The MAGNITT EdTech venture investment report for 2019 stated that the education sector in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have shown considerable development, a movement that has been progressing steadily since 2016. Over the last four years, the investment trend peaked in 5% of investment share in 2019. Of that investment, $29M in capital was raised by EdTech startups in the region; accounting for about 3% of the entire capital gathered in 2019.
Given these promising numbers, we reached out to one of the region’s leading EdTech startups, Dars. Led by Founder & CEO, Noor Boodai, the Company focuses on creating agile educational tools for students, teachers and parents, going beyond the traditional one-size-fits-all, rigid paper-based learning. Headquartered in Kuwait, the Company also has offices in KSA, Jordan, and Egypt.
How it all began.
Dars uses an empirical approach to creating new solutions to age old problems in the education sector. The Company’s platforms complement traditional education, empowering all educational stakeholders with mobile-first technological tools. Their services include LMS & E-Learning platforms modeled to serve all kinds of clients in the educational district – be it independent educators, early learning centers or schools (K-12) and universities.
Let’s talk technical.
Dars is trying to accelerate the world’s transformation to digital learning, helping overcome obstacles that education providers and seekers face. All their products and offerings are created to be mobile-first, delivering quality education and learning support through mobile apps, in addition to other digital platforms – allowing learning to happen anytime, anywhere.
At the moment, Dars has four core products:
- Darisini was introduced in 2016 by Dars and listed as a prize winning project. The application offers on-demand tutoring at reasonable rates, allowing students to connect to qualified teachers in less than 60 seconds.
- Bounce is a comprehensive LMS platform designed specifically to serve the needs of preschool owners, teachers and parents. The app frees the various education stakeholders’ time by automating recurring tasks like attendance, payment follow-ups and collection, all the while providing a secure communication channel. The platform’s features and offerings are built to accomplish the fundamental tasks of creating collaborative childcare communities that help toddlers blossom to their full potential.
- Edmate which is the Company’s next big launch, scheduled to release early 2021, is meant to deliver an entire school day on a phone. An ultimate LMS system allows school management, teachers, students and parents to communicate, learn and share, it is meant to tackle the education institutions challenged in a comprehensive manner.
- Online Content Library currently being developed by DARS will provide customized educational content that can be used by anyone seeking to teach and learn, providing digital solutions to audiences of every size and geography. While there are many companies producing similar content, few treat educational processes as a science where in teaching, production, processes and quality are all given utmost attention to. This project is especially crucial to the region as there are very few players developing quality educational content in Arabic.
Dars and the EdTech Market.
When it comes to the education sector in the Middle East, governments in the region view it as a path to economic progress. The EdTech market in the Middle East is still in its nascent stage in comparison to the rest of the world.
In line with this, the Kuwait EdTech market itself is also growing, and has much space to develop. There are currently various players addressing smaller gaps, however there is a lack of a large player that understands education from a larger perspective, serving all the different audiences. This is where Dars wants to bring in the change, offering solutions to teachers, students, parents and school administration.
E-learning currently offers a largely untapped market, especially given the rise in the demand for virtual classrooms and e-learning solutions, a gap which was further aggravated by COVID-19.
Dars at the forefront of education during COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy on anyone, however what has determined the future is how organizations have chosen to react to this unprecedented crisis. Dars reacted by placing their resources at the disposal of those that might need it. “We have always sought to empower the givers and seekers of education, that is the greater purpose of our business. Be it through the partnership with Kuwait Foundation for Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) when students could access educational content for free or through Darisni Mobasher, where teachers could teach out to their students in a more effective manner, the idea is to create a society where learning is open, approachable and available to anyone who seeks it,” said Noor Boodai, Founder & CEO of Dars.
Of course there were alternative solutions like Zoom and Google Classrooms to run the virtual classes from schools, however they presented their own challenges, given that they weren’t complete eLearning and management solutions. Dars’ reaction to the crisis also established the fact that the Company, in fact, has its finger on the pulse when it comes to the challenges faced by education stakeholders every day.
Dars took what it learned from the COVID-19 experience, combined with its own expertise gathered over years of working in the industry to fast track the launch of two state of the art LMS platforms – Bounce and Edmate, serving as management & communication tools and learning environments complete with virtual classroom functionality.
The Future of EdTech.
The EdTech scene has been growing steadily over the last two decades, however COVID-19 has extrapolated this pace, resulting in development that would possibly take years to happen in a matter of months. “They often say that sometimes a bad thing can be a good thing, and that is exactly what has happened in the case of the EdTech industry. My hope is that now that we have seen the importance of agile learning systems, we will continue to invest in these solutions, instead of just going back to our old ways, once the situation is resolved,” expressed Noor.
Dars foresees more independence for tutors as virtual classes start to become more common, allowing teachers to teach from anywhere, regardless of their geography, while simultaneously making education more accessible to students, regardless of their socio-economic situation.