EMERGENCE OF LATEST SLANT OF EDUCATION SECTOR: A GATEWAY OF ACCESS TO NEW TECHNOLOGY AMIDST PANDEMIC
This article is authored by Aayush Akar & Deepanshi Kapoor students of Penultimate Year, National Law University Odisha & Pre-Penultimate Year, Alliance University, Bengaluru.
The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated the closure of schools and universities to combat the threat posed by the lethal virus. According to the UNICEF-ITU report, this was the largest widespread disruption of schooling in modern history, affecting 1.6 billion children worldwide. To confront the situation, policymakers around the world have urged for a shift to remote learning. For children throughout the world, the pandemic has ushered in a new era of Edtech. Learning from home technology was never embraced or used as much as it is at present.
In simple words, Edtech, or Education Technology refers to a compilation of IT tools and educational methods aimed at making learning easier and more enjoyable. It creates a paradigm shift in the traditional classroom’s learning approach by utilizing smart gadgets and the internet.
According to KPMG India and Google’s report, India’s Edtech market is predicted to rise eight times in three years. India's largest Edtech start-ups, such as Byju’s, Unacademy, Upgrad, Vedantu, and others, have seen remarkable growth in their numbers. Over $2.2 billion has been raised by India’s Edtech businesses, with Byju’s alone accounting for $1.35 billion and Unacademy gaining the ‘unicorn’ status with a valuation of more than $2 billion. As the sector is gaining more and more popularity, occurrences of data privacy breaches are also looming around the corner.
RISE OF EDTECH
In today’s increasingly digital era, India’s current educational system has proved to be insufficient. It suffers from issues such as lack of qualified teachers, imbalance in student-teacher ratios, and lack of updated and diversified teaching methods and has long been in desperate need of technological assistance.
Although Edtech was an emerging field that was quietly gaining traction, the pandemic provided it with a boost, paving the path for the sector’s huge expansion. For a long time, educational institutions in India have used the “factory model”, which implied a common and consistent learning process for everybody. What the factory model approach overlooks is the fact that each learner is unique and learns at their own speed. Each student approaches the same idea differently. What works for one student may not work the same way for another. As a result, disparities in overall learning outcomes are common in classroom-based learning.
Edtech has developed as a new extra education or “coaching” alternative for students, which is typically obtained through private tutors and institutes to address the gaps in classroom learning. Edtech is a critical link between increased student enrolment (participation) and improved learning. Students can now broaden their knowledge and skillsets owing to Edtech platforms. Edtech platforms provide diverse industry-relevant courses, ranging from short-term certification courses to long-term undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. This rising market, is thus, attracting an increasing number of start-ups.
NEP 2020: AN ADDITIONAL BOOSTER FOR THE EDTECH SECTOR
In July 2020, the Union Cabinet released the New Education Policy (NEP) which strives to modernize the educational framework in the wake of changing circumstances, to align with the modern needs and goals of a twenty-first-century educational system. The Policy calls for investments in digital infrastructure, the creation of virtual labs and digital repositories, the training of teachers to become high-quality online content creators, the design and implementation of online assessments, and the establishment of standards for content, technology, and pedagogy for online teaching-learning. The Policy envisions the establishment of a dedicated unit tasked with developing digital infrastructure, digital content, and capacity building to oversee the e-education demands of both school and higher education. The NEP recommends that coding be included in school curricula as a valuable skill for kids to learn. As a result, coding platforms such as WhiteHat Jr., HackerKID, Coding Ninja, and Tekie have grown in popularity. The NEP also calls for the establishment of an autonomous entity known as the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), which will serve as a forum for the open exchange of ideas on the use of technology to improve learning, evaluation, planning, and administration. Furthermore, the NEP’s recommendations for investment in digital infrastructure, the development of online teaching platforms and tools, and the establishment of virtual labs and digital libraries have the potential to result in massive public spending in India if executed as intended.
VULNERABILITY OF THE EDTECH SECTOR
The major target audience for Edtech enterprises is minors. This category is the most exposed to data breaches because they are ill-equipped to consent to questions about privacy policies. While Edtech companies are making learning more enjoyable, how user data is obtained, stored, processed, used, and potentially monetised is a major cause of concern. Unauthorized people and groups could exploit this sensitive data for social engineering, financial crimes and frauds, cyberbullying, user tracking, identity theft, and other methods to target youngsters. In May 2020, the firewalls of one of India’s largest Edtech enterprises were broken by cyber threat actors and threat organizations, who posted personally identifiable information about users for sale on the dark web. As a result, it is critical to take steps to preserve, regulate, monitor, and control the massive amount of personal data collected from students, parents, and end-users. As the user base of Edtech providers grows at an exponential rate, the need for robust control and oversight from the government is critical to alleviating concerns about privacy problems, lack of transparency, and accountability on the educational content made available through these platforms. Another similar incident involving a data breach occurred with an Edtech portal named Skolaro. After keeping the database on insecure servers, the data (which included medical records, photographs, and passport scans) of over 50 thousand students, their parents, and teachers was compromised. Such occurrences suggest that data fiduciaries do not take user privacy seriously. The lack of effective and rigorous rules absolves them of culpability, making it impossible to determine liability after millions of users’ personal data has been compromised.
FUTURE TRENDS TO LOOK OUT FOR IN THE UPCOMING YEARS
1· Online Mentorship: A new and developing trend in Ed-tech is giving access to expert mentoring through online platforms, in addition to school education that is well defined through board syllabus and taught through virtual classrooms. This has the potential to be a game-changer in the industry since it allows youngsters to seek for, find, and learn from the top experts in their subject from anywhere on the globe.
2· Online Examinations/ Assessments: Another significant development that is expected to continue in the Post-Covid era is online examinations. Although still in its infancy in India, online exams are gradually gaining popularity since they provide a secure, legitimate, automated, and well-regulated examination environment.
3· More Focus on Skill-Based Education: The demand for skills-based education is expected to increase. The demand for extensive, campus-based programs will be replaced by a focus on short courses, micro-credentials, experiential learning, and work based learning accreditation. By 2024, the total market size of the online test preparation and certification segments is expected to reach INR 123.65 Bn.
4· Extensive Use of Virtual and Augmented Reality: Virtual reality (VR) generates an immersive 3D world in which the user can explore. On the other hand, augmented reality (AR) superimposes digital features such as graphics, sound, and text onto a user's environment. Both these technologies can be used simultaneously in order to stimulate student interest. Thus, virtual reality can be used to improve learning and engagement. A California-based startup named zSpace has developed an AR/VR-enabled tablet that is being used in classrooms to teach concepts such as electricity, circuits, the periodic table, and geometry to K-12 pupils. The same can be applied in the Indian education system.
The educational scene has shifted dramatically over the world, particularly around 2020. According to a report, reskilling and online certification programs attract the largest percentage of consumers and with a CAGR of 64 per cent, test preparation is the fastest-growing sector in Edtech. The New Education Policy has provided the much-needed boost to the Edtech sector, but there are still some obstacles that need to be overcome by the budding Edtech unicorns. The pandemic might have ushered in a historic phase for the Edtech sector, but technology has also led to concerns for the student’s privacy. Thus, this vulnerability of the Edtech industry must be acknowledged by the authorities as soon as possible.