During the Covid-19 pandemic, academic institutions embraced technology- based innovative solutions to help students continue their education. This urgent need created an opportunity for early adopters and players in the e-learning segment. The eagerness of established institutions and government bodies to partner with the private sector and parents and students flocking to online education options caused an avalanche of ed-tech startups. As per reports from September 2021, there are approximately 4530 ed-tech companies in India with funding in-pour of billions and this sector is estimated to touch $30 billion by 2030.
As the Covid pandemic wanes, we have an opportunity to examine the benefits and drawbacks of the different technologies and to make more considered decisions about what to use and how best to implement these measures.
Technology: Crucial in effective education
The pandemic crisis showed that educational technologies have a crucial role in effective education and preventing any future unforseen disruptions. With technology advancements at an all-time high and the world moving towards the metaverse, India must keep leveraging digital technology to enter the top 10 of global innovation indices. The education system in India has been very traditional. The pandemic forced us to innnovate and move towards digitization. With students’ return to physical classrooms, digital education has slowed down and the hyped-up ed-tech startup sector bubble has burst. It is crucial that we not lose the gains that were made during the pandemic. It is important to leverage public and private partnerships to continue the progress we have made, while mitigating the problems that occurred.. With the resources of the private sector and the reach and guidance of the public sector, here’s how e-learning can help us evolve as a country:
- Democratization of education – The introduction of e-learning has helped bring education to It has helped increase access to not just primary education but higher education as well. Technology has helped educate our society about the importance of critical learning. The focus has shifted from grades, marks and jobs to holistic development. A public- private partnership would ensure that the education sector continues its focus on making education more inclusive and at par with global standards.
- Skills development and vocational training – India boasts one of the largest workforces in the With the demands for skilled workers, it is mind-boggling that we are not at the centre stage of global education, innovation and literacy. A major portion of our population has negligible access to education or unfavourable conditions to pursue higher education. This is especially true in the case of women. Be it because of being the sole breadwinner, the weight of supporting the family at a younger age or gender bias against women, a lot of people are unable to continue their education and realize their full potential. With ed-tech at play, it has become easier for adults to pursue higher education or vocational training.
- Remote reach – The active participation of the private and public sector in managing and operating academic institutions online helped augment a high-quality modern set-up for students and boost many more projects under the public-private partnership On the other hand, it also shone a light on India’s digital divide. In India, disparities in educational attainment between urban and rural populations have always existed. But divided access to technology exacerbated this problem. While the pandemic increased digitisation in education, increased reliance on technology required smartphones and high-speed internet access. Digital learning helped some students to continue their education, but the lack of technology decreased educational access for children in remote areas or from lower-income households.
- Statistics suggest that more than 20% of students lack the necessary tech tools to pursue digital education including smartphones, digital literacy and a high-speed internet network, mainly in rural areas. A private-public partnership might just be the right solution to address the digital divide. As more courses become available online, educational providers have an incentive to make sure that potential customers have the tools needed to access these resources.
Building an eco-system – The digital transformation brought on by ed-tech has not only benefited the students but also the It has empowered educators to adapt and adopt a more effective form of teaching. Public-private partnership also ensures educational advancements by providing schools and teachers with the data necessary for overcoming educational gaps. With data insights at hand, growth can be driven by on-ground innovations that take students’ needs into account. Moreover, technology and its insights can help teachers and understand student data at a granular level and help focus and target remedial solutions to help students do better.
While public-private partnerships have many benefits for both parties, it is crucial that we approach these ventures with deliberation, rather than allowing the unrestrained growth that characterized the ed-tech industry during the pandemic. With the current regulations proposed by the government have slowed the ed- tech industry’s growth, these decisions have gained support in light of unwanted, unethical practices that have occurred in the sector. Because of the unprecedented opportunities, a lot of start-ups sprouted to compete in the valuation race and join the unicorn club. The focus of many businesses shifted from providing services and providing valuable innovations to exploitation and money minting.
Just like the games and entertainment industry, many companies in the ed-tech sector also adopted the ‘pay-to-play’ approach. In the hands of students, especially younger kids, this tool became dangerous as children did not realize that the services were not free. Regulations and policies will help the sector grow in a way that is ethical and profits all stakeholders involved.
We must acknowledge the pivotal role that the ed-tech sector played in ensuring students didn’t completely lose out on their studies when lockdowns prevented physical classes. It was ed-tech that saved the day and there is potential for continued benefits for the educational system. Harmonious ed-tech collaboration between the public and private sector benefits everyone as long as industry growth is maintained without encouraging unsavoury practices.
A hybrid model for transitioning back to school is the way ahead. Ed-tech augmentation with the help of public-private partnerships will ensure the effective and ethical expansion and innovation of the sector.
(The author, Dr Elisabeth Levi, is the VP Research and Assessment Development at Speaknow)