The Indian education system has gone through a tremendous transformation with the advent of digital education. Edtech platforms are not only providing a new way of learning to students but are also enabling access to quality education at the remotest locations. Further, the Covid-19 crisis brought about a paradigm shift in making the edtech space a vital part of mainstream learning. Besides, the sector, which was already clocking a healthy double-digit year-on-year growth, has witnessed a massive uptake in recent times, with the inflow of investments and acquisition. According to industry reports, the Indian edtech sector has attracted private equity investments of $4 billion in the past five years. This has led to the emergence of global edtech leaders. The key technologies fuelling this growth are artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), predictive analysis, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

According to industry reports, as on April 2021, there are over 6,200 edtech start-ups in India. According to RBSA Advisors’ estimates, the current market size of the Indian edtech sector is between $2.75 billion and $3 billion. This, according to the firm, is expected to grow exponentially to $30 billion by 2031, on the back of a growing demand for edtech platforms and evolving business models.

Working in favour of India’s edtech growth trajectory is the deeper internet penetration in Tiers 3 and 4 cities and villages. In addition, the availability of cheaper smartphones and low data prices have tremendously increased the ease of access to digital education for every student.

Technology driving growth   

Information and communications technology plays a key role in enhancing the scope of education by facilitating mobile learning and inclusive education. At present, AR and VR are dominating edtech technology trends. Technology has transformed the classroom learning experience, making it more immersive. With the help of AR/VR, students can view enhanced versions of images and objects on their mobile devices. For instance, in September 2020, Thrissur-based Infusory developed an AR tool, TutAR, which enables teaching through simple AR visualisations. Similarly, another edtech company, Smartivity, makes the learning process efficient and easy with the use of VR. Further, while AI is helping in personalisation of the learning experience, ML allows systems to learn from experience without being programmed to perform a particular task. In addition, predictive analysis, a by-product of ML, is helping edtech platforms offer more accurate results to their students. Another function of ML in the education sector is better organisation and management of content and the daily curriculum for teachers. For instance, Mumbai-based iSchoolConnect uses predictive modelling to guide students in finding a course that is most suitable for them, thus easing pressure in the college search and application process.

AI for customised learning experience

With the help of AI, the edtech sector is personalising the learning experience of each student. AI tools and devices are also enabling global classrooms, which are accessible to all, irrespective of their language or disabilities. For instance, a free PowerPoint plug-in, Presentation Translator, develops subtitles of the lecture in real time. Further, Leverage Edu, a career guidance platform, uses AI to mentor students on their career journey. The tool helps them receive guidance for college applications and suggests programmes to improve their skills.

Covid-19 providing the required momentum

Amid the pandemic, various edtech start-ups rushed to help schools transition to an online set-up mode. Moreover, various edtech start-ups are partnering with schools and colleges across cities to enable professors to use interactive online tutoring platforms, which offer live classes to students.

With prolonged lockdowns and educational institutions facing indefinite closure across the world, the adoption of e-learning has accelerated remarkably. Further, it has also resulted in broadening the landscape of edtech products as players are now introducing various supplemental education platforms, test preparation and vocational training applications to business-to-business products. This has significantly enabled the conventional educational infrastructure to move from offline to online.

Is hybrid learning the future?

Resulting from closures during the pandemic, educational institutions are now adopting online technologies rapidly. Amidst all this, hybrid learning is making the cut within the sector. According to industry experts, the new hybrid model of education will emerge where there will be a bit of brick and mortar in conjunction with online learning. Further, introducing hybrid learning will provide the much-needed flexibility to students and teachers for carefully curated e-content. In this regard, edtech, in collaboration with both private and government educational institutions, can also create a well-designed educational infrastructure and delivery model.

Besides, with the intelligent use of new age technologies such as AI and ML, teachers can do away with several time consuming activities such as student profiling, maintaining class records, crafting courses, learning predictions and designing personalised remedial measures. This would enable experiential learning and help students in acquiring skills essential in the 21st century. Thus, going forward, by turning collaborative technology into a long-term investment, schools and universities can find new ways to engage and challenge their students.

NEP 2020 and PM-WANI to unlock demographic dividend

The National Education Policy, 2020 (NEP 2020) and the Prime Minister Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (PM-WANI) can help unlock India’s demographic dividend and provide learning to students in the remotest parts of the country. Approved by the union cabinet in July 2020, the NEP, 2020 puts a special emphasis on online and digital education, opening up a slew of opportunities for the edtech sector. In tandem, aimed at accelerating the uptake of broadband services to the last mile, PM-WANI will facilitate setting up of public Wi-Fi hotspots across the country. That said, through these policies, the government can provide a level playing field for students across the country to access e-learning. Besides, several government initiatives such as Swayam, Diksha and e-Vidya aim to encourage technology-driven education. However, simple access to devices and connectivity cannot translate into effective learning. Hence, the path forward should focus on tracking learning outcomes, enabling inclusive remote learning, and ensuring content availability in vernacular languages.

By Shikha Swaroop