With the pandemic wreaking havoc on traditional models of education, edtech startups are emerging as alternative solutions for many students, with the recent rise attracting the attention of deep-pocketed capital funds.
Shift to edtech taking centre stage.
Last month Manabie, a Singapore-based education tech firm, secured $3 million in investment from Do Ventures, Genesia Ventures, and Chiba Dojo.
“Manabie is leveraging new funding to keep increasing our content, coach training, and technology to enhance the personalised learning experience, and with our current technology we can expand our outreach further,” said Christy Wong, Manabie co-founder.
In February San Francisco-based edtech company ELSA, which helps language learners improve their English-speaking skills and pronunciation, raised a $15 million Series B funding round, co-led by Asia-based Vietnam Investments Group and SIG.
Michael Ngo, Vietnam country manager of ELSA said, “This new funding will go towards research and development to further our award-winning voice recognition AI, build a scalable business-to-business (B2B) platform, and hire new talent.”
ELSA recently piloted its B2B efforts with schools in Vietnam and India and received significant interest from other regions. “Therefore, we will also focus on creating a scalable B2B platform that allows cooperation with corporate partners and schools around the world,” he said.
Additionally, in mid-March, Vietnamese edtech startup Edmicro closed a pre-Series A+ round from Singapore-based venture capital firm BEENEXT, Qualgro, and Insignia Ventures Partners. Elsewhere, Nguyen Hoang Education Group announced two American baccalaureate programmes in Vietnam in both online and offline education.
Leading the game
In the technology sector, edtech has been the third-most funded field in Vietnam over the past eight years. The total venture capital investment in edtech is now $103 million, just behind payments ($462 million) and retail ($416 million), according to a Do Ventures report. But with COVID-19 continuing to cause chaos worldwide and despite successful prevention here, the Vietnamese edtech market is now more active than ever, as evidenced by the increase in raised capital for such educational startups.
Olivier Raussin, managing partner of FEBE Ventures, highlighted that attention to edtech stems from social distancing leading to remote learning being a way to help students continue their education.
Online delivery platforms, he said, are trying to solve the dual problem of teaching and learning. However, as education is a massive industry with many intricacies in the value chain, the digitalisation of the industry “will bring forward many interesting companies that solve other problems in the education space than online education delivery”.
From a different angle, Jenny Chau Dang, representative of Topica Edtech Group, noted that like many other higher education institutions around the world, the pandemic showed that Vietnam’s higher education institutions also lack the digital capabilities for distance or online learning.
“We saw this very clearly in 2020 when Vietnam went into its first lockdown. Many schools and institutions not only were ill-equipped and unprepared to move teaching and instruction online, but often cannot afford to develop the resources to move online,” she said.
Combine that with lack of expertise to create high quality, attractive content to motivate and engage learners on the platform, these conditions, created and heightened by the pandemic, have increased the demand for online learning, she added.
Statistics from Topica show that Vietnam is a burgeoning edtech market estimated to reach $3 billion by 2023. There are approximately 16 million students in primary and secondary schools and another 1.7 million in universities in a country where parents spend upwards of 47 per cent of their disposable income on education for their children.
Nevertheless, Olivier Raussin from FEBE Ventures said that parents’ budget for education is not exactly a mutually exclusive choice between online or offline. Further, he noted that the portion of parents’ budget for online education has not grown significantly either.
However, parental budgets for education in general in Vietnam are some of the largest in the world, and some of the fastest-growing as well. Statistics indicate that Vietnamese parents spend up to 40 per cent of their disposable income on their children’s education.
“It will be challenging to compete directly to the traditional players for the money from the parents’ wallet – as such, some startups in this space position themselves as complementary pieces and value creators for traditional players,” Raussin said.
In his opinion, the technology prowess of startup companies can add value to traditional businesses in education. As a result, the education space as a whole can deliver a greater experience to students and parents are willing to invest more.
Despite clear advantages that edtech startups may have, issues remain that startups themselves have to find ways to address.
Ngo of ELSA supposes that when it comes to language learning, more often than not, the biggest challenge is motivation. Regardless of the delivery method – offline or online – if the learner is unmotivated, the results will reflect accordingly. On the other hand, Wong from Manabie believed that the learning experience in an online environment still faces many challenges from an infrastructure perspective. Internet speed in rural areas is limited; and many students only have a low-spec smartphone.
Topica claimed learners are becoming more demanding. “There is a need to find the right balance between high-quality content and affordable fees to continue to attract and retain learners and maintain our 90 per cent retention rate,” said the representative.
Wildlife trafficking in Vietnam remains complex: report
Wildlife trafficking in Vietnam remains complicated both before and during COVID-19, a report released on June 18 by the People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) non-profit organisation showed.
An otter, an endangered animal, is caged and sold at Thanh Hoa market in Long An province (Photo: VNA)
The report was based on a survey carried out across 20 provinces and cities nationwide in 2019-20.
Vietnam is viewed as a hotspot for transportation and consumption of wildlife products of the world. Despite the Government’s efforts to prevent the illegal trade after COVID-19 broke out, the number of violations has yet to decline.
Some wildlife markets are still open and even rare and endangered animals, like turtles and birds, are put up for sale.
Of note, elephant tusk smuggling remains rampant with illegally trading of ivory products found in 27 out of 31 surveyed locations. Many wild animals are kept in cages with poor sanitation, posing risks of spreading diseases.
The report also puts forward measures to minimise the risk of diseases originating from animals, including shutting down all illegal wildlife markets, tightening control of wildlife farms, compiling a list of wild animals allowed for private keeping, and intensifying control of wildlife-related advertising on the mass media and e-commerce platforms, and promoting communications on wildlife trafficking prevention, among others./.
Vietnam introduces code of conduct on social networks
The Ministry of Information and Communications on June 17 introduced a code of conduct on social networks to create a safe and healthy online environment.
|The code of conduct on social networks is to create a safe and healthy online environment. (Photo: VNA)|
The code of conduct, which targets organizations and individuals using social networks and social network service providers in Vietnam, is designed to ensure civil liberty, freedom to run business, and no discrimination between domestic and foreign service providers, in line with international standards, international practice and treaties to which Vietnam is a signatory.
It looks to develop ethical standards for behaviours on social networks, educate and develop good habits for social network users, contributing to building a healthy and safe online environment.
It encourages organisations and individuals to share information from official and reliable sources, and behave in ways that match traditional moral and cultural values of Vietnam.
|The code of conduct encourages social network users to optimise the networks to educate and protect children and teenagers in the online world. (Photo: internet)|
The document also requires organisations and individuals not to use words that incite hatred or trigger violence and gender and religious discrimination, not to publish contents violating legal regulations and information defaming others, not to spread fake news and untrue information, and not to conduct illegal advertising, affecting social order and safety.
Organisations and individuals should use real name when registering for the use of social networks, and register with the service provider to certify their names, website addresses and contact.
The code of conduct encourages social network users to optimise the networks to promote Vietnamese land, people and culture, and educate and protect children and teenagers in the online world.
Organisations and individuals using social networks, and service providers are encouraged to fully observe the code of conduct and popularize it to other users.
The document came into force as from June 17.
Joining forces to clean up cyberspace
Many livestreams, where ‘social network gangsters’ feel free to curse and insult others, have been organized online, attracting thousands of likes.
Dao Chi Le (left) and Phu Le
Cyberspace has become a part of people’s life as everyone spends a lot of time on social networks, but analysts say that cyberspace has been polluted by acts of defamation, insults and even cheating.
This behavior that deviates from standards is easily spread in cyberspace because laws and management tools are imperfect and do not cover everything in this ‘new world’.
VietNamNet is publishing a series of articles on ‘cleaning up cyberspace’ with a wish to reflect about the ‘pollution’ on cyberspace, find the causes, and suggest solutions to deal with the problem. Also, we hope that everyone will join forces to clean up cyberspace so that we can have a clean environment for everyone.
Cyber trash: livestreaming for swearing and fighting
It takes only half a second to find 1,050,000 results with the keyword ‘livestream chui nhau’ (livestreaming to swear), or ‘giang ho mang’ (social network gangsters).
But with the keyword ‘thanh chui’ (King of swearing), the results are 2.7 million.
The results show many familiar names, including Kha Banh (pretty swell), Duong Minh Tuyen, Dung Troc Ha Dong (completely shaven Dung in Ha Dong) and Huan Hoa Hong (Huan Rose).
They insult and curse others, and also post misleading, uncultured and even vulgar content.
In 2017, Le Thi Dao (of Dao Chi Le) cooperated with Le Van Phu (or Phu Le, born in 1980, Thanh Xuan District, Hanoi) and his wife La Thuy Kieu to film to sell goods online.
Later, Dao and the couple separated and did business on their own. Kieu and Dao posted videos to curse and challenge each other to meet in real life to ‘solve disputes’.
On July 18, 2020, Dao Chi Le posted a video showing her crying and denouncing La Thi Kieu for speaking ill of her.
|Many livestreams, where ‘social network gangsters’ feel free to curse and insult others, have been organized online, attracting thousands of likes.|
The video, which caught the attention of the community of netizens, was heard by La Thuy Kieu. This raised the level of tension between the two sides to a new high.
After a lot of online quarrels, on July 18, 2020, Phu Le sent people to meet Dao Chi Le, while promising to award VND20 million to those who beat Chi Le.
On August 2, 2020, Dao Chi Le, together with two young men, livestreamed in front of Phu Le’s home, saying that the couple did not dare to meet Le.
After that, Phu Le sent some people to harass them at Le’s house. Nguyen Thi Be, Le’s mother younger sister and Nguyen Thi Nga, Le’s mother, were injured by the people with an iron stick.
Phu and his partners were charged with intentionally causing injury.
However, the trial did not occur as planned, because the victim withdrew the denouncement.
The ‘thanh chui’ of 2018 was Ngo Ba Kha, born in 1993, in Bac Ninh, who became famous with hundreds of clips posted on YouTube and Facebook.
Kha mostly posted videos where he swore and traced social network accounts which had comments that offended him.
Kha also joined hands with Duong Minh Tuyen to post short films and videos on treating cases with ‘the rules of the underworld’.
One of his most ‘famous’ videos was the one which showed how he broke and burned his motorbike. The number of Kha’s channel views at times reached 2 million.
On April 2, 2019, Kha was arrested by Bac Ninh Police for gambling and organizing gambling. He tested positive for drugs.
At the hearing, Kha said he had finished the 7th grade, worked as a carpenter, went to reform school, was imprisoned once, and was once administratively handled for burning a car.
Kha was sentenced to 10 years and six month imprisonment.
Duong Minh Tuyen, born in 1986, is also a well known ‘thanh chui’.
Tuyen was known for his livestreams and videos on Facebook and YouTube which commented on events.
As of July 27, 2020, Tuyen’s YouTube channel had 750,000 subscribers, with a green check mark from YouTube.
However, there was no profanity or swearing on Tuyen’s videos, but threats to beat other people.
In January 2021, Ho Van Khoa, born in 1992 in Hanoi, warned Tuyen about a conflict between them.
The two sides had livestreams with offensive words and threats.
Through livestreams, the two sides decided to meet each other after a party at Le Van Thai’s home in Thanh Mien District of Hai Duong province, to ‘solve the dispute’.
On January 4, Tuyen came to Thai’s home, but Khoa did not appear. So Tuyen livestreamed and threw down a challenge to Khoa.
Replying to Tuyen, Khoa quietly came to the place where Tuyen had appeared and livestreamed and tried to shoot him.
The court sentenced Khoa to 39 months in prison.
However, the public is still not satisfied because there has been no judgment for those who intentionally spread toxic and harmful information to the community and society.
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