How to make innovative, scalable impact through education

If it takes a village to raise a child, could the impact of one educated child be to enough lift a village from generations of poverty?

Education is powerful force that has the potential to transform communities. In this article, we have summarized key learnings from 3  finalist teams from the DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia who demonstrate how social ventures can be effective vehicles to provide access to affordable, relevant education.

How to Prepare Students to Invent the Future

Arus Education (Malaysia | SVCAsia Finalist 2016)

Arus Education aims to nurture Malaysian students to be creators and inventors through maker education.


Four passionate Teach For Malaysia fellows set up Arus Education to solve Malaysia’s education inequity. Arus Education grooms innovators who “learn by making”. Currently, Arus runs low-cost after school programmes, with the ultimate aim of launching low-cost private schools.

Arus’ holistic solution partners students’ parents and community-based social services to ensure sustainable change. With Arus, students have the opportunity to apply knowledge, and develop innovative habits as well as strong character traits. Arus’ pilot after-school programme began in 2014 in Malaysia, and currently serves lower-income communities through a Flexible Tuition Fee Programme.

Through what they learn at Arus Education, students will be equipped with more options in the future careers. The team seeks to go beyond teaching academic skills, to prepare students for complex future industries that “might not yet even exist as you read this”. The academy’s 40 students have successfully developed their own digital animation and are able to program microcontrollers.

How to Accelerate Personalised Learning Through Tech

Zaya Learning Labs (India | SVCAsia Grand Prize Winner 2014)

Social enterprise Zaya brings education to children in remote corners of the world.

Mumbai-based Zaya Learning Labs has aimed to provide world-class learning to migrant communities since 2013. Its blended learning tablet, the “Class Cloud”, allows students to learn in multiple dynamic, interactive ways – through tablets, teacher instructional time, and peer-to-peer work. The software in the Class Cloud actively analyses the usage of the content provided, and consequent student achievement, so educators ensure content meets the needs of individual learners. Technology and student work hand-in-hand to craft a personalised learning solution to reduce the socio-economic achievement gap.

Zaya’s technological solution is backed by the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, an investment fund within Pearson that invests in education startups across emerging markets.

Listening, Learning, Collaborating: Keys to Sustainable Change

Learn Education (Thailand | SVCAsia Grand Prize Winner 2015)

Learn Education’s mission: to innovate learning platforms by leveraging technology to provide quality education.


Learn Education founder Tanin Timtong assembled a team of educators and entrepreneurs to drive social enterprise Learn Education, which serves children and youth in rural Thailand.

Learn Education offers a one-on-one blended learning platform that helps teachers improve their skills. This frees them to provide personalised attention to students who need more support. The team’s focus on technological solutions and the relational aspects of learning has led to impressive breakthroughs.

In three years, Learn Education has helped deliver a 30% improvement in the exam scores of students using their platform, and has won the endorsement of the Thai government. Their secrets: listening, rapid learning, and collaboration.

Learn Education’s in-class solution is a win-win situation that increases teacher efficiency, thereby maximising adoption of their technology. Through consistent feedback loops (such as student surveys, and focus groups), the team is able to constantly iterate and improve its product and service. For example, through feedback, the team learnt that teachers wanted to improve their teaching techniques, rather than to have their workload reduced for greater efficiency – the problem the team initially aimed to solve. In addition, the team works hand-in-hand with key stakeholders, such as parents, for collective action.

The DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia is an Asia-wide competition for social enterprises organised by NUS Enterprise in partnership with the DBS Foundation. This competition identifies and supports innovative social enterprises that have the potential to generate positive, scalable and sustainable social impact. Applications close 14 May