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EdTech regulation policy on the anvil: Education Minister

Context:

The booming education technology sector, which has benefited from the disruptions in traditional education during the pandemic, is likely to face regulation soon by the means of a common policy, according to Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues Related to Education), GS-III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Ed-tech and what is its significance?
  2. EdTech industry in India
  3. Concerns to be addressed with the advent of EdTech
  4. Way Forward

What is Ed-tech and what is its significance?

  • ‘Educational Technology’ or Ed-Tech refers to hardware and software designed to enhance teacher-led learning in classrooms and improve students’ education outcomes.
  • EdTech is still in the early stages of its development, but it shows promise as a method of customizing a curriculum for a student’s ability level by introducing and reinforcing new content at a pace the student can handle.
  • The various potential advantages of EdTech are seen in:
    • Enabling greater personalisation of education
    • Enhancing educational productivity by improving rates of learning,
    • Reducing costs of instructional material and service delivery at scale
    • Utilizing of teacher/instructor time more effectively.
  • The impending need to weave technology into education can be seen from the disruption of traditional brick-and-mortar service delivery models across sectors.

EdTech industry in India

  • India’s school education landscape is facing daunting challenges as reflected by successive ASER surveys and the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to exacerbate this crisis. This combined with the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has made it imperative to reimagine education and align it with the unprecedented technological transformation.
  • The Indian ed-tech ecosystem has a lot of potential for innovation. With over 4,500 start-ups and a current valuation of around $700 million, the market is geared for exponential growth — estimates project an astounding market size of $30 billion in the next 10 years.
  • India is well-poised to take this leap forward with increasing access to tech-based infrastructure, electricity, and affordable internet connectivity, fueled by flagship programmes such as Digital India and DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for School Education).
  • Government of India’s Aspirational Districts Programme on tech-enabled monitoring and implementation that emphasises citizen engagement, partnerships and effective service delivery.
  • Accelerated by increasing smartphone users and the shift to digital-learning models, the sector was already witnessing huge traction but with COVID-pandemic led lockdown, the edtech industry has witnessed exponential growth.
  • India has emerged to be among the top three countries in the world after China and the USA to get the most venture capital funding in the edtech sector. Because of the growth, the edtech industry has garnered the interest of investors globally. In 2020 alone, the edtech sector received $16.1B in VC funding, a 32x increase from 500M received in 2010.
  • There are around 624 million active internet users in India as of February 2021. These active users offer a huge growth opportunity for the edtech stakeholders.

Concerns to be addressed with the advent of EdTech

  • According to National Sample Survey data for 2017-18, only 42 percent of urban and 15 percent of rural households had internet access – hence, NOT everyone who can afford to go to school can afford to have phones, computers, or even a quality internet connection for attending classes online.
  • Technology is not affordable to all, shifting towards online education completely is like taking away the Right to Education of those who cannot access the technology.
  • Technology cannot substitute schools or replace teachers. It’s not “teachers versus technology”; the solution is in “teachers and technology”. In fact, tech solutions are impactful only when embraced and effectively leveraged by teachers.
  • There is a danger in providing digital infrastructure without a plan on how it’s to be deployed or what teaching-learning approaches it would support – technology must be in service of the learning model.
  • Ed-tech can increase the already existing digital divide – as those who cannot access education through online means will be pushed further away from digitization.

Way Forward

  • There must be a mechanism to thoroughly map the ed-tech landscape, especially their scale, reach, and impact. The focus should be on access, equity, infrastructure, governance, and quality-related outcomes and challenges for teachers and students.
  • The policy formulation and planning process must strive to enable convergence across schemes (education, skills, digital governance, and finance), foster integration of solutions through public-private partnerships, factor in voices of all stakeholders, and bolster cooperative federalism across all levels of government.
  • It must be ensured that ed-tech policies focus on four key elements:
    • Access – providing access to learning, especially to disadvantaged groups
    • Enabling processes of teaching, learning, and evaluation
    • Teaching – facilitating teacher training and continuous professional development
    • Governance – Improving governance systems including planning, management, and monitoring processes.

-Source: The Hindu

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