Opinion

Government’s rising focus on ed-tech would lead to 100% literacy

Pankaj Agarwal | Updated on February 26, 2021

The National Education Policy states that tech integration in classrooms is instrumental in bridging educational gaps to make learning outcomes more refined and impactful in a shorter period of time

It’s been a year since the world went into lockdown and our lives had to move online. No other time have we been more grateful for the advent of technological advancements than today. Even strict parents who monitored their children’s time in front of their devices caved in when they saw the benefits their children were reaping from having the privilege of accessing information online.

Online classrooms have thus become a lived reality and world over, education technology has become a household phenomenon. What initially seemed like a gradual shift in attitude towards technology in classrooms has now been a very effective knee-jerk reaction to facilitate learning through the pandemic. There is a global need for education technology and governments across the world are leaning in favour of it. Let us examine how the government of India has concentrated its efforts towards education technology and what it could mean for achieving 100 per cent literacy in our country of over 290 million students.

To support these claims, let us take a look at what the National Education Policy published in July 2020 has to say about tech integration in classrooms. The NEP has clearly stated the need and integration of technology in education to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 4. That is a big move for the education sector since the government has extended its support in recognising the widespread use of technology in classrooms so that Indians can level the field with global giants.

This validation is exactly what has pushed the Indian tech-education sector into a potential $120 billion industry with industry giants like Byjus and Unacademy growing in scale and net worth. So to say, tech based educational solutions have become a need over privilege.

The NEP also states that tech integration in classrooms is instrumental in bridging educational gaps to make learning outcomes more refined and impactful in a shorter period of time. “Every classroom will be developed into a smart classroom in a phased manner, for using digital pedagogy and thereby enriching the teaching-learning process.”

It also makes an argument for big data and artificial intelligence in helping the education system curtail student drop-outs in the country. These are big responsibilities and if the government has decided that the ed-tech sector has the power to deliver on these markers, then it is time for tech companies to drive that change. Can we deliver these expectations? Absolutely, we definitely can as we have proven to over the last one year at least.

Creation of NEAT

The government has gone one step further to ensure full support to ed-based tech solutions in learning through the creation of National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT) to provide a platform for the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration, and so on. Through the NEAT, the government proposes a public-private partnership model with edtech companies to develop adaptive technology in classrooms. This only shows us that the government investment in education technology is only rising.

Having said that, it is far from a rosy picture. When the need for ed-tech solutions in learning, scaled over the pandemic, many industry giants were able to increase their customer base. More parents, teachers and schools advocated for the use of certain apps, paid online learning tools and gadgets. Worried parents happily obliged since the fear of increased learning gaps loomed over their heads. This surely made the ed-tech sector happy and financially strong. What it failed to address however is the implicit message it delivers — is tech-based learning only for the ones who can truly afford it?

India has over 290 million students in the education system with more than half the number in the public education system. As is well known, the private and the public education system in India is a display of a well defined distinction between the haves and the have nots. The students in the public system have suffered exponentially through the pandemic with families ill-equipped financially and infrastructurally to support tech integrations in their children’s academics.

This leaves a gaping hole of missed opportunities for these students. It is also unfair to make it a wholly monetary problem since technology is expensive and on some accounts, the creation, integration and facilitation of it does require some investment. Technology also needs constant updation and it is an expensive process for companies alone to do so.

Reduce GST

Ed-tech, especially through the pandemic, has shifted from the need of the hour to the future of education. It is wholly possible that the Indian education system will deliver on its NEP visions to attain 100 per cent literacy through digital education models. However, companies also need to be encouraged to make that move with the government. For that reason, the ed-tech sector is urging the government to reconsider reducing the GST on various ed-products from 18 per cent to 5 per cent. It is also pushing the government to improve the working infrastructure in schools to document better deliverance.

If the government and the ed-tech sector can find a suitable middle ground here, then the Indian education system is only one step away from being all that the NEP needs it to be. Till then, we will continue striving for the same. Ultimately, the education technology sector is only striving to achieve what the government states in the NEP, which is establishing, “a ‘light but tight’ oversight and regulatory system to ensure integrity and transparency of the educational system in pursuit to increase the learning outcomes”.

What better way to achieve this than through tech integration in the schooling system.

The writer is Founder and CEO, TagHive

Published on February 26, 2021

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