Education Ministry is not maintaining the data on edtech start-ups as of now, Minister of State in Ministry Dr Subhash Sarkar told the Lok Sabha. He further said that the Education Ministry has initiated National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT) as a public-private partnership model to bring famous education technological products on one platform to benefit learners.
Dr Sarkar explained that any student belonging to the economically and socially weaker sections (EWS) can benefit from NEAT as 25 per cent of the coupons are provisioned for them free of cost. 48 edtech companies that provide 79 products are listed on this portal. ~2 lakh students are registered on this portal as of now.
While explaining the government policy vis-à-vis exploitative practices of edtech companies, Dr Sarkar cited the Ministry of Education’s advisory dated December 23, 2021. This advisory details do's and don’ts for the stakeholders. As per this advisory, users have been urged to not trust the adverts of edtech companies blindly.
The Ministry also urged people to not sign up for any loans that they haven’t been informed about beforehand, adding that users should avoid installing any mobile edtech apps without verifying their authenticity. “Do not trust the “Success stories” shared by the edtech companies without proper check as they might be a trap to gather more audience,” the Ministry noted.
It also urged people to not sign up for automatic debit option for paying the subscription fees.
“Some edtech companies may offer the free-premium business model where a lot of their services might seem to be free at first glance but to gain continuous learning access, students have to opt for a paid subscription. Activation of auto-debit may result in a child accessing the paid features without realising that he/she may result in a child accessing the free services offered by the edtech company,” the advisory underscored.
He also talked about the public notice issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) dated January 16, 2022 which warned students about edtech companies offering degree and diploma programmes in open and distance learning (ODL) and online modes.
The UGC notice notes that higher educational institutions which are recognised by it are not allowed to offer courses in ODL and online modes under any franchisee arrangement. It added that HEIs are solely responsible for any such programmes.
The notice read, “However, it has come to the notice of UGC recently that some edtech companies are giving advertisements in newspaper/social media/television etc. that they are offering degree and diploma programmes in ODL/online modes in association with some universities/institutions recognised/entitled by the UGC.”
It further noted, “Such a franchisee arrangement is not permissinle and action will be taken against defaulting edtech companies as well as higher education institutions (HEIs) under applicable laws/rules/ regulations. All the students are also hereby advised that they should check the recognition/entitlement status of the programmes on UGC (DEB) website mentioned above before enrolling in any course.”
Sarkar also cited UGC (Open and Distance Learning Programmes and Online Programmes) Regulations, 2020 for offering full-fledged online programmes by higher education institutions.
He said, “These regulations, inter-alia, include eligibility conditions, recognition process for offering online programmes, maintenance of infrastructural, academic and other quality standards by HEIs. It prohibits franchise arrangement with private sector and the ownership of offering online programmes shall be that of HEIs only.”
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