A robust education system is the foundation of any thriving society. Without it, economic development cannot proceed and people have few opportunities for well-paid employment. For years, many communities in the Middle East have been facing these challenges. The Brookings Institution highlighted these issues in its 2014 Arab World Learning Barometer, a report that assessed the region’s educational strategies and outcomes. The report pinpointed a number of shortcomings, including insufficient progress among school-aged children and a lack of foundational skill-building. One particular challenge is that schools tend to focus exclusively on traditional methods of teaching, with little attention given to 21st century pedagogy.
It’s clear that many education systems throughout the Middle East need to see dramatic change. That progress has already begun, thanks to countless innovations in education technology (edtech) that are improving the way students learn throughout the region. Entrepreneurs have used their startups to drive an educational revolution, helping children, teens, and adults expand their horizons.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most groundbreaking edtech startups in the Middle East.
Headquartered in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, Bon Education leverages human-experience (HX) design to develop innovative learning services for its business clients. By considering the numerous ways people collaborate to work and learn, the startup is creating engaging educational and training programs for a variety of audiences. Bon Education’s educational initiatives are designed to provide a framework that encourages organic development and learning.
In the past, Bon Education has developed educational solutions ranging from corporate training programs to community learning tools. These services have helped benefit organizations from the nonprofit, hospitality, and government sectors. Bon Education has also worked alongside educators in the Gulf region, helping them hone their social media and technology skills to improve their teaching.
Since its inception in 2013, the Jordan-based Queen Rania Foundation (QRF) has launched numerous initiatives as part of its goal to make the Middle East a leader in educational progress. In one of its most ambitious ventures, the organization established Edraak. This massive open online course (MOOC) is the first of its kind in the Arab world, delivering a free platform through which people can access educational content on a variety of subjects. To this end, Edraak has adopted the edX technology from the Harvard-MIT consortium to promote education across all age groups.
Edraak boasts a wide range of free Arabic courses for users, who can increase their skills and knowledge in subjects ranging from time management to graphic design. In addition, the platform features learning materials for K-12 students and teachers. Users can connect to Edraak courses via mobile devices, which makes learning more convenient.
Asafeer Education Technologies
Entrepreneur Amr Abu-Hmeidan formulated the idea for Asafeer Education Technologies after struggling to find high quality educational resources for his young children. Though students in the Arabic world are enjoying better educational opportunities, the learning materials they use often fail to pique their interest. Abu-Hmeidan sought to overcome this challenge by cultivating a library of Arabic content that helps students acquire key literacy skills while having fun.
Asafeer has collaborated with around 60 schools throughout the MENA region, delivering engaging learning tools in a storytelling format. The site’s library includes materials for students of all reading levels, from those learning basic vocabulary to those looking to expand their scientific knowledge. Parents and teachers receive updates about how their students are progressing and where they can improve.
Since its founding in 2012, Nafham has blossomed into one of the biggest edtech startups in the Middle East. With their platform, the company’s three founders sought to address a declining standard of education in Egypt. As the country’s population has grown, many K-12 classrooms have become overcrowded, making it difficult for students to get the individual attention from teachers that they need. Nafham is helping to fill this gap by developing short video lessons that supplement school curricula in five countries. These free videos explain the concepts and information presented in the classroom and are organized by subject, grade level, and academic schedule, so students and parents can easily find what they’re looking for.
The Cairo-based Tutorama is helping students find the educational assistance they need to thrive. Known as the “Airbnb of tutoring,” the startup’s app connects users to skilled tutors who specialize in a range of academic subjects. Students or their parents can search for the right tutor based on their availability, area of expertise, and location. Tutorama provides a full background on each tutor, so users can review his or her educational history and feedback. If they need more information, they can contact potential tutors directly through the app.
Emphasizing convenience, Tutorama makes it easy to book and pay for tutoring sessions. Parents can also use the app to oversee their child’s progress from session to session.