03 Oct 2014

Education Hacks. What are we looking for?

By Lily

As we open applications for Bethnal Green Ventures Winter programme, we wanted to talk about some of the things we are interested in investing in. This week is Education.

Education has barely changed in structure since the Nineteenth Century but the learning needs of the world have moved on. There’s massive frustration with the system and a crying need for new approaches. We’re looking for startups trying to build new ways to organise, finance and expand education and not just tools that recreate existing resources for a digital age. Some examples of themes we’d like to invest in are:

Hacking education: Technology offers new ways of addressing the challenges faced by young people by enabling new forms of collaboration, new communities of support and challenge, and new ways of accessing information and resources. We’re interested in how these technologies can turn some of the existing ways of organising education on their head, reimagining ideas like ‘teacher’, ‘classroom’ or ‘qualification’.

Tackling inequality: The early years of a child’s education can have a huge effect on their life chances later on. Currently, by the time they are seven, nearly 80% of the difference in GCSE results between rich and poor children has already been determined. Young girls drop out of STEM subjects causing a massive gender gap in the sector later on. We are looking for solutions that can go to the root of these problems, and find new ways of increasing children’s attainment across the board.

Every child matters: It’s becoming increasingly clear that children learn in very different ways, and the current one size fits all education system is leaving many behind. How can we use technology to develop learning experiences crafted around individuals rather than forcing them into a mould?

New forms of employment: As traditional sources of employment have been squeezed, young people have suffered most with the highest rates of unemployment of any age group. New technology-enabled marketplaces like Etsy and Task Rabbit might point the way to new, more flexible types of employment that are more suited to the 21st century. School and university curriculums, are not keeping up with the rise of new technologies such as digital manufacturing – how can we create opportunities for young people in these as yet uncharted waters.

Reinventing the career: As young people live their lives increasingly online, the CV seems like a relic of a bygone age. We’re interested in giving young people new ways to show their skills and new opportunities to genuinely learn throughout their lives rather than just while they’re at school.

Some companies we’ve backed in this area: Represent, Fluency, Techmums, I Can Make, Wall Display, TreePress, Before I Die Network


Photo by Richard Lee