Thanks to Southeast Asia’s growing economy, the region has been flourished with strong emerging startups. These startups are starting to tackle complex issues, such as education.
It is commonly known that education is the key investment for a better generation and a better future in general. We remember our parents or elderly scold us when we’re lazy by saying things like, “You have to study so you won’t end up like me!” or “You need a degree so you can earn good money and live comfortably.”
Unfortunately, many of us still cannot access higher education or even any education at all. When we are lucky enough to access it, we are left with confusion upon which path of education should we take or which institution will bring the best of our potential.
These five inspirational people will show you how they tackle educational problems through the lenses of their startups.
1. Novistiar Rustandi, Founder of HarukaEdu
Rising restlessness, Novistiar and his two co-founders, Tovan Krisdianto and Dr. Gerald Ariff, started a technology-based startup to widen access for education. As a lecturer from two private universities in Indonesia, Novistiar himself is already familiar with the issues surrounding education in the country.
He pointed out that every year around 2.5 million applicants apply to public universities (funded by the government) but only around 1 million is accepted. There are also more than 3.000 accredited universities in Indonesia, but only 10% shows real quality. Good quality teachers and lecturers are also too concentrated in the capital city which causes unequal distribution of qualified teachers. On the other hand, industries also find it hard to fill in managerial positions or specific skill set.
Through HarukaEdu, Novistiar aims to enable universities to provide quality and affordable online education. He believes that online education can tackle the issue of access to quality education, which later will generate a quality workforce.
2. Rohan Pasari, Founder of Cialfo
Like many high school students across the globe, adolescent Rohan Pasari felt anxious during his final two years of high school. As his graduation from a private school in Kolkata, India is approaching, Rohan worried about which college will accept him and still cannot decide which major he would take because we all know how tricky and difficult college applications can be.
In 2012, Rohan co-founded the Singapore-based education startup, Cialfo, with his friend Stanley Chia. Through Cialfo, Rohan wants to help students who experience the same feelings as he did back in high school. The Singapore-based company envisions to help one million students globally to reach their dream colleges by 2020.
Cialfo offers a platform for students to send transcripts, school profiles and letters of recommendation directly to colleges who have partnered with Cialfo. It helps high school administrators and education counsellors to better manage the college application process. Students can also find information about the colleges they want to apply, such as average test scores, financial aid and essay deadlines. As per May 2019, the startup has raised total funding of over US$ 5 million since it was formed.
3. Ariz Ramli (Caprice), Founder of Classruum
Popularly known as Caprice, Malaysian rapper Ariz Ramli is giving contributions beyond the music industry: education. Aware of the growing influence of social media, Ariz was inspired to turn this platform into an edutainment. He then founded Classruum.com as an innovative e-learning tool that aims to cultivate a new learning experience using technology and gives more flexibility in the learning activity.
Classruum offers features such as video teaching, notes taking, digital library, social bookmarking, video conferencing and games on subjects taught at schools, colleges or universities. It also has Score Card which records students’ achievement for teachers to keep track of the students’ performance and for parents to monitor their children’s progress. Classruum has introduced and implement their technology in schools across Malaysia and has got support from the Ministry of Education and various colleges in Malaysia.
4. Wicharn Manawanitjarern, Founder of Taamkru
Thailand ranks 8th out of 10 in Southeast Asia for education. This fact has prompted Wicharn to start Taamkru to improve the country’s “disgracefully bad” (quoting from its own words) education system.
Taamkru translates to ‘ask the teacher’ in Thai. Its web and mobile apps hope to improve education through a fun learning activity. Pre-schoolers are provided with a gamified way to prepare for exams; a revolution from the boring black and white worksheets. Parents can also track their child’s performance and compare it against other children in the country.
The startup now sees around 100.000 monthly active users on its site and apps. Taamkru plans to expand into B2B sales to schools in Thailand and collaborate with content creators for an online publishing marketplace for preschool workbooks.
Wicharn hopes that by presenting the curriculum subjects in a fun way, children will be able to grasp the fundamental lessons that will serve them well for more advanced education.
5. Adamas Belva Syah Devara & Muhammad Imam Usman, Ruangguru
Both Belva and Imam were known as outstanding students throughout their school careers. To highlight their many achievements, Belva is a double degree alumnus from Harvard University and Stanford University, while Imam graduated from the master's programme at Columbia University with a 3.9 GPA and founded Indonesian Future Leaders. To list all of their achievements is going to take pages, but we can highlight their current achievement which gives big contribution to the field they thrive in the most: Ruangguru.
Founded in 2014, Ruangguru wants to accelerate the quality of teachers by creating jobs and extra income for teachers in Indonesia. It believes that quality teachers will improve Indonesia’s education quality. Ruangguru provides subscription-based learning videos, a marketplace of private lessons, on-demand tutoring, online exam tryouts and more.
The startup commits to partner with local governments to provide a quality education through their Learning Management System. It has cooperated with 32 out of 34 provincial government and over 326 districts in Indonesia. Ruangguru now has more than 6 million users and have been managing more than 150.000 teachers with over 100 subjects. Through their innovation, Belva and Imam were listed as Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2016 for the Consumer Technology category.
These founders are tackling issues in the complex industry of education. As we’ve read above, most of their main concerns are access to quality education. We met one of the inspiring organisations in Jakarta called Yayasan Mata Air who is also working on expanding access to higher education. They are currently funding underprivileged children in their town for quality education. Check out their story here.