For ed-tech’s growth to be sustainable and equitable, India needs a robust ed-tech policy, followed by regulatory measures.
IN January this year, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan announced that the Union Government is working on a policy to regulate education technology (Ed-Tech) platforms. This came in the wake of a strong shift towards EdTech driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, when online education became the bridge to provide flexible and quality education.
The EdTech market is expected to grow to USD 10 billion by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 30 per cent (2020-2025). The National Education Policy, 2020 also provides a push towards the ed-tech sector by proposing to set up a National Education Technology Forum.
EdTech startups witnessed funding of over $4.7 billion in 2021 and $2.1 billion in 2020, as compared to $393 million in 2019. The EdTech market is expected to grow to USD 10 billion by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 30 per cent (2020-2025). The National Education Policy, 2020 also provides a push towards the ed-tech sector by proposing to set up a National Education Technology Forum. But what we urgently need is a policy and regulatory framework to sustain the ed-tech bubble.
(c) Data Protection: To enable online learning, ed-tech firms collect massive amounts of personal and sensitive personal information, especially of children who are the end-users of the ed-tech services. These firms also rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to analyze the data they collect, to refine their services and improve their reach. Often, ed-tech companies tie-up with other companies to carry out big-data analyses. This raises data privacy concerns, and questions as to how safe children are online.
Without a comprehensive data privacy law, ed-tech companies are prone to data breaches. Online learning platform EduReka in September 2020, online educational platform Unacademy in January 2020, and online tutoring platform Vedantu in September 2019 suffered data breaches, thus highlighting the need to address data protection concerns.
Acknowledging the growth of the ed-tech industry during the pandemic, the government issued an advisory to citizens regarding the use of caution against ed-tech companies. This advisory requires citizens to assess financial features, quality of content, usage of data, and focus on child safety while opting for online content. However, the advisory is primarily targeted at the citizens, cautioning them to take measures, instead of regulating the ed-tech firms.
However, the advisory is primarily targeted at the citizens, cautioning them to take measures, instead of regulating the ed-tech firms.
Pursuant to the advisory, fifteen ed-tech firms came together to form the ‘India EdTech Consortium’ under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India to develop a self-regulatory code. While self-regulation is a positive step, there is a need for a policy to address the challenges posed by the ed-tech sector and set standards for its functioning.
What should the ed-tech policy do?
A model policy should:
(a) Lay down a clear demarcation of ‘ed-tech’ between the supplementary use of technology as an after-school tool versus as a substitute to education in classrooms.