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New Delhi: Covid-19 has become a game-changer for education technology or edtech companies. The current crisis has accelerated the benefits of online education and internet and technology are the only ways to ensure that students continue learning, experts said at a panel discussion.

"Since we launched the app 4 years back we had 40 million free users, but in the last four months, Byju's added 20 million new students which is close to 50% of the first 4 years base in just 4 months," said Divya Gokulnath, co-founder Byju's at the India Internet Day event organised by TiE, a non-profit for startups.

Byju's, the world's most valuable edtech unicorn, has been growing 100% year-over-year, but still had a long way to go as it has reached only 3% of total students population, according to Gokulnath.

Bani Paintal Dhawan, head of education, India and South Asia, Google India said large scale impact in the K-12 segment can happen with the help of the government, private schools and universities.

The future of computing has come early, thanks to covid, and while this is a good sign, the focus should also be on equity and access. "We should look towards our Asian peers like Japan and Singapore and ensure access to education for every child and make sure that teachers too are tech-enabled, added Dhawan.

Nooraine Fazal, CEO, Inventure Academy is doing this by working with underprivileged children and making sure that they have access to online learning.

For Chennai-based founded by Arunprasad Durairaj of Flinto Learning Solutions,that focuses on preschoolers, this segment is a cause of concern as he feels that the supply of preschool or early learning is going to come down sharply post covid. Moreover, tech adoption is not easy in this segment.

He suggests that the place of work and place of childcare should come together as this will ease some pressure from families and employers and the government should look at the concept of community child care centres like in the West.

Noting the tailwinds in the edtech sector, venture capital firms have shown a clear preference for startups in this segment, where investment has been steadily flowing.

“This has one of the best years in edtech in terms of investment. Funding activity had picked up pre-covid and the momentum has only accelerated post-covid, with 85% of funding going to the K-12 segment that is the largest segment in India," said Varun Gupta, director, Digital & Technology Investment Banking, Avendus Capital .

The panelists also said while online learning has its advantages, it cannot replace classroom learning. Sports, art and skills like empathy and teamwork need interaction and a classroom environment.

Dhawan also added that computing and coding are sweet spots in education and necessary job skills.

“Coding is an important future skill," added Gokulnath talking about the WhiteHat Jr acquisition by Byju’s.

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