India/February 27, 2022/By: Karanvir Singh/Source: https://www.freepressjournal.in/
Education landscape has transformed and evolved in last few years.
Earlier, when we talked about education it used to be only confined to the boundaries of a particular area in a particular city. Due to this, there were not many options for getting education beyond schools and localized coaching centres. However, after the proliferation of internet and smartphones, there are a growing number of edtech companies (9,043, as per Tracxn) in India, offering a gamut of products and services catering to the entire education value chain. This is also due to the increasing acceptance and adoption of digital tools and content by the involved stakeholders (i.e. teachers, parents and students) post COVID-19.
As per the BARC India and Neilson report, there is 30 percent increase in the time spent on education apps. Furthermore, the sector got a boost when the government announced the National Education Policy (NEP 2020) which gave due importance to the role of technology in education.
The increase in the number of edtech companies itself suggests the massive opportunity. According to Statista estimates Indian Edtech industry market size is expected to reach USD 10.4 billion by 2025.
The Indian education opportunity is growing and continuously evolving due to the changing needs of the students and increasing aspiration of the parents. To put it the other way round, imagine if there is only one edtech company which is seamlessly offering everything across the value chain, it will have to solve primarily three challenges:
A very large, distributed problem
The young population (i.e. below 24 years age) was 50.1 percent in 2011 and is expected to fall to 34.7 in 2036 (as per the population projection report). This indicates “limited time to improve the quality of education and skilling and also to transition from schools to workspace”, says Anoop Satpathy, a labour economist and faculty at V.V. Giri National Labour Institute.
He categorized the young Indians into three buckets—those who are pursuing education, those who are either employed and unemployed and, third, those who are neither pursuing education nor looking for employment.
Though the overall GER (Gross Enrolment Ratio) has increased (at Upper Primary level, Elementary Level, Secondary Level and Higher Secondary Level) in 2019-20 as compared to 2018-19, there is still long way to go for inclusion of remaining population in education system. Improving the GER (100 percent in schools and 50 percent in higher education) is one of the main focus areas of NEP 2020.
One challenge is to onboard all children missing from the system, and other challenge is to retain them. We can take cue from an interesting step UK government has taken to create a home schooling register so that missing students can be added and tracked in the system.
The dropout rate at secondary level is 16.07 percent. But even to maintain the same dropout rate, further infrastructure challenges will have to be solved. Enough teachers will be required to bridge this gap and also existing teachers will have to be imparted adequate training.
Complete standardization is extremely difficult
India is a very diverse country not only in terms of the culture and languages but also in the design of education system. Different levels are governed by different boards (CBSE, ICSE etc.) and regulatory bodies (MCI etc.). It is different also with respect to region (people living in urban areas and rural area) with different purchasing powers. It is extremely difficult to offer standardization due to this varied mix.
Also, until now in edtech, whatever developments happened were at a fundamental level i.e. digitization of touch points of students (i.e. schools, colleges and coaching institutes) and of content and its delivery. However, due to the fast changing pace of market and increasing technological innovations (use of AI/ML, robotics), more of personalization (tailor made) will be required to cater to the individual students’ learning needs at different stages, their language preferences and as per their capacity to pay (introduction of modular pricing).
Changing mindset of parents
Since ages, the focus of Indian parents was on the traditional school based model. For them adapting to edtech was extremely challenging due to lack of devices, electricity or internet. This further created a digital divide between the urban and the rural kids.
COVID-19 gave the much-needed edtech adoption push. Also, Indian parents have high aspirations for their kid’s especially strong affinity to professions i.e. Doctor or Engineer or CA or Lawyer. However, very slowly the mindset of parents is changing from marks and grades to outcome based learning but there is still a long way to go. Increasingly students now understand the importance of different skilling courses to stay relevant in the job market.
The Indian market is much diversified with different needs so one edtech can’t solve the education problem in India. In fact many edtech companies either standalone or in partnership with government will have to ensure that they reach the masses. They should carefully design and implement solutions keeping in mind the pillars of NEP 2020 (Affordability, Access, Equity, Quality, and Accountability). Also, the needs of individual stakeholders (parents, teachers, students and educational institutions, government/regulators) will have to be clearly understood. The journey is long, but effectively incorporating technological innovations with elements of gamification along the way edtech companies can truly solve the Indian education problem.
(The writer is Founder & CEO, Pariksha-vernacular edtech company)
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