Pakistan is in a state of education emergency. More than 12 million children are out of school, and the numbers are only increasing with each passing year. Even within the limited number of schools that are present, there are a plethora of systemic issues, including lack of resources, inadequate levels of learning, and an increased drop-out rate, particularly in the poor and disadvantaged segments of society. Stakeholders agree that innovative solutions need to be identified and scaled to improve the overall situation and enable growth and diversity in education.
P@SHA’s Tech incubator The Nest i/o and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) recently came together to support edutech startups and promote innovation and growth in the education sector. Ilm Ideas 2 is a programme funded by DFID that provides funding and technical support to education solutions with the potential to scale. The eventual aim is to fund and grow startups that can improve literacy and numeracy skills in Pakistan and ensure that more children from disadvantaged backgrounds are encouraged to enroll and stay in school. Solutions that are an alternative to traditional learning or those which increase access to education for children who are unable to attend formal schooling are also a key consideration of the program.
“Innovation in education at all levels of the spectrum is what can help Pakistan succeed, grow and shine globally” said Jehan Ara, President of P@SHA and the force behind The Nest i/o. “There is a lot of talent in the country, and innovation in education can enhance learning and training opportunities for young people in Pakistan thus enabling them to create wealth and job opportunities for themselves and for the country.”
The Nest i/o is a space funded by global partners Samsung and Google for Entrepreneurs with support from the US State Department. It provides startups training, mentoring and access to a business curriculum and testing facilities.
A contract was signed between Jehan Ara, representing Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) – and Shahida Saleem – representing the Ilm Ideas 2 project on Thursday, the 31st of March 2016 at P@SHA’s office in Karachi. Ilm Ideas 2 has given a grant to The Nest i/o to support the incubation of innovative ideas in the education domain as part of the Ilm Ideas 2 Education Innovation Fund project. This grant is part of a wider UK Aid support to Pakistan and is managed by the Mott MacDonald’s Ilm Ideas 2 team based in Islamabad.
The hunt for Edtech startups has already begun in Karachi, and applications opened for an Edtech Pitch Day at The Nest i/o on March 22nd 2016. To be eligible for incubation, these startups were required to have a minimum viable product that merged education with technology and improve education opportunities in Pakistan. A pitch day was organized in Karachi where shortlisted applicants were invited to pitch in front of a panel of judges.
To increase the talent pool, The Nest i/o held another pitch day for edtech startups on April 28, 2016, after which a final batch of teams was selected for an incubation of four months.