What is international edtech?

Edtech Edsurge Index categories

A few weeks ago, I noticed that EdSurge doesn’t have an international section on the Edtech Index (their listing of edtech-related products in various categories), even though they do post a lot about international education.

As I’ve written before, international education and higher ed don’t get as much attention as they deserve in the edtech world. It’s understandable — neither topic has as much social impact in the United States or as much funding as K-12. But I believe that both have the potential to develop rapidly with the right technology.

So, to answer EdSurge’s question, what would go in the international section of the Edtech Index?

If you look at the Index now, the categories are defined by the issues they solve. Teach Needs and School Operations are clearly aimed at solving problems for teachers and administrators, while Curriculum and Post-Secondary products are focused on issues that arise for variety of people working in those areas (either as instructors or administrators).

In my experience, the main international issues that are faced in international education are the following:

  • Language-learning (and ESL in particular)
  • Discovering or organizing study abroad
  • Travel or payment questions (e.g. “What do I need to study in Cambodia?”)
  • International admissions assistance

Here are a few concrete examples of companies on the Index that would fit into the international category, but don’t fit the current categories very easily:

  • VerificantVideo interviews of Chinese applicants to verify their English ability.  They’re currently under the “Other” subcategory in Post-Secondary, but they actually offer their services to high schools, which makes sense because the Chinese population in elite US high schools is growing rapidly.
  • Verbling. Online lessons, chat rooms, and tutoring to learn a variety of languages. They’re listed under “Language Learning” in the Curriculum section, along with a number of other related products. But they really don’t focus on curriculum assistance for teachers. Their key customers appear to be individual adult learners or tutors.
  • Peer Transfer. Simplified and competitive options for international students who need to pay for study in the United States. They don’t seem to be on the Index now, and if they were, it isn’t clear where they would fit (School Operations? Everything Else?).

It would be great to see EdSurge focus more on international education. They do have great writing on the education outside North America and on specific companies working in international ed, but there isn’t enough to tie everything together.

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