Assessing the edtech landscape for UNESCO

Digital technology has rapidly transformed learning and education in Southeast Asia over the past few years. There are around 400 million internet users in the region, but there remains a lack of locally relevant evidence, and limited evaluation of technological decisions and investments by education policy makers. Preliminary research, meanwhile, has uncovered challenges with equity, access, governance and regulations when digital technology is employed in education.

To help fill this gap, UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report team commissioned CEI to conduct a regional landscape study on education technology (“edtech”) in Singapore. The report’s purpose is to investigate potential and future directions, through case studies and background research, as part of a series of such reports across 11 Southeast Asian countries.

Delving into the current state of education technology, the Singapore report highlights key trends, emerging technologies and the impact of government initiatives on the sector.

“Four key trends emerged from our synthesis, which brought together information from in-the-field expert interviews, ministries, news reports, and publicly available literature,” explains report author CEI’s Dr Janell Kwok. “The first is that the Singapore's edtech landscape is characterised by strong government leadership, and heavy investment in digital infrastructure, resources, and teacher training as part of promoting edtech adoption both in and outside classrooms.”

“Personalised learning is the second key trend, with edtech growing increasingly tailored to individual student needs and learning styles, leveraging adaptive learning platforms, data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI). Thirdly, Digital Citizenship education has played a key role. Singapore schools are emphasising digital literacy skills and responsible online behaviour, to prepare students for the digital world.”

“Lastly – and perhaps most engagingly for students – there has been a focus on emerging technologies: AI, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) are being piloted in Singaporean classrooms, offering immersive and interactive learning experiences.”

Successful edtech implementation in Singapore was found to be contingent on a variety of factors, including: equitability of access, personalisation of learning, reliability of infrastructure, attitudes of teachers, as well as continued government support and engagement with stakeholders.

Future directions

Despite significant progress over the past 20 years, challenges remain in Singapore's edtech landscape, mainly centring on the country’s infrastructure, accessibility, data privacy, and support for teachers.

“Digital infrastructure needs to first be reliable, followed by being robust enough to ensure seamless integration… This may affect attitudes of system stakeholders,” commented one key expert interviewed for the study, from an institute of higher learning in Singapore.

Another expert noted that working with teachers to adopt technology into their work can take time and consistent effort: Despite encouragement from the management and even with the benefits that this tool brought, uptake for use of an edtech tool took several years.” This indicates the importance of persisting through implementation barriers such as the preference for current ways of working.

“Addressing the digital divide to ensure equitable access to quality edtech resources for all students is crucial, as is quality teacher training and support,” says Janell. “Working closely with external vendors in protecting students’ data privacy, as well as ensuring cybersecurity in the digital learning environment, is also paramount.”

“Already cognisant of these challenges, the Singapore government is making strategic investments in technological infrastructure, such as student learning platforms, teacher professional development, digital literacy and pilot programs for schools, and engagement with parents and community.”

As the government continues to invest, Singapore is poised to remain at the forefront of edtech innovation, particularly within Southeast Asia. Retaining attractiveness for infrastructure investment and close international partnerships, Singapore will continue to rapidly advance its edtech landscape to foster a future-ready, digital generation of workers.

Download the report HERE

CEI’s Dr Janell Kwok, Maryanna Abdo, Marlyna Melita Binte Mochtar and Elizabeth Tan Junzhen worked with the Global Education Monitoring Report Team (GEM) at UNESCO and Southeast Asia Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) deliver the landscape study.