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Business News/ Opinion / Views/  The Indian edtech industry is taking India to the world
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The Indian edtech industry is taking India to the world

The country has a strategic edge in online education that can be deployed for the greater good of all

Photo: iStockPremium
Photo: iStock

Edtech in India has grown phenomenally in the last couple of years, making India the edtech capital of the world. The private sector is playing a key role with the public sector acting as a facilitator. India’s education sector saw a boom in edtech funding during the pandemic. There are certainly some advantages of edtech over conventional learning that should be considered. It’s time to decide what the new ‘normal’ looks like for our education sector.

Educators, parents, and students have long complained about the one-size-fits-all model of conventional schooling. Edtech provides specially tailored classes and access to content at a pace students are comfortable with. Students receive personalized recommendations based on data on their previous learning patterns and performance. Students who excel at studying would no longer be hamstrung by teachers catering to the lower and nodal level of the class, while students who need extra support and benefit from a slower learning pace could receive the appropriate care. With edtech helping students prepare for competitive exams, industry reports found that the success rate went up to about 7% as compared to under 1% through the conventional classroom mass-teaching formats.

Edtech provides access to education on demand: students who were not compatible with the traditional school system’s rigid timetables can get access to quality education. This is especially important in low-income households, where children often help their parents with work or household chores during the day when schools usually hold classes. It also solves the problem of students from such homes not being able to afford a high-quality conventional education, by bridging gaps in teacher availability. The cost-effectiveness of edtech allows students to overcome the paywall between them and premium educators, and the virtual nature of this learning erases geographical constraints.

Finally, when considering edtech as a complement to traditional schooling, instead of a direct replacement, edtech modules have an upper hand over traditional textbooks. Better navigation of resources, multimedia graphics and interactive elements allow for a more engaging educational experience.

This is not to say that edtech programmes don’t have their own challenges and drawbacks. Edtech’s growth is still dwarfed by inadequate infrastructure, poor accessibility and our digital divide. Most recently, issues of misleading advertisements and unfair trade practices have come to light, which an edtech consortium is working to eliminate through self-regulation.

Going global: There are over 4,450 edtech startups in India that are assisting over 300 million school students. Of these, 40 million are students pursuing higher education whose studies were disrupted by covid. This brought edtech, which uses IT tools for inclusive, engaging and personalized learning, to the fore. India’s edtech industry could slowly bridge the education-quality gap between the rich and the poor, giving Indians from all backgrounds more equitable chances of success. India’s edtech boom also stems from facts like the prevalence of enthusiastic entrepreneurs adopting a multicultural approach to suit the needs of a diverse country, developing innovative products and approaches, and with access to a huge pool of skilled educators. Learners abroad are enrolling with Indian edtech firms not just for affordability but also because they deliver world-class content.

Various Indian edtech companies are slowly upping their global presence by collaborating with international universities or acquiring foreign firms. These businesses are venturing out because they believe they have good quality services and global contracts provide them with wider visibility and access to capital in major markets like the US. These collaborations have been given an impetus by the new National Education Policy, 2020, which encourages education through foreign universities to help establish India as a global education hub. These partnerships are expected to provide students with an excellent learning environment as well as access to inter-disciplinary programmes.

Bridging our digital divide: Indian edtech firms are providing access to education to marginalized communities nationally with support from the public sector. State governments have also risen to the challenge posed by the pandemic by developing a learning ecosystem beyond the traditional school setup. The Government School Transformation Programme under the 5T initiative (Transparency, Teamwork, Technology, and Timeliness leading to Transformation) of the Odisha government is a case in point. It would also be useful for the state government to develop tablet distribution policies in alliance with Edtech companies to help overcome the digital divide.

Our advantage has always been content. In the last decade, we have seen an entire industry emerge that uses technology to develop high-quality content and innovative solutions. It is for state governments to harness these resources to maximize the benefits of that advantage for public purposes.

As India rightfully claims its place under the sun in our 75th year of independence, edtech is a shining example of a sector that’s taking Indian pedagogy to the world. Earlier, it made news when someone of Indian origin became a significant leader in a Fortune 500 company. Today, Indian edtech companies, using Indian and other techniques and tools, are making a difference at scale for Indians and foreigners alike.

Amar Patnaik is a member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha from Odisha representing the Biju Janata Dal.


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Updated: 10 Aug 2022, 10:41 PM IST
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