offer the necessary resources for everyone to constantly update their skillsets and resumes.

Even though universities and colleges are by far the most aware of what students really need to succeed, the US seem to rely almost exclusively on third parties in order to provide innovative learning resources. Within the past few months, LinkedIn and Amazon have started to offer materials for professionals looking to gain additional skills and to improve their work performance. Most of those services, however, are targeted towards professionals looking to fill a skill gap while on the job, as opposed to building a strong foundation before graduates secure a position. While these services are definitely welcome, especially as employees are required to handle more and more tasks and take on new responsibilities, it isn’t the only way to provide essential resources, and perhaps not the most efficient.

China, for instance, is looking at the issue from a different angle. As the country looks to shift its focus from manufacturing-based to service-based, it has begun to invest heavily in the education sector. While other countries aren’t as aggressive in trying to crack the edtech code, China has made it a key point in its overall strategy. The message is clear: China wants to attract academic elites and is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. And as the country looks to draw people back and improve the educational landscape as a whole, it is presenting itself as a very serious player to the rest of the world.  

The US undoubtedly has a strong lead in education, but, since edtech is a new concept for everyone, taking chances early in the game is critical. China has taken a bet on edtech, with a high investment in the sector, convinced that it represents the future of education. Despite some mixed results so far, the country is still pushing hard as it is realizing the long term impact of this strategy. At the end of the day, education is the basis of successful countries and by investing in this sector from kindergarten all the way through college, China is putting all the chances on its side to attract elites by 2020. Its strong motivation to succeed will likely make the difference and change people’s perception of China, potentially making it the pioneer in education technology, determined to handle the issue from the bottom up.

And, while it is too early to judge each country’s strategy based on actual results, the next few years will most definitely determine the overall direction of our respective educational systems, as well as their impact on the rest of the world. 

Edition: December 2016

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