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Learning. Unlearning. Relearning: How Dutch Edtech can spark vital change in the Netherlands

To many, the concept of Educational Technology in the Netherlands may still be a relatively unfamiliar subject, largely due to its relative infancy when pitted against established powerhouse industries like Healthtech and Fintech.

However, Dutch Edtech has already made significant strides in unlocking the sector’s enormous potential, putting the necessary infrastructure in place so it can develop into an invaluable component in the wider Dutch tech ecosystem. 

To do this, the foundation seeks to form vital connections within the EdTech community, enabling public and private collaboration, in which insights and best practices can be shared to ultimately solve the Netherlands’ most pressing social challenges.

Built on the basis that lifelong learning should be available to everyone, Dutch Edtech aims to accelerate and innovate the learning sector, through a combination of new methods, tools, skills, and environments relevant to the 21st century. 

We caught up with co-founders of the foundation, Peter van Sabben (Growth Tribe & TechMeUp) and Roel Bellinga (itorium & Universiteit van Nederland) and Ruben Nieuwenhuis (TechGrounds) along with Annet Kloprogge, who is the Project Lead for the organisation, to share their insights and vision for the present and future of EdTech in the Netherlands.

What is EdTech?

So what exactly do we mean by EdTech? In the simplest possible terms, it refers to any kind of technology or methodology that can facilitate education or learning. This spans K12, higher education and lifelong learning, with each age group represented across 11 distinct market segments (pictured below) that can be revolutionised by EdTech innovation.

The current state of EdTech in the Netherlands

While significant progress has been made in recent years within the EdTech ecosystem, the Netherlands still has some way to go before reaching its full capabilities. 

Despite the rapid growth, a combination of further awareness and education, shorter innovation cycles, more funding and alignment of those within the ecosystem—teachers, DMUs, students etc—is still needed to truly cement the nation as one of Europe’s leaders. 

In terms of current valuation, the Netherlands’ EdTech ecosystem sits seventh in Europe, though only tenth in terms of overall funding. To keep up with the continent’s leaders, like France, UK and the Nordics, one of the foundation’s key goals is to influence a shift in investor behaviour, using those already established hubs as an example to truly highlight and realise its potential.

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Based on recent data, that shift has already started taking place, with the Netherlands actually leading the way in terms of fastest-growing VC investment since 2016, jumping by 90% in the last five years from €6.7m, to €52m.

What issues can EdTech help solve?

EdTech can, and will, play an essential role in tackling a number of society’s biggest issues. From talent shortages, upskilling, and reskilling to our own competitive positioning and understanding of new business models. 

Renowned digital academies like Winc Academy, Growth Tribe and Codam have all found notable and valuable success in nurturing some of Europe’s finest new talent, while also providing access to learning resources that may previously have been reserved for more privileged demographics. 

Upskilling and reskilling can be significantly streamlined by utilising EdTech programmes. When it comes to unearthing and training talent to deal with emerging technologies—a recent example being surging demand for roles linked to the clean energy transition—it will be vital in keeping the Netherlands at the forefront of what is possible in terms of this latest tech.

Reskilling is a constantly shifting process. Traditional education only provides learning until your mid-20s, but career choices and job demand, driven by new technologies, change multiple times throughout a person’s life. That means EdTech holds a pivotal role in the learning, unlearning and relearning of talent to not just deal with new technology, but to allow for smoother transitions into new roles once old ones have become obsolete. 

We now have innovations that we couldn’t have dreamed of ten years ago, and a strong EdTech sector will aid us in building an earlier, clearer and ultimately priceless understanding of them going forward. Things like blockchain, A.I. robotics, data, metaverse and cloud software have all quickly risen to prominence, the ability to rapidly reskill and upskill in accordance will make us a truly competitive player among our European neighbours, and across the whole world.

What challenges do we face?

Initial education, as is usually the case with any developing sector, is a hurdle that still needs to be overcome. That means clearly outlining the basics of exactly what Dutch EdTech provides is essential in attracting further members. It also means constant evaluation of the current model, tailoring it to allow the businesses already involved to truly flourish, in-turn making it a much more appealing prospect for educational institutes to embrace. 

Something that makes this particularly challenging, is how broad EdTech actually is. It spans everything from primary school through to lifelong learning, so there’s an incredible amount to cover and as a result, prioritising what is best for the wider ecosystem can be difficult, but very much necessary.

What does success look like?

Breaking into Europe’s top three ecosystems in the next five years is the main goal. It’s an ambitious one, but with the right backing, is certainly achievable. 

Naturally, bringing more organisations into the ecosystem is a big part of its long-term health. In total, there are just over 400 EdTech companies in the Netherlands right now, around 50 of them are currently part of Dutch Edtech community and over the next three years, the aim is to have at least 250 involved. 

Increases in funding and clearer visibility surrounding the sector will also be clear markers of success. In the coming years, EdTech should be seen as an export product and a genuine economy industry. 

Ultimately, at the heart of the whole project, is a vastly improved accessibility for a broader audience to high-quality learning resources. Every KPI which is laid out, plays a major role in ensuring that this desperately-needed goal is achieved. 

To aid in working towards this, a series of upcoming deep dive events have been planned, which will shine a light on some of the most fascinating aspects of the EdTech ecosystem. The first, Learning Analytics: How to measure learning impact, was held on Wednesday 3rd November. You can find more information on the upcoming events below: 

Deep Dive: Gamification & EdTech. What are the latest trends, business models and insights around gamification and EdTech? Jan-Willem Huisman, Founder IJsfontein

Deep Dive: Internationalisation. Best practices on how to go abroad. Edwin van Rest, Founder & CEO Studyportals


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