How the failure to learn from failures impacts EdTech

By Matthias Neeracher

EdTech programs all over the world continue to make the same mistakes as previous ones did. How can we change this?


Education technology has often been hailed as a silver bullet to bridge the educational gap between low-income countries and high-income countries. It has promised to revolutionize education by providing low-cost and scalable solutions to the problems faced by education systems in low-income countries. However, despite the enormous potential, EdTech programs in low-income countries have been plagued by failures. In fact, there hasn’t been a single intervention program to date that has been proven to be successful and scalable. One of the major reasons for this is the failure to learn from the mistakes that others made before. In this blog, I will talk about why this is a problem and think about possible solutions.


Time is flat circle

Organizations and businesses often rush out ICT-intervention programs, be it with the intention of doing good or, as is often the case in our society, making a quick buck, without doing adequate, thorough background research, causing the organizations or businesses to repeat the same mistakes that were made in previous programs which leads to an immense waste in resources and time, which could also be used in traditional, non-tech based programs to improve education in low-income countries. Winston Churchill once famously said: “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”. This statement is also true for the education technology industry, failure to learn from history can limit the potential of the industry to make a positive impact on education outcomes in low-income countries. 


Knowledge is power

Another big problem for EdTech programs is the lack of knowledge sharing, particularly the failure to publish data connected to failures by EdTech organizations. Many private EdTech organizations don’t publish their failures to hide them because they don’t want to look like unsuccessful companies, which would be bad for their image. This in turn they think could discourage investors from investing in them.



This failure to publish failures means that it is hard to find out what truly works and what does not, and so a huge number of resources gets wasted in repeating the same mistakes that were previously made. Also, it means that there is no accountability for those implementing the programs. This means that there is low incentive to learn from your past mistakes and improve



To truly improve the outcome of EdTech programs there is need for a cultural shift towards acknowledging failure as an important part of learning and a more collaborative approach between EdTech programs. Failed programs a need to be evaluated thoroughly to see what worked and what didn’t, and the results must be shared. This could also be done through independent third parties. There is also a need for more control by governing bodies to check if companies planning EdTech programs did enough background research. 



In conclusion, the failure to learn from the failures of others is a significant challenge facing education technology programs in low-income countries. Without a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t it is difficult to make progress toward improving education outcomes, which should be the goal we are all working towards. By learning from the failures of others, organizations can build on the successes of previous programs and achieve greater impact in improving access to education in low-income countries.


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