Policies Supporting the Growth of EdTech in India

Policies Supporting the Growth of EdTech in India

Before we directly move on to the main theme that discusses the policies supporting the growth of EdTech in India, it is important to first understand how the EdTech community is shaping up in the country as one of the major segment industries.

Last week, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that Bengaluru-based education and learning app Byju's (the only unicorn in the Indian EdTech ecosystem), has replaced Oppo India as the official Team India sponsor. With news like this you can imagine how edtech is perceived by masses and what it would mean for the country.

With an overflowing youth population - a veritable army of 600 million young people under the age of 25, India’s demography is rapidly expanding and is increasingly banking upon high-quality education to be its driving force towards a prosperous future of the nation.  In terms of both students enrolled and the numbers of institutions established, the Indian education market is the largest in the world. It consists of over 1.1 million government schools, 350,000 private schools, 40,000 colleges and almost 900 universities, and thousands of private sector examination preparation and tutorial centers.

However, in today’s date, the most prevalent factor with the largest interplay in the education sector is the role of technology. Technology is not only bringing in newer models of education and learning, but is also restructuring the conventional ones. The advent of technology in education has democratized learning by bridging gaps between the urban and rural, the gender parity, etc. among its many other benefits.

According to a report by KPMG, the size of India’s e-learning market was $247 million, comprising 1.6 million users in 2016. The market size is likely to grow eight-fold to $1.96 billion and the user base will grow six times to 9.6 million users by 2021. In fact, India’s e-learning market is the second largest after the US, which is forecast to exceed $48 billion by 2020. 

Nonetheless, a change of this multitude cannot be brought about without the formulation of the right policies and their efficient execution by the State. As the EdTech sector began expanding, the Govt. of India also realized its potential and how it had the power to transform the system of education and learning in India. It is obvious that emphasis on ICT is a crying need as it acts as a multiplier for capacity building efforts of educational institutions without compromising the quality. Thus, the State not only recognized the role of technology in transforming lives but also began taking initiative for adapting the policy framework in the nation to enable EdTech to spread its wings and blossom.

The Government of India is keen to use the technological resources in helping its mission - to make Higher Education accessible to all deserving students. In this regard, it has launched its National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT) in 2009 to provide the opportunity for all the teachers and experts in the country to pool their collective wisdom for the benefit of every Indian learner and, thereby, reducing the digital divide.

  • NMEICT has been envisaged as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to leverage the potential of ICT, in teaching and learning process for the benefit of all the learners in Higher Education Institutions in any time-anywhere mode.
  • The three cardinal principles of Education Policy viz., access, equity and quality could be served well by providing connectivity to all colleges and universities, providing low cost and affordable access-cum-computing devices to students and teachers and providing high quality e-content free of cost to all learners in the country. NMEICT encompasses all the three elements.

Furthermore, the Mission has the following major components:

  • Providing connectivity, along with provision for access devices, to institutions and learners;
  • Content generation
  • It seeks to bridge the digital divide, i.e. the gap in the skills to use computing devices for the purpose of teaching and learning among urban and rural teachers/learners in Higher Education domain and empower those, who have hitherto remained untouched by the digital revolution and have not been able to join the mainstream of the knowledge economy.
  • It plans to focus on appropriate pedagogy for e-learning, providing facility of performing experiments through virtual laboratories, on-line testing and certification, on-line availability of teachers to guide and mentor learners, utilization of available Education Satellite (EduSAT) and Direct to Home platforms, training and empowerment of teachers to effectively use the new method of teaching learning etc.

This is how the Mission seeks to support such initiatives and build upon the synergies between various efforts by adopting a holistic approach. The Mission is also necessary to sustain a high growth rate of our economy through capacity building and knowledge empowerment of the people and for promoting new, upcoming multi-disciplinary fields of knowledge.

And now, a decade later in 2019, as technology has become essential for the upgradation of the quality of education in India for the next-gen, the government has taken a step beyond allocating budget to support the Mission Education in the country. After more than two years of consultations, the committee of draft national education policy 2019, under the Ministry of Human Resource Development has submitted the draft for public consultations.

At the core, the draft policy has “proposed the revision and revamping of all aspects of the education structure, its regulation and governance, to create a new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of 21st century education, while remaining consistent with India’s traditions and value systems.” The draft policy says that technology will play an important role in the improvement of educational processes and outcomes. It underlines the following as important aspects of the policy and everything that it stand for-

  • The draft policy also includes that high quality specialized content will be made available in open educational repositories so that all learners have access to high quality educational content, copyright-free educational resources including textbooks, reference books, videos (ideally with subtitles), teaching-learning materials, etc. These will be created and curated from national and global sources at all levels of education and in multiple Indian languages, and made available in a single online digital repository e.g. the National Digital Library or NROER (national repository of open educational resources).
  • There shall also be an autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), which will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to improve learning, assessment, planning and administration. To support the development of a vibrant body of knowledge and practice, NETF will organize multiple regional and national conferences, workshops, etc. to solicit inputs from national and international educational technology researchers, entrepreneurs and practitioners. Viplav Baxi, Author, WhatIfEDU who has also helped shape policy level recommendations on EdTech in the Draft National Education Policy 2019 stated that “At its heart, the proposed National Education Technology Forum (NETF) is envisioned to be an institutional mechanism to build collective capabilities and drive greater research & development in EdTech. Centres of excellence in EdTech will help power institutional transformation. The development of personalized, adaptive and intelligent learning & assessment tools, games, simulations and AR/VR content will greatly benefit teachers and students.”
  • The policy is looking for supporting technology for planning, administration and management of the entire education system and this will require considerable investment in basic infrastructure such as electricity, hardware and connectivity. It will also use technology to improve access to education for disadvantaged groups, including differently abled students, girls and women, and students living in remote areas.
  • Not only this, it also sheds light on National Academic Depository, with the help of which the problem of fake degrees can now be solved very smoothly by the new Blockchain technology.

The Govt. also plans to use FOSSEE (Free/Libre and Open Source Software in Education) project, which promotes the use of FLOSS tools to improve the quality of education in our country, by aiming to reduce dependency on proprietary software in educational institutions.  Wherever necessary, the government will pay for professionally developing and maintaining the software, and will acquire the rights to distribute it to learners, teachers and institutions for free-and-unlimited offline usage.

Apart from these major policies, the Govt. has also launched several programmes such as ‘Digital India’ and ‘Skill India’ to spread digital literacy, create a knowledge-based society in India, and implement three principles ‘access, equity and quality’ of the education policy. The following are examples of means through which the Govt. implements these principles-

  • e-Basta (schools books in digital form)
  • e-Education (all schools connected with broadband and free WiFi in all schools and develop pilot MOOCs, or Massive Online Open Courses)
  • Nand Ghars (digital tools as teaching aids)
  • SWAYAM (MOOCs based on curriculum taught in classrooms from 9th class till post-graduation)
  • India Skills Online (learning portal for skill training)
  • In order to establish digital infrastructure, the government has also launched National Optical Fibre Network, which aims to expand broadband connectivity and create a fast network.

Apart from these, earlier this year, UGC allowed higher education institutes to offer online courses. With the University Grants Commission approving the UGC (Online Courses) Regulations, 2018, higher educational institutions can now offer certificate, diploma and degree programmes in full-fledged online mode in line with their regular programmes.

Only those disciplines in which qualifying institutions have already been offering the same or similar programmes/ courses at the undergraduate level in the regular mode (of classroom teaching), or in open and distance learning mode, approved by the statutory councils as applicable, and from which at least one batch has graduated, are eligible. A minimum National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) score of 3.26 on the 4-point scale is required. The release also mentioned that examinations would be conducted in the proctored mode and in conformity with any norms for such examinations stipulated by the UGC. Online learning courses shall necessarily have video lectures, e-content, self-assessment and discussion forums to clarify doubts.

While such attempts by the government definitely help in providing EdTech with platforms to become the next big thing in education, they will still not suffice in allowing technology to truly revolutionize the education and learning system in India.  The newer systems will only be effective when holistic changes will be allowed to not just penetrate in the age-old traditions of education but also, when they will become standardized and will be given paramount recognition equally throughout the nation. The need of the hour is to develop more efficient policies that support growth of EdTech in India along with, ensuring that EdTech pedagogies and assessments are given their rightful place in the Indian education system and are even recognized in the process of grabbing corresponding job opportunities.

When other edtech founders and leaders in the country were asked about the state of policies supporting edtech; Sarvesh Srivastava, Managing Director, Eupheus Learning highlighted that the draft National Education Policy 2019 by placing EdTech as a key focus area will add fillip to the growth of EdTech in Indian education whether it is for providing inclusive access, teacher professional development or improving learning and evaluation processes.

Kush Beejal, CEO, NeoStencil had a positive view that with the growth in internet connectivity and smartphone penetration, the government has been pushing its principles of “access, equity and quality” of education. Government push towards technology in education combined with Jio/internet revolution and fin-tech penetrating will create a very conducive environment at macro level for Indian ed-tech industry and pave the way for another 25-30 Edtech Unicorns like China. ​

“Economic Survey 2018-19 indicates that our economy is ‘shifting gears’ towards an investment lead growth. EdTech startups raised 0.57$bn capital in 2018 as per Economic Survey. Also the recent New Education policy states the importance of technology and points out its role in improving the classroom process, aids in continuous development of teachers and the most important one, access to quality education in remote areas and disadvantaged students,” he added.

He deeply respects initiatives like Digital India and Skill India which have played a significant role in spreading digital literacy and been by far an honest attempt in creating a knowledge-based society. 

He strongly believes that such initiatives help as a trust building factor for Edtech as people become comfortable combining Education with technology. “To give Edtech another boost, National Mission on Education along with the autonomous body, National Education Technology Forum will foster the culture of technology based education,” he quoted.

Viplav also added that, “The National Repository of Educational Data will help power the next generation of analytics for teaching-learning and decision making. Teachers are seen as change agents for EdTech and their professional development will be given a major boost through the integration of digital pedagogies in the curriculum as well as the implementation of education platforms for them. Refinements such as giving greater empowerment to the NETF, igniting entrepreneurship in the sector, investing in research via the NRF, setting education technology standards, building core technology stacks & platforms, content management systems, engaging teacher communities online, EdTech leadership development, parent and community engagement and transforming the use of EdTech in distance learning & vocational education ecosystems are important aspects that remain to be added to the policy.”

Whereas founders such as Rohin Kapoor, Co-Founder & COO, WONK App believe that, “The Indian Government is yet to assign top most priority to the education sector especially given its impact on future generations of our country. The massive scale & lack of physical infrastructure has led to innovative technological solutions being developed by EdTech startups, customized to the demands of the Indian market. In order to propel their growth, the government should provide an attractive regulatory framework which caters to all the operational needs of an EdTech start-up such as access to educational institutions for conducting pilots, growth capital, fostering partnerships with foreign partners & selective levy of GST on services offered. Being a social sector, the startups can greatly benefit from such interventions whose results will greatly overweigh the investments. Multi-lateral development organizations should also be invited by the Government to invest in EdTech startups.”

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About the Author
Author: Aakriti Sharma
Aakriti is an EdTech enthusiast, who rigorously maintains a positive outlook and understanding over how technology is the key to developing newer, more advanced pedagogies so as to transform and upscale the education sector globally; and believes her writings serve purpose to the same belief. Being a student herself, she becomes one with the EdTech sector and can deeply relate with everything that the sector embodies and stands for.

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