Financing Education Technology in Asia Pacific
At the peak of Covid-19 forced school closures, it was estimated that 1.5 billion children were out of school in 165 countries, equating to 87% of the global school-aged population. Governments and education companies reacted rapidly with more than 90% of ministries of education enacting policies to provide digital and broadcast remote learning. However, according to a recent UNICEF study, at least 463 million students (31% of students worldwide) have been cut off from education and cannot be reached by remote learning programs due to a lack of necessary household assets or policies geared towards their needs.
…at least 463 million students have been cut off from education and cannot be reached by remote learning programs.
DISPARITIES IN DEVICE ACCESS FOR LEARNING
For students to engage in remote learning, they require access to devices such as mobile phones, tablets or televisions. Low-income families may not always have access to these devices or, in families where there is a device in the home, the device is often utilised by the parent which limits the time a child can use the device for learning. Sharing one device can be even more difficult for families with more than one school-aged child. In South Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific, UNICEF estimated that 227 million children cannot be reached by either digital or broadcast learning, which is more than 28% of school-aged children in the region.
It is not only families that face difficulties accessing devices for remote learning. Non-state affordable schools face similar challenges. EduFinance market research conducted in West Bengal, India in late 2019 found that while most school leaders interviewed owned a mobile phone, only 18% of school leaders owned a computer.
Similarly, after interviewing K12 non-state affordable schools in Indonesia, EduFinance found the majority of low-cost schools do not own computers despite students being expected to take exams on computers. Many of these schools rent or borrow equipment from other schools on a short-term basis. During these same interviews in August 2019, 36% of school leaders saw a need to invest in ICT equipment for staff or students. We expect this need to have risen over the past 12 months. However, device purchases and data can be costly and require upfront cash, which many families and schools are unlikely to have due to the impact of Covid-19 on household income and temporary school closures.
MEETING THE GROWING DEMAND FOR DEVICES
The growing demand for technology is not a new trend. In EduFinance market research, parents often cite investment into computers as the number one item they want their school to invest in. The demand existed in low-resource communities before the pandemic. However, Covid-19 has increased the urgency of the need to access technology for learning while also highlighting the disparity in access.
As we enter September and see school restrictions begin to lift in many countries, the need for technology remains. Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the landscape of education and demands new innovations to make online learning more accessible to a wider range of children, mitigating future learning loss implications if the need to close schools occurs again, whether on a global or local level.
Financial institutions that serve low-income communities are in a unique position to offer tailored loan products that can help families and schools access and purchase devices. We spoke with two of our financial institution partners in Indonesia and the Philippines to discuss their approaches and how they are adapting their loan products during Covid-19 as a way to address this increased need.
SPOTLIGHT: CARD LFC, PHILIPPINES
JULIUS ALIP, PRESIDENT AND CEO
Thank you, Julius, for speaking with EduFinance about how CARD LFC is financing technology for education in the Philippines. Before we talk about how Covid-19 has affected your model, it would be great to first get an overview of the current product that CARD LFC offers schools.
CARD LFC is a leasing and finance company under the CARD MRI umbrella, a group of mutually reinforcing institutions with a common goal of eradicating poverty in the Philippines. We offer finance lease and working capital loans for schools and are also experimenting with direct loans to teachers for technology during Covid-19.
Our current financing model for schools lends directly to the schools for financing tablets and computers that can be used by teachers and students. We absorbed the portfolio of a finance company offering this product to schools several years ago. We kept the product because CARD believes in the lasting impact that education has on poverty eradication and we want to level the playing field for children and schools that are not well funded. We do not compete with large banks for premier schools. We are needed by the schools that have just enough capital.
What do you think works well about the model and are there any lessons you have learnt along the way?
Identifying our target market and what sets us apart was key to our business strategy. Big commercial banks will offer better interest rates to larger and higher-income schools, but small and medium affordable schools will choose CARD LFC because we are able to say what makes us different. We don’t ask huge documentary requirements; we give speedy credit decision and offer good customer service. We invest in relationship building and business development to get new clients and focus on keeping our existing customers happy and satisfied. It is also important to make alliances with like-minded companies, like our partnership with Opportunity EduFinance to develop a credit-scoring model that enables process efficiency.
What was the feedback you received from your clients during Covid-19 and how did you respond?
We heard from the schools that we serve that they had issues transferring to remote learning and needed help with capacity building of teachers. The delivery of courses and course material are now all delivered using technology through tablets and computers. CARD LFC’s leasing and financing products help schools, students, and teachers to access it.
Our exploration with financing teachers is also a response to Covid-19. We introduced it as we kept receiving queries from government schoolteachers who were not able to access laptops but needed them to continue remote teaching.
What are your goals for your education portfolio during the pandemic and beyond?
Covid-19 has increased the demand for access to technology for education. The portfolio is only small at the moment, but we want to expand and lend to more schools to fulfil our mission of fighting poverty by enabling affordable access to technology. We are always on the lookout for schools that need our services.
SPOTLIGHT: BANK NUSUMMA, INDONESIA
DESINAYA AGDI, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, ELSARANTI BPM ANALYST, AND MARISKYA AYU AIDIA, RISK MANAGEMENT SPECIALIST
Thank you Naya, Mariska and Elsa for speaking to us about the new loan product that BPR Nusumma Singaparna will pilot this month. Could you give us an overview of the laptop ABDI loan product?
The Laptop ABDI loan is targeted to university students in Singaparna, Indonesia. We have two aims through the Laptop ABDI loan. They are 1) to provide easier access to laptop ownership to enhance the learning process for university students, and 2) to support the digital learning transformation among university students.
What made you decide on launching the Laptop ABDI loan product?
Based on key findings from an Opportunity EduFinance research report, we found that most students at university face challenges to purchase laptops. We also interviewed some of our employees who are also students and found that there is a really small amount of students that own their own laptops at university. Most students borrow laptops from other people or rent them from shops for the day if they need to do an assignment. We hope to fix this problem by giving students access to finance to buy a laptop.
Covid-19 has forced students into online learning. This is challenging if students don’t have their own laptops and shops aren’t open to rent from. Because of Covid-19, we think this is the right time to launch this product.
As well as impacting your decision to launch, has Covid-19 been a challenge for your operations?
The most challenging thing in this pandemic is the promotion process. We would usually promote face to face, but we have switched to digital marketing and online promotion. We used to be flexible and could promote directly to people but now we have to work with the universities and get permission to promote online before the classes start. We also have an e-brochure and video promotion which we’re promoting through social media.
We were not able to do a product development workshop or staff training in person before the launch because of Covid-19 restrictions so we did a lot of it virtually through Zoom calls and small groups of face to face meetings. We had not done workshops like this before and we had to be flexible and adapt so that we could still pilot the product in the current circumstance.
What are you hoping that you will achieve with the new product?
We hope the product will increase the number of students that own laptops so that they can study better and improve their grades. We are optimistic that the product will meet the demand and that is designed to its target audiences. We plan to cross-sell with savings for semester fees and hope to expand the product beyond Singaparna if it is successful. BPR Nusumma Singaparna already lends to teachers and we are hoping this new product will increase Nusumma Singaparna’s branding as the Educational Bank in Tasikmalaya.
CARD LFC is a leasing and financing institution under the Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institutions umbrella (CARD MRI), established in 2013. Through its mutually reinforcing institutions, CARD MRI delivers microfinance and financial services, microinsurance, and marketing, livelihood, health, environmental, agricultural, educational, and other community development programs.
Nusantara Bina Artha (NBA) is the holding company of Bank Nusumma Group, with headquarters in Jakarta. Bank Nusumma Group has 21 offices spread across West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, and East Java and is currently serving more than 57,000 people through lending and saving in Indonesia. NBA is committed to providing innovative and reliable services to the communities in which they lend, positively impacting community development and contributing to the overall economic development of Indonesia.