Educational technology, or ed-tech, shares some crucial similarities with fintech. In both markets, products and services are sold across B2B, B2C, or B2G models, and both markets draw on data (and increasingly AI data) to increase efficiency and reduce the costs of established processes. But there is at least one fundamental difference between ed-tech and fintech: for a technology to count as educational, the market needs to be run as a partnership industry, where developers, educators, researchers, and students actively work together to develop, implement, and scale what works. Such partnership not only fosters the kind of inclusive resource sharing that would prioritize marginalized groups and embrace diverse perspectives, but only through such collaboration can ed-tech be elevated to prioritize education over technology.

A failure to grasp the essence of ed-tech’s collaborative model has hindered the market’s ability to make a positive impact on students for the past 10 years, as outlined in a recent UNESCO GEM Report: Governance and regulation for all ed-tech, including emerging AI tools, is necessary to safeguard against the replacement of teacher-led instruction and ensure quality education. Moreover, ed-tech’s customers are often vulnerable users, particularly in the case of children with special educational needs or those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is therefore imperative to provide them with high-quality products that have documented evidence of positive impact.

Unlike fintech, therefore, ed-tech quality is best secured through a dual approach of regulatory enforcement and financial support. Financing is important to ringfence money for researched impact before investing in business scaling, and regulatory enforcement for minimal quality standards is also essential before tools reach children’s hands. Yet the existing push and pull dynamics within the ed-tech market lack cohesion, resulting in an uneven distribution of decision-making regarding ed-tech’s impact. Indeed, the lack of public leadership and financial incentives has positioned investors as not only economic but also political actors whose investment priorities speak to quality questions of the entire ed-tech ecosystem. To ensure that educational impact becomes the focal point of investment decisions, current impact management in ed-tech needs to rely more on transparent research than on private hypotheses.

Here are four ways to unite the ed-tech impact ecosystem:

  1. Align impact pathways with global imperatives
  2. Focus on the weight of evidence rather than its type
  3. Favor responsive and relevant impact metrics
  4. Prioritize collective expertise for impact

Read the full article about ed-tech partnerships by Natalia Kucirkova at Stanford Social Innovation Review.