Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Nov 11, 2022

What’s Next for EdTech?

With Paul Walsh and Miriam Josiah


Paul Walsh: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Paul Walsh, Morgan Stanley's Head of Products for European Equity Research.

Miriam Josiah: And I'm Miriam Josiah, Head of the European Internet Services Team within Morgan Stanley Research.

Paul Walsh: And on this very special episode of the podcast series, we'll be talking about the long-term outlook for education technology, or EdTech. It's Friday, it's the 11th of November, and it's 2 p.m. here in London.

Paul Walsh: So Miriam, next week you'll be heading to Barcelona for Morgan Stanley's annual Tech, Media and Telecom Conference, which focuses on key debates and trends in these industries. EdTech, while still in its infancy, is a segment where your team sees a lot of potential for growth. But before we get there, let's please start with the basics. What exactly is EdTech?

Miriam Josiah: So people often think of it as online learning for K-12 or university students. But we found EdTech to be quite a broad term for the digitalization of learning. So there are actually dozens of segments within EdTech. One of them is workforce education, which we think is particularly interesting and underappreciated.

Paul Walsh: And certainly many of us got a firsthand look at EdTech during COVID-19 lockdowns, whether through our children—as was the case for me personally—work related training or for our own amusement. And not surprisingly, companies in the education technology space saw a huge spike from pandemic-driven demand. So what's happening now that schools and businesses have reopened?

Miriam Josiah: So here's one of the reasons our team looked closely at EdTech. Essentially, even as we've returned to in-person training and education, the demand for remote learning hasn't dropped off. Yes, COVID 19 accelerated industry growth by about two years, but the global EdTech market, currently valued at $300 billion, is still expected to grow at an annual rate of 16% to reach $400 billion by 2025. So this demand is here to stay.

Paul Walsh: It sounds like it, and that's tremendously interesting. So can you explain why that is, please?

Miriam Josiah: So we think there are a few reasons EdTech demand will continue to grow. Firstly, the pandemic changed our behaviors in many ways, including how we think about learning. For example, in many classrooms, students watch the lecture on their own time and use the classroom for more hands-on learning. This is one reason demand is still growing, particularly within K-12 education.

Paul Walsh: And if we take a step back, Miriam, does a challenging macroeconomic environment help or hurt the outlook for EdTech? And can you help us understand why?

Miriam Josiah: So, in many ways, we think it helps. You have global teacher shortages, rising school costs and, in the case of workplace, there's a need to reskill and upskill workers. So these are a few of the important drivers. Meanwhile, there's a few other positives for EdTech, such as a growing global population and lower penetration rates. To put things in perspective, global spending on education is around $6.5 trillion a year and even with double digit growth over the next few years, EdTech will only represent around 5% of total education spending in 2025. Suffice to say, we are in the very early stages of growth.

Paul Walsh: Yeah, absolutely. It sounds like it. And thinking about stock valuations, they soared for companies that saw surging demand during the pandemic. And since then, we've seen that trend reverse, in some cases really quite dramatically. So where does that leave us today?

Miriam Josiah: So one thing to note is that this segment is very fragmented with many small companies, some of which are not publicly traded. Among the larger players in the space, we've seen a similar trend with stock prices soaring and now correcting. And so valuations are attractive. And we think this is a good entry point for investors, especially if they have a longer time horizon. At the same time, the market's seeing a fair bit of M&A activity, which may present opportunities for upside for investors.

Paul Walsh: Absolutely no doubt. Industries that are fragmented, hard to define and still in their infancy can really be fertile ground for investors who have the time and the wherewithal to research and invest in individual companies. So what are the biggest risks to your growth outlook for the EdTech industry?

Miriam Josiah: So firstly, as I mentioned, a lot of the sector is made up of private companies and a lot of these are loss-making startups. So in an environment of tighter access to capital, this may be a growth inhibitor for some of the startups and we're already seeing companies starting to trim headcount as a way to cut costs. Another risk is government budget cuts. Remember, education spending is around 4% of GDP, and so cuts here could impact the B2B market in particular. The counter is that tighter budgets could lead to schools turning to EdTech instead, but this still does remain a risk. And then finally, the consumer willingness to pay is also being questioned in a recessionary environment.

Paul Walsh: Miriam, that's really clear. I want to thank you very much for taking the time to talk. It's obviously been quite educational. Good luck with the TMT Conference in Barcelona next week.

Miriam Josiah: Thank you. Great chatting with you, Paul.

Paul Walsh: And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today. 

Education technology, or EdTech, saw significant adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet opportunity remains in this still young industry if one looks long-term. Head of Products for European Equity Research Paul Walsh and Head of the European Internet Services Team Miriam Josiah discuss.

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