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Pandemic fuels EdTech boom in UAE, Google-backed startup sees surge in enrollment

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Less than half of children in lower and middle-income countries do not have foundational math skills by the age of 10, according to the World Bank. This statistic rises to 90 percent in poor countries, presenting a fundamental challenge and problem for society.

Since the pandemic’s onset, innovators across the world have tried to do their best to ensure that education experiences the least disruption possible.

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Frustrated with the way math was being taught in schools, Manan Khurma – a teacher by training – started EdTech startup Cuemath to solve the inequality in math education.

Launched in 2014, the Google-backed startup now has a network of more than 10,000 teachers on the platform, most of whom are based in India, and 200,000 students worldwide.

In an interview with Al Arabiya English, Khurma said that while the company was already established long before COVID, the pandemic fast tracked its growth.

“By the time COVID struck in March of 2020, we already had the platform fully built out and fully stabilized because, I mean, we were not anticipating something like this would happen,” said Khurma.

“This caused an acceleration of adoption and a steep kind of increase in organic demand coming in.”

He added that they had noticed an increase in the acceptance of online learning throughout the pandemic.

“Parents are now far more willing to consider an online platform if it is providing quality service and we think that trend will continue.”

While the US and Canada are two of its biggest markets, Cuemath has set its sights on the UAE and noticed tremendous growth in that market over the past year.

“We are at about 35,000 students [in the UAE] today and we only launched a few months back,” Khurma told Al Arabiya English.

“We got a strong initial organic response… students coming in on their own onto the platform. We were so excited to launch in the GCC region.”
Cuemath has already set up an office in the UAE.

Future jobs will have ‘math at the core’

“We believe that math is not just a subject to be done at school, it is more like a life skill, a language that every kid should learn today,” explained Khurma.

“In five to 10 years from now, most of the valuable skills of the future will have math at the core.”

Khurma said that he believes in enhancing math skills in kids at a younger age to make them “analyze everything around them,” think more critically and “build a deep appreciation of it.”

Math, empathy and artificial intelligence

“What we look at apart from math competence is the teacher’s empathy levels,” says Khurma.

The startup provides new teachers with a four-week training program involving key math methods of teaching and but to also enhance their ability to be patient with students.

“We’re building some AI [artificial intelligence] tools to do that in real time. For example, an AI could track whether the teacher’s energy in class is high or not, whether the teacher is using some blacklisted words or not such as calling a student ‘dumb.’”

“Ultimately, we believe it’s the quality of teachers and the quality of their teaching which will, in the parent’s mind, create that difference in value. And we are heavily focused on that,” he explained.

Created by experts from Cambridge University and the Indian Institute of Technology, Cuemath’s curriculum covers grades K-10 and is certified by STEM.org.

Being one if the only 30 EdTech companies in the world to secure a partnership with Google for Education, it anticipates unicorn valuation by the end of 2022.

Read more:

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Google-backed math program Cuemath launches in UAE

UAE well positioned to become digital education leader: Report