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Education

Singapore e-learning platform moves into the home -- and abroad

Coronavirus pandemic opens new markets for KooBits' ProblemSums math program

KooBits' main product turns studying math into a competition that allows kids to play on their own or form teams.

SINGAPORE -- A Singapore-based education software provider that has caught a wave of interest since the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools plans to raise $20 million from venture capitalists later this year to finance an overseas push.

KooBits is already working on an Indonesian version of one of its programs designed for learning math at home and plans to open its first foreign office in Jakarta in the latter half of this year.

The education technology company was founded in 2009 and turned its first profit in 2018.

It recently introduced a home version of its main product, a program designed to help children learn math by making them feel like they are playing a game. Learners can compete with other students or join team competitions. For teachers, the program provides AI-analyzed data that tracks how much students understand and predicts what the stumbling blocks going forward are likely to be.

The program is called ProblemSums.

Before the virus, KooBits focused on providing elementary schools with its math learning platform. But then the pandemic ignited an e-learning boom.

ProblemSums was launched in 2014 as a supplementary study material, and ended up being adopted by 90 elementary schools in Singapore.

Thousands of students became hooked on the program and now regularly wake up early in the morning so they can log on as soon as the service starts up at 6 a.m. (it shuts down every night at 10 so as to not distract children from their sleep).

The platform is also marketed in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, and has 361 subscriber schools and 150,000 users overall.

KooBits CEO Stanley Han has uncovered a secret that makes kids want to wake up early to study.

KooBits announced its entry into the home market in early April, debuting a modified version of ProblemSums that allows gifted students to advance at an accelerated pace and which is accessible via smartphones and other mobile devices. There are also live streams of classes and an app for parents.

KooBits is receiving more demand for its learn-at-home tools as the coronavirus forced the city to close all of its primary and secondary schools on April 8. Cram schools have also shut down. Singaporean parents, famous for being education sticklers, then began turning to online cram schools and learning apps.

The trend is set to continue, at least for a little while longer. Singapore's government on April 21 announced that it would extend its coronavirus circuit breaker period by another month, until June 1.

KooBits is not the only Singapore-based edtech firm that is using the pandemic's interruptions as an opportunity to expand. Flying Cape, a platform that helps parents find and book online activities for their children, is offering cram schools advice on how to efficiently start online classes. The company says it wants to help these clients maintain their student rolls at home and foray overseas. The booking agency hopes this will bring it more cross-border transactions.

One question going forward is whether today's enthusiasm for e-learning can be sustained after the pandemic subsides. KooBits CEO and co-founder Stanley Han is optimistic that the fervor will increase.

"Many households will want to save a certain amount of money on every aspect of their spending," he said. "If I tell any parent that with KooBits products, with online tutoring and online engagement, we can give your child the same outcome in terms of study or quality of learning at only half of the price they used to pay before COVID, I think that would be attractive to parents."

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