Indian EdTech - Open for Vernacular Education Play

Indian EdTech - Open for Vernacular Education Play

Edtech industry has grown like never before in the year 2020.

"Preqin Pro data shows that venture capital-backed EdTech aggregate deal value in H1 2020 has increased 166% compared to the same period last year. Furthermore, as the number of deals rose to 219 (compared to 164 in H1 2019), average deal value more than tripled to $32mn."  

The boost could be due to emergency and the need that pandemic fuelled. Whatsoever may be the reason, the EdTech sector was blooming and continues to show growth. Two companies that stole the limelight amid the crisis were BYJU's and Unacademy. BYJU's, one of the global unicorns in the EdTech sector, secured $1.12 billion in 2020. Unacademy raised an undisclosed amount of funding that led to the company's soaring valuation to $2 billion. Unacademy's valuation had quadrupled from $510 million when it raised $110 million in 2020.    

BYJU's is the leading learning & tutoring app in India and with multiple recent acquisitions, it continues to be the preferred platform for learners across the country. The platform offers learning solutions for K-12 formal education across multiple boards, coding now via WhiteHat Jr and offers learning solutions for various entrance exam preparation like JEE, NEET, government exams and more.   

Also, Unacademy with its core and multiple acquisitions offers courses for aspirants of all entrances such as UPSC, SSC and bank exams, railway exams, defence exams, NET exams, JEE and NEET preparation, State PSC, GATE, ESE and IIT-JAM, NEET-PG, TET exams, Management & Foreign Studies, CA, CS & Law exams, CBSE and Personal and Skill Development. Both the platforms are a big hit among online learners and can capitalise on the regional language user base by offering solutions in vernacular. 

A report by NASSCOM on Vernacular Solutions put forwards stats that proves why language service is a potential hit in India. As per the report, 95 per cent of the country's population converses in vernacular, with a total number of 780 languages in India and approximately 122 languages have at least 10,000 speakers. Ninety-five per cent of video consumption is in vernacular language. Contrary to the user behaviour based on the report, India's language service market is less than 1% if the global market. With such diverse language needs and a population that communicates and prefers regional and local language, the industry is missing and ignoring the potential of bringing vernacular solutions to the table.   

Another article by RedSeer discusses the upcoming vernacular revolution in edtech. As per their research on learners across various edtech market segments (K12, test prep, professional learning), there is a strong need for vernacular education.   

"Based on our interaction with students, most Indian students are comfortable with another tongue, but in reality, most used instruction medium is English."  

Looking at most of the edtech platforms in the Indian market, most online and offline platforms do not cater to this need. Thus, it is crucial to address the gap and need for digital education in vernacular languages.    

Looking at the reports above, it is clear that vernacular solutions can change EdTech for the coming years. On the other side, let's understand the need for doing so. Since English is not "the language" for most people, it's prime to acknowledge the country's language diversity. To explore the potential of technology in education, vernacular solutions can address the existing language barriers and bridge them.   

While we are still offering "English" as a skill through enormous platforms that are helping learners acquire the skill of this fantastic language, we are also providing them learning content for almost everything in the very same language, knowing that most of these learners are not equipped to retain information in the default medium of instruction almost every EdTech platform has chosen.

Though English is a fantastic language, most professionals should learn it, considering how it is coined for globalisation and used for professional reasons. However, it is difficult to understand the need for using only this particular language as the medium of instruction for students in any education sector. This only widens the skills gap as significant platforms do not offer the option to choose the language learners to feel most comfortable learning from. For instance, a person who is not equipped to understand learning content in English may want to learn about coding or data analysis, but the language barrier may not allow the learner to take up the skill or course they want.  

Amid the pandemic, many edtech startups touched new heights. People embraced digital education with open arms, but many who weren't comfortable with the English language were left out of the digital wave in education. Looking at the opportunity, a few startups have recognised the gap and provided vernacular solutions.  

Speaking of EdTech in India, tier 1 cities make the most of the digital education, but it seems tier 2 and tier 3 cities lag in the changing education space. One key reason for this is the language barrier. Things are changing rapidly, but we still have areas where English hasn't taken a front seat as yet, and people aren't equipped with the language skills. Another critical reason for small cities in rural areas to not use digital education is unawareness of it. Again, vernacular solutions can increase awareness.   

Cities in tier2 and tier3 still prefer vernacular because they are familiar with the language and comfortable with it and because they simply do not have English proficiency. Despite having all the opportunities to learn new skills and upgrade, people cannot make the most of digital education. It's a vicious circle where the language barrier becomes the reason for the masses not to pursue and learn all they want to.  

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