Welcome Remarks from John C Tsang (Edventures Global Business Acceleration Program Summit)

A warm welcome to everyone. These days, I often find myself  fumbling for the right words when I greet a diverse group of webinar participants like yourselves coming from different time zones. The simple ‘Good mornings’ or ‘Good afternoons’ just don’t work anymore for obvious reasons. The timing of the gathering may be a bit uncivilised for some of you, but we are delighted that you can join us, and we are grateful that technology has brought us together. First of all,  a big thank you to Cyberport, our co-creator, the many local and international partners and the distinguished speakers of our Summit today.

The Edventures Global Business Acceleration Program was actually conceived over two years ago at the founding of Esperanza.  Little did we know at the time that an unknown virus would trigger in a matter of weeks a revolution that would change  everything we have taken for granted, especially in the way we teach and learn all over the world. This new normal has become an integrated part of our daily living in the 21st Century. 

We have inherited an education system that has remained largely unchanged since the 19th Century. The Brookings Institution predicted in a recent study that if the education sector were to stay on its current trajectory, in a decade’s time, that is, by 2030, half of our young population would lack the basic skills needed to thrive in the 21st Century. To alter this dire destiny, we must make rapid, non-linear progress, what Brookings calls leapfrogging, with the aid of technology acting as catalyst and change agent. 

Learning is most effective when it is enjoyable for all concerned. Technology can make learning fun for learners using interesting and effective methods and materials. Technology can also help unburden teachers from administrative minutiae leaving them time to attend to individual students and prepare relevant instructional materials and supplements.

Through the use of AI and data analytics, technology can help formulate individualised education plans, track progress to suit the needs of students learning at different paces and evaluate the impact of learning on a continuous basis. As we seek to nurture a new generation of global citizens, technology can also enable students to collaborate and learn with peers in different parts of the world in real time. 

Technology can also assist students with physical or developmental disabilities to learn in more meaningful and effective ways. While the concern about digital divide is real and has to be tackled as a matter of priority, there is no denying that technology can make quality learning more accessible to remote or otherwise difficult-to-reach students with little economic means.  

There is a common perception that edtech is used primarily to develop digital literacy. Not so. According to the same Brookings study, literacy, numeracy and 21st Century skills are the top three areas that edtech innovations can address. We should also be mindful that edtech applications should not be just about the replication of traditional classroom instructions on digital platforms. We should also avoid relying on technology as an extra layer of reinforcement, for example, in the form of additional online after school classes, duplicating efforts in the physical world and aggravating further the problems of existing systems.

Successful edtech innovations can modify and augment the learning experience from a student-centred perspective. Edtech applications can redefine what, how, when, where and with whom we should learn. This demands a fundamental change in the mindsets of educators, parents and the community at large. It also requires effective collaboration among a complex and interconnected web of stakeholders outside the classroom, from policy-makers, education technology providers, NGOs to funders, investors and the business community. The Brookings study pointed out that 46% of edtech innovations have been implemented by NGOs, with the private sector as the second largest at 40%, while governments have contributed only 11%.

The Edventures Global Business Acceleration Program is part of Esperanza’s Reimagine Education Initiative that was launched last year. Our startup NGO advocates new ways to live, learn and work in the 21st Century and channels community resources to support change makers from Hong Kong and around the world. We believe that we can learn from and collaborate with one another in developing effective solutions with global significance. 

With this objective in mind, Esperanza initiated, together with Cyberport and a wide array of partners, the inaugural Edventures GBA Fellowship. The program aims to identify fast growing edtech ventures, connect them with like-minded people and organisations to help them realise their global ambitions. 

In a few hours’ time,  the ten finalists of the Fellowship will present their work and look for partnership opportunities. They are also exhibiting at a virtual expo until 22 November. You may wish to visit them after their pitches to understand more about their work and meet with them to discuss how you may work together. 

Our expert speakers will share shortly their insights on the edtech development trends globally and in China, the largest and fastest growing edtech market in the world today. The acronym “GBA” also stands for the Greater Bay Area, the region that comprises the two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao, and nine cities in the Guangdong Province of China. 

The GBA has a population of over 70 million people and a GDP of USD1.5 trillion, which is equivalent to the world’s 11th largest economy, somewhere between Russia and Canada. This region has the largest port and airport groups in the world, and the commercial entities operating in this area finance, manufacture and transport more products to all corners of the earth than any other place.  For those of you who are interested to learn about the potential of the GBA as an edtech innovation hub, do join us later in the Summit for the release of the GBA edtech market study conducted by Supercharger Ventures.

Ladies and gentlemen, renowned educator John Dewey said that “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow”

Education is, indeed, too important a subject to be left only to education professionals. It is a matter for all of us. Together we can make the necessary changes to meet the challenges of the 21st Century for ourselves and our future generations. This Summit brings together a microcosm of our society with edtech experts, educators, parents, startups, investors, talent development and other business professionals. So, let us join forces now to reimagine the future for our children.

Thank you.