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India Needs Greater Innovation in Education

India Needs Greater Innovation in Education

Technology-backed innovations are key to redesigning the education environment in which schools and institutes are operating.

Illustration by Anirban Ghosh Illustration by Anirban Ghosh

The education ecosystem currently is at the intersection of the offline and online modes compelled by external factors. This has greatly accelerated digital adoption in education delivery. With such changes, comes the need for creativity and faster improvements to ensure there is no gap in the skilling process for both learners and learning providers.

Just like any other sector, innovation is essential to introduce and improvise the qualitative changes in educational content, teaching methods, and practices. Technology-backed innovations are key to redesigning the education environment in which schools/institutes operate. The government has adopted various initiatives towards educational support for children who lost their parents to Covid-19, children with special needs, integrated teacher training programmes, and so on. It is the responsibility of private edtech players to join the bandwagon and innovate together, forming better public-private partnerships.

Online education has the advantage

According to recent industry reports, India’s online education market is poised to grow by $2.28 billion during 2021-2025, at a CAGR of 20 per cent. This growth is driven by macroeconomic factors including government initiatives, disposable income, internet penetration, increasing importance of skill development and employment, and rapid digitalisation in education. According to KPMG, India has also become the second largest market for e-learning after the US. The edtech space has seen strong growth globally, including in India, with the Covid-19 pandemic serving as an inflexion point.

The four growth drivers

Today, with online education being the core medium for learning across elementary, medium, and higher education, there are four focal points for continuous innovation and growth of the sector.

1. Accessibility: Data released by the Unified District Information System for Education for the academic session 2019-20 shows that 78 per cent of schools in India don’t have internet facilities and more than 61 per cent do not even have computers. While online education platforms can make learning accessible to learners beyond the barriers of geography, it is also imperative to ensure access to the supporting infrastructure that enables them to pursue education.

2. Quality of faculty: In e-learning, there is always a bunch of challenges that learners may face such as not being able to focus and maintain self discipline throughout the training modules. And this is exactly why it is critical to have regular mentorship/ feedback sessions, and discussion forums by industry leaders who understand the market conditions and can handhold learners to overcome the challenges. The other aspect is the quality of education in terms of content and services. With the rise of virtual learning, more experienced and qualified faculties can be onboarded to produce quality content.

3. Affordability: The National Education Policy 2020 launched by the government is in line with the 2030 Agenda for UN SDG which outlines affordability as one of the core tenets. Among the sectors that bore the brunt of Covid-19, the plight of private and other offline institutions is perhaps one of the least recognised. The pandemic has brought significant shifts in the job market and pushed professionals to accept digitisation as the only means to operate. Professionals are rethinking their careers and upskilling choices. To address the rising demand for quality affordable education, edtech players in India are working constantly to make global learning possible for millions.

4. The 3L model: Life Long Learning is the concept that essentially rests on the online education model and will evolve the continuous learning process for individuals as well as corporate firms. The adoption of learning for life cuts across all age groups driven by three needs: employability, social learning and entrepreneurship. The concept of 3L has been deployed by most firms partially, with a focus on individual learning but there is ample opportunity for it to mature by exploring newer avenues of delivery relevant to a consumer segment and online education channel.

Changing perception pushes need for innovation

While individuals from Tier I cities were aware of educational trends, those from Tier II and Tier III cities weren’t. Now, there is significant demand coming from smaller towns. Working professionals , too, are exploring career development programmes. ‘Reskilling and online certifications’ is the largest category today at $93 million, largely backed by employers’ preference for certain experts and the changes in employment trends. Another shift is the changing mindset of India’s students who perceive convenience, flexibility with commencement dates and variety of study material as key motivational factors to adapt to the online channel. Another trend is personalisation.

Innovation calls for investments

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of technology in India’s education sector, a traditionally slow-moving space. Investors started pouring funds into a sector with the country becoming home to five edtech unicorns in just 12 months; about $42 billion in 2021 has been raised by the Indian startups, up from $11.5 billion in the previous year.

We are witnessing an era where the rising tech-tonic shifts have accelerated growth avenues for businesses. Rapid innovations have invited investments from foreign bodies, government, public and private firms. Technology-based developments will require regular R&D innovations backed with data analysis to keep the growth curve moving and bring equilibrium in the education system across the four pillars mentioned above.