Lessons Learned from a Pandemic
Coronavirus restrictions have provided a huge boost to the digital learning sector in Germany, shaking the country out of its traditional approach to education. Online learning companies can now benefit from a range of government programs.
LEARNTEC is Germany’s main trade show for education solutions and the place to be for innovators and decision-makers. One of the exhibitors at the latest show, which took place in Karlsruhe in February, was eSquirrel. The Austria-based company offers a learning portal and a quiz app that match textbooks and learning materials all the way from the second grade up to university, as well as providing tools for companies.
eSquirrel entered the German market in 2019 by digitizing schoolbooks by publishers Cornelsen and Klett. Now it plans to set up a German subsidiary. “Germany has all along been the logical extension of our home market, and the German educational sector’s relatively sluggish pace of digitalization translates into additional opportunities for our innovative solutions,” says Michael Maurer, eSquirrel’s cofounder. “A range of government programs is gaining momentum and so is LEARNTEC, as our professional audience is keenly aware of all the remaining challenges.”
A young learner gets to grips with geometry on the GoStudent platform. The German government is investing heavily in programs to bring schools into the digital age. © GOSTUDENT GmbH
Funding German education
Germany has one of the best-funded educational systems in the world. National, regional and local governments allocated a preliminary EUR 158.6 billion for education in 2020, up 5.3 percent from the previous year. If private education plus science and research spending is included in the calculation, that number is far higher: EUR 325.6 billion in 2019, up 4.4 percent year-on-year.
The Digital Pact for Schools is one of a long list of national programs designed to bring German schools into the digital age. It allocates EUR 6.5 billion over a period of five years to bring learning infrastructure up to date.
The Bottom Line
The Covid-19 pandemic taught Germany that education needs to go digital. The government has responded with a variety of programs that make e-learning an exciting market for smart foreign investors.
It’s bolstered by the Post-Covid Action Program for Children and Young People, which allocates EUR 2 billion for 2021 and 2022, including EUR 1 billion for after-school tutoring and EUR 1 billion for early childhood education, sports, leisure and vacation activities, and support for children and teenagers in their everyday lives.
There’s also the 630-million-euro fund for the National Education Platform. Running until 2025, it aims to better integrate Germany’s countless regional educational programs into a single national platform for digital access to innovative learning and teaching formats. Some EUR 150 million of this fund is earmarked for companies, universities and project consortiums that develop solutions.
Learning new tricks
The National Education Platform was motivated by the recognition that the country’s decentralized, regional educational policies were ill-equipped to tackle the challenges that arose during the corona pandemic and continue to affect students.
eSquirrel’s Maurer points out that concerted private sector efforts, such as the Alliance for Education (Bündnis für Bildung), have given additional momentum to digital learning in Germany. The alliance brings together a wide variety of stakeholders, from established schoolbook publishers and educational technology start-ups to international IT conglomerates including Samsung and Microsoft. “Our membership in the Alliance for Education and our participation in LEARNTEC bring us closer to the decision-makers here in Germany,” Maurer says. “And by opening our first German office later this year, we will also be able to react faster to public tenders.”
Industry expert Johannes Fischer confirms that politicians across the spectrum are aware that there is much left to be done. Innovative solutions are urgently needed not only for schools but also for universities and corporate training. “We see that some countries are ahead of us in terms of digital learning,” he says. “And we are very receptive to foreign companies that come here with new ideas to help us upgrade our solutions.”
GoStudent: Germany is the Austrian e-learning unicorn’s most important market
GoStudent, a digital matchmaker and education platform for students and private tutors, was founded in Austria in 2016. Since then, it has achieved unicorn status and become Europe’s highest valued K-12 edtech company. Given that the German market accounts for 55 percent of GoStudent’s revenue, it’s no surprise that the company’s marketing team is mainly based in Berlin, with a Düsseldorf office handling sales and customer success. As of October 2021, the Berlin and Düsseldorf offices employ 50 and 40 staff members, respectively, and GoStudent plans to double its Berlin workforce.
“Germany is a major market for the private tutoring of students needing additional support with their school curriculum,” says GoStudent founder and CEO Felix Ohswald. “But there is also demand from students in rural areas seeking to learn languages that are not taught at their schools. “Our ongoing expansion in Germany is driven by partnerships with regional governments for subsidized tutoring sessions for disadvantaged students,” he adds.
Head of Communications Western and Central Europe
tutoring sessions per month are arranged through GoStudent
of all turoring units are booked in Germany
GoStudent’s valuation ranks it among the top 10 valued start-ups in Germany