What’s the deal with the EdTech boom?

Anuradha C

EdTech is the latest buzz word in education, whether it is school education, college education or continuing education after employment. EdTech simply stands for application of Technology in Education. Just like how technology is playing the role of a major disruptor in several other walks of life (Fin Tech, Pharma Tech, BioTech, you get the drift!). Similarly, EdTech is revolutionizing the way we teach and learn.

The technology enablers that broadly fall under the scope of EdTech that have made this revolution possible are:
• Smart phones and laptops easily available among students and teachers.
• Broadband and 4G mobile network connectivity even in remote locations.
• Educational content in digital formats such as videos, documents, online examinations, interactive chat rooms.
• Online cloud storage such as Google Drive for sharing and disseminating educational content, almost inexhaustible space!
• Ed Tech companies that specialize in digital classrooms and certification courses such as Byjus, Unacademy, Great Learning, Khan Academy.

How big is the Ed Tech boom in India?
Even a casual look at the investment figures below will make us aware of the explosive growth in Ed Tech companies in India over the last five years. The pandemic has greatly accelerated digital adoption in India. The entire schooling eco-system was forced to go online with remote classes and examinations. Ed Tech companies were among the biggest beneficiaries of this situation.

PE-VC investments in educational, EdTech firms

YearNumber of dealsAmount ($M)
2021753,772
2020782,224
201961968
201857831
201741191

Source: Venture Intelligence

I managed to grab a few hours of TV time during the IPL and T20 World Cup cricket tournaments last year. If you want a slice of what fascinates the kids and young adults of today, this is just the space to watch. More than the sporting events, I was amazed at the TV advertisements that were shown in between. Remember, ad slot pricing rates are the highest in India during live cricket match telecasts. So imagine my surprise to see Byju’s online tuitions, Great Learning certification courses, Akash IIT/NEET preps competing for eye balls alongside virtual gaming apps, pan masala, flashy deodorants and liquor ads disguised as ‘packaged drinking water’! In 2021, it is reported that TV broadcasters charge roughly Rs. 18 lakhs for a 10 second ad slot during these tournaments. If these companies can afford such high levels of spending, you can imagine the money that’s pouring into these companies. Ed Tech is in the big league, I figured.

The picture below is a collage of the popular EdTech companies operating out of India.

They operate in the following education sectors primarily:
• School tuitions and K12 education.
• Competitive exam preparation tools for undergrads.
• Certification courses of continuing education for working adults.
• Technology and industry domain-oriented courses.
• Gaming, storytelling and other non-conventional educational tools.
• Music, languages and other extra-curricular interests.

Photosynthesis – NCERT 10th standard biology textbook

The good consequences of EdTech
• The bland and uninspiring study material present in school textbooks has made way for vivid, imaginative and comprehensive educational content – in audio, visual, textual and graphic formats.

Photosynthesis – Live video session for NEET preparatory classes

• Technology creates a level playing field. Children in semi-rural and rural locations now have access to the same educational content as kids in urban centers. This phenomenon especially manifests in great numbers among girls, aspiring to quality higher education. A parent may be happy to send their son to Kota, Rajasthan to enroll in an IIT coaching class. Whereas, sending their daughter would be a matter of deep reluctance. Such barriers are now removed.

• Private school teachers were paid paltry salaries before the onset of online tuitions. Now, a good teacher has an additional avenue to make money. In fact, these Ed Tech apps are very democratic in their teacher evaluations. Good teachers are well recognized and rewarded, whereas poor teaching is critically evaluated.

There are worrying consequences too
• The sharp increase in screen exposure time among kids and teachers is the first alarming consequence. This results in lack of outdoor activity, poor socializing skills, strain to the eyes and other motor functions.

• There are several children who dropped out of their conventional schools, just enrolled into Ed Tech courses and even cleared their board exams! It saved them a lot money in school fees, especially the non-academic fee components such as library fees, bus fares, canteen fees, sports fees which were irrelevant when schools were physically closed. Now that sounds like a good consequence, right? Yes, however, when children completely drop out of the mainstream school education format, there is no guaranteeing their returning to them when things are back to normal. School drop-out rates are at alarming highs in several Tier II and Tier III towns and villages in India.

• Excessive pressure on teachers hired by these Ed Tech companies to deliver teaching services, almost akin to the high pressure Pizza delivery job. Hot pizza to be delivered within 30 minutes, or you get your money back and the delivery boy gets the sack! Teaching has ceased to be a revered profession where the ‘Guru’ was placed at an exalted pedestal equal to one’s parents. Now, it’s just another service rendered for the payments made. And the student is no longer an obedient ‘shisya’, but a demanding customer!

• Most reputable online learning app enrolments are expensive. Though, there is enough material online available free of cost, it’s the paid tuition apps that have caught people’s fancy. It’s an additional strain on the pockets of parents in these troubled times. There is also heavy peer pressure among students to enroll in these apps when their friends are already onboard.

The author is an IT industry drop-out after several years of slogging and money-making. She is now working freelance as a corporate technical trainer and content writer. She is hoping to channelize her passion for writing into a satisfying experience for herself and a joyous experience for her readers. She can be reached at [email protected].

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