Our blog

What we are thinking and doing

March 08, 2016 / by Mark Horner /

Siyavula Education recognised at KINSES2016

The Kaizen, INSEAD and NYU Stern Education Symposium (KINSES) - 2016 “Global Trends; Local Realities” was held on the 27th and 28th of February 2016 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The event is described as “a thought leadership symposium on trends, opportunities and challenges in education” with a strong focus on creating opportunities for global networking and showcasing business models to successfully reach global audiences.


Prior to the symposium a competition was held to identify five promising start-ups in Asia and Africa that are disrupting the education status quo with a mix of technology and innovative business models and to recognize their efforts at the symposium.

We entered Siyavula Education into this competition and were selected as one of the five EduAward winners. As a result, Mark Horner was able to attend the symposium and present our business plan.

The award was for our work on Siyavula Practice, our adaptive mathematics, physics and chemistry learning platform that enables an optimised practice-for-mastery experience. Our technology page explains the various components that go into making Siyavula Practice the learning tool that it is.

We were in good company with the other award winners being:

  • Instafeez – Pay Digital Technologies Pvt Ltd - Unified Payments, Communication, Commerce and Learning content aggregation solution
  • Kidaptive - an adaptive learning platform.
  • Kytabu Company Limited - an app that allows learners to subscribe to publishers content.
  • Vedantu Innovations Pvt Ltd - an online, one-to-one tutoring solution.


We have been working very hard at Siyavula for the last three and a half years and this was the first time we have entered a competition and the first time that we have attended an education technology (edtech) event outside of local teacher conferences in South Africa. This made it both a rewarding (pun intended) and interesting experience.

It was good to meet some other startups from Africa and Asia as well as a number of foundations and investors interested in edtech, specifically in Africa. This was particularly timely as we have recently started exploring how we might partner outside of South Africa to have an impact elsewhere in the world.


The symposium consisted of excellent keynote presentations and many interesting panels and selecting highlights was not easy. Nevertheless here are a few talks or topics that resonated particularly strongly:

Peter Peter Blair Henry, Dean, Leonard N. Stern School of Business
Peter unpacked the impact that the developing world will have on the global labour force. The numbers are quite incredible and, while tertiary qualifications are always in demand, the greatest need in the developing world is for quality secondary education. One particular point that stood out was modeling how quickly the standard of living can double in a country. The precise number depends on population growth etc. but it drove home clearly the point that real progress in South Africa is possible in a relatively short time frame if we approach the challenges properly. Fixing education can really have a massive impact - not overnight but in a decade.
Dr. Jorg Drager, Member of the Executive Board, Bertelsmann Stiftung
This was by far my favourite talk as Jorg was able to sketch a beautifully insightful, simple and clear picture of the education system, the opportunities and trends in technology, the challenges to implementation and bring it back to real world basics. Often it seems like working in education is impossibly messy and it is reassuring to have our work affirmed in a clear overview of the sector. If you have the opportunity to hear him speak, we highly recommend you do so.
Investment in Africa
There was consensus on few points at the symposium but one point that seemed to be accepted by all was that there is a dearth of investors prepared to invest between $1M and $5M in the African context and this was hampering many organisations and companies in their scaling up.
Blended learning
The panel on blended learning took the opportunity to define blended learning as requiring streaming video which I thought was quite unfortunate and pretty much rules out a whole host of countries benefitting from blended learning in the near future. The panel was dominated by video lesson platforms and providers but the opportunity to challenge this and to look for innovation beyond video streaming was missed.

On the whole it was a very interesting symposium and Siyavula Education will benefit massively from the exposure and the connections we made.