Coronavirus unleashed a whirlwind that many could not brave. Even well-planned industry infrastructures failed to cope with the pressures and uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, and rightly so. No one, anywhere in the world, was prepared to confront something of this magnitude.
However, the pandemic proved to be a watershed moment for two industries in particular – EdTech and eCommerce.
Although EdTech is an emerging market that was steadily gaining pace, COVID-19 gave it the extra momentum, making way for the sector’s massive expansion. India’s EdTech market is all set to increase by 3.7 times in the upcoming five years, growing from US$ 2.8 billion (in 2020) to US$ 10.4 billion by 2025).
The EdTech Revolution
For long, educational institutions in India have followed the “factory model” approach that entails a common and standard learning methodology for all. Students are treated as components of an assembly line where each student learns at an average pace in a classroom-based environment. There’s hardly any scope for personalized learning in this model.
What the factory model approach fails to consider is that each student is different – each learns at a unique pace. They have different ways of grasping the same concept. What may work for one learner, may not work in the exact same way for another. Consequently, classroom-based learning often leaves gaps in the overall learning outcome.
This is where EdTech enters to transform the education and learning scenarios. EdTech has emerged as the new supplementary education or “coaching” opportunity that students generally gained through private tutors and institutes to fill the gaps in classroom learning. EdTech is a vital link between student enrolment (participation) and enhanced learning.
Today, thanks to EdTech platforms, students can enhance their knowledge base and clear their doubts through online learning portals, programs, and institutes. From short-term certification courses to long-term undergraduate and postgraduate programs, EdTech platforms offer a wide range of industry-relevant courses.
EdTech is bringing forth pioneering solutions that go way beyond classroom learning to include personalized course curriculum and learning approaches to cater to the needs of individual learners. Modern EdTech solutions and learning programs are designed to help students enhance their competencies, critical thinking and creative abilities by integrating theoretical learning with practical experiments, case studies, and assignments.
The core idea of EdTech is to create such educational programs and courses that are highly relevant to the changing times.
For instance, at upGrad, we have collaborated with some of the top universities, both in India and overseas, to offer a diverse range of online programs. The top university names include IIIT-Bangalore, MICA, Duke University, Deakin University, NMIMS, IMT, IIT Madras, Jindal Global Business School, BIMTECH, and LJMU. upGrad courses cover general education streams like Arts, Education, Law, and Health & Psychology, along with some of the most trending industry domains, including Data Science, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Software & Technology, Marketing, and Management.
With over 300+ hiring partners, we strive to help launch the careers of our learners. Our instructors and faculty members impart knowledge through a combination of live lectures and online learning sessions.
We provide 360-degree career support and dedicated doubt resolution slots, resume building sessions, and mock interviews to enhance the learning experience of each student.
Not just that, upGrad learners enjoy the perks of engaging in one-on-one interaction sessions with industry experts and mentors, participating in hiring drives, and offline networking sessions. Together, these activities ensure that candidates are well-groomed and ready to step into the professional world.
Besides helping close the learning gap of classroom-education, EdTech is also playing a crucial role in bridging the skill gap. According to the WEF’s Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) 2019, as of 2019, India ranked 68th out of 141 countries in terms of competitive index, slipping down by 10 places from 2018. Even though our country boasts of massive market size, educated youth, and innovation opportunities, India falls significantly behind in workforce skills, particularly digital skills, vocational training, and the readiness of finding competent and skilled professionals.
What’s even more surprising is that despite being one of the biggest markets for Internet and digital technologies, India held the 120th rank in information and communication technology (ICT) adoption!
What does this highlight?
It highlights a very important fact that although we have one of the biggest pools of talented and educated professionals in the world, they lack industrial competency and skills. In a market where many jobs are being sidelined by automation and other technological interventions, it is mandatory to upskill to boost your professional value. EdTech platforms offer the perfect solution for professionals to upskill.
They make higher education and vocational/technical training accessible to students and professionals from all backgrounds. You can choose to further your knowledge in any specialization you want via online learning without hampering your professional commitments. The best part is that you can learn at your preferred pace and convenience.
When the country’s educated and professional populace is equipped with industry-specific skills, it creates a foundation of a competitive workforce and economy.
The present and future of EdTech
Since the pandemic broke loose, people have largely been confined to their homes, thanks to intermittent and indefinite lockdown periods. Everything – from grocery shopping to office meetings to learning – shifted to the online domain.
As people couldn’t venture outside, they resorted to accomplishing all their tasks online. During the pandemic, schools and educational institutions adopted digital technologies to facilitate learning activities at home itself.
Governments, educational institutes, and teachers across the world innovated new approaches and techniques to help students learn and grasp concepts through digital learning. Granted that not all of their teaching strategies were successful, it proved one important fact – learning can happen beyond the classroom as well. Almost all private educational institutions in urban areas shifted to the online learning model to enable teacher-student interaction in real-time.
But government-aided and public educational institutions struggled quite a lot to offer such learning facilities to their students owing to limited resources and funding.
What’s necessary is for institutions to be in sync with the EdTech Readiness Framework (ERF), a key metric for tracking the growth boosters in the EdTech industry. For EdTech to bring a tangible disruption in K12 and post-K12 segments, it is crucial to align learning strategies with the four key tenets of ERF:
Digital adoption among families and individuals
Awareness of EdTech
Willingness to pay for EdTech solutions
Funding in EdTech companies
India’s rapid and expansive Internet penetration, increasing awareness of EdTech and digital technologies among the general populace, and a massive untapped market creates a promising outlook for EdTech players.
As per the latest stats, over 4,450 EdTech startups have been launched in India between January 2014 and September 2019. By 2025, it is estimated that EdTech products & services will have more than 37 million paid users.
Furthermore, according to Redseer’s Edtech Report, by 2022, online education solutions for K12 will likely increase 6.3 times, becoming a US$ 1.7 billion market. As for the post-K12 market, it will expand by 3.7 times to reach a market size of US$ 1.8 billion.
Omidyar Network India’s 2017 research maintains that by 2022, India will have half a billion new users, a.k.a., the Next Half Billion (NHB), who’ll come online for the first time. The NHB demographic will primarily comprise the “aspirer” segment who’ll adopt a mobile-first Internet approach.
The aspirer segment encompasses numerous occupations under its canvas, including small shop owners, vegetable vendors, domestic help, security guards, masons, electricians, plumbers, and gig-economy workers.
This demographic that was largely deprived of quality education facilities are gradually entering the digital umbrella, thanks to increasing Internet penetration, affordable data plans, affordable smartphones, and increasing access to online marketplaces and vernacular mobile applications.
These stats only reinstate that India’s EdTech market is rife with opportunities to transform and disrupt the traditional education landscape.
What needs to be done?
Education delivery and unemployment are two major challenges India faces. Although the primary and secondary school network has expanded considerably over the past decade, the enrolment ratio is not very impressive.
As of 2019, India’s Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education stood at 26.3%, indicating that there’s still a long way to go. Infrastructure is one of the biggest obstacles in the delivery of quality education to students throughout India, particularly in remote and rural areas.
Can EdTech coupled with affordable Internet connectivity then solve such challenges and transform education in India for the better?
As per recent stats, India’s online education market is set to grow at a CAGR of 21% between 2020-24 to reach a market size of US$ 14.33 billion, indicating that there’s immense potential in this sector.
However, the problem lies in the fact that the present challenges faced by the education sector are not concentrated in a single region but arise from multiple domains, right from infrastructural and technical to behavioural.
While the current market trends show that digital learning is here to stay, EdTech players need to collaborate with both government and private educational institutions to create a well-designed educational infrastructure and delivery model. Meticulous planning and access to the right tools can help EdTech companies to accomplish the three much-needed tenets in education: equity, quality, and public outreach.
Here are the four main concerns that must be addressed to give shape to the EdTech revolution in India:
1. Infrastructure – The pandemic resulted in a major shift from the physical classroom learning model to the digital learning model. While this shift may alleviate India’s pressing problems of physical infrastructure, the digital learning model must also consider how to reach every nook and corner of rural India to cover the financially and socially marginalised sections.
Governments must play an active role here. They must design affordable digital solutions that can reach the masses and not just be limited to the urban areas. For instance, the television learning approach can make a real difference in the delivery of education to one and all.
2. Educational content – With changing times, it is imperative that the educational content taught to students also undergoes a revision and upgrade. After all, what value will a degree hold if it cannot get you a job or make you a self-reliant individual in the present job market? Schools, colleges, and universities must revamp their curriculum to incorporate trending and in-demand skills like coding, machine learning, business management, etc.
This is the reason why upGrad has been focusing on delivering quality educational content on the hottest topics in the industry right now. The idea is to help the present generation acquire skills that are not only relevant now but will also be there in the future.
3. Teacher upskilling – With the learning models and content changing before our eyes, it is important for teachers to up their game. Educational institutions must invest in training and upskilling their teaching staff to help them deliver best-in-class education to students.
They must be ready to leverage and adopt digital learning tools and platforms to ensure that students can continue their learning seamlessly. Proper training and upskilling will help teachers and instructors to respond adequately to the changing demands of the education industry.
4. Peer-to-peer learning – Socialization and peer-to-peer learning are two of the biggest plus points of school-based classroom learning. Students get to interact with their peers, share their ideologies and opinions and learn from each other. Such everyday interactions among students play a crucial role in shaping their minds and social behaviour.
Typically, digital learning platforms fail to acknowledge this aspect of classroom learning. However, EdTech platforms can address the problem of social alienation by conducting offline networking events where students can interact with instructors, peers, and industry experts to gain a more comprehensive viewpoint. At upGrad, we try to hold offline events, BaseCamp for students to encourage them to interact with their peers and mentors.
It is clear that tech-based learning solutions are the future of education. What was optional until now is rapidly transforming into a mandatory need for creating a learning environment that helps learners acquire industry-relevant skills. With the EdTech wave fast-penetrating into the Indian education scenario, it is safe to say that governments, educational institutions, teachers, parents, and students are becoming more inclined towards digital technologies. In the coming years, India will witness a steep rise in investment, innovation, and adoption in the EdTech sector.