Educational technology (EdTech) refers to any form of technology that can be used for teaching and learning. We believe that technology can play a powerful role in providing innovative solutions to many of the problems facing the education system in India, such as variability in teacher quality across classrooms and limited student access to quality instructional time and materials in schools. A growing body of evidence from around the world shows how technology can deliver personalized learning tools to a large number of children. It can also support teachers with pedagogically sound solutions to enhance how education is delivered to students.
Specifically for the early years, several non-experimental and quasi-experimental studies from around the world, and specifically from United States and Canada show promise for using technology to improve literacy and numeracy from Kindergarten to Class 5.
KEY EDTECH MODEL
Personalized and Adaptive Learning (PAL)
PAL EdTech solutions ‘adapt’ to the user’s learning level by finding the baseline and building concepts from there. They allow students to learn at their own pace and in their own style, usually in a one-to-one setting where each student has access to a tablet, laptop or computer. Studies such as Mindspark and Pratham in India, Geekie in Brazil and Dreambox in the United States have shown the efficacy of PAL solutions. This offers tremendous potential in the Indian context, where the learning levels of students differ significantly within each class.
Digital Classrooms (DCR)
Teachers in digital classrooms supplement classroom teaching by typically using projectors, speakers, interactive whiteboards and television screens to display educational videos, animations and other interactive content like games. DCR solutions support teachers with high-quality teaching-learning material and ensure that instruction delivery becomes consistent at all times, therefore democratizing access to expert teaching. Evidence from the United States and India with teacher-led literacy activities using digital content shows that media-rich classrooms can have a positive impact on literacy skills.
With the expanding reach of Internet services and smartphones in the country, the potential of EdTech is tremendous. The market is expected to grow exponentially over the next five years, as indicated by increasing demand from both the government as well as parents and students for technology-based solutions. A study by KPMG and Google found that there has been a two-fold growth in online searches for education over the last couple of years, with 44% of education searches coming from beyond the top six metro cities. There is also a growing market for online educational resources. Online primary and secondary supplemental education is growing at a CAGR of 60% and is expected to reach $773 million by 2021.
PROMISING TRENDS IN EDTECH IN INDIA
There is now growing supply of EdTech solutions in the Indian landscape, while the centre and various state governments have made initial forays into introducing personalized learning and establish digital classrooms in government schools. However, in spite of increasing interest and innovation in this space, the adoption and scale of EdTech in India faces several challenges.
Insufficient Evidence on the Role of Technology in Education
There is lack of awareness among stakeholders on the efficacy of various digital learning products,especially for children in the early years. At home, although smartphone penetration is high, most parents cannot afford to pay for EdTech solutions, while there is skepticism about letting children use mobile phones for learning.
Lack of Affordable High Quality Vernacular Content
There is a lack of pedagogically sound contextual products and content, especially in the vernacular medium. The context in government schools and affordable private schools is very different from the high-income segment, and existing products cannot be used for these schools without contextualization.
Lack of Procurement and implementation Knowledge
Government budgets for software products are often limited and the procurement process is highly complex. The EdTech market is also highly fragmented and majorly driven by for-profit players, leading to lack of knowledge among decision-makers on what works and what doesn’t.
Insufficient Budgets for Procurement
Almost 90% of the budget for centrally sponsored schemes such as Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) was spent on civil works and teacher salaries. The ICT@Schools scheme under RMSA historically focused more on deploying hardware, rather than leveraging technology to improve student learning outcomes. ICT teacher training is also limited in scope.
Limited Access to Infrastructure
Problems with hardware and connectivity in schools throughout the country prevent EdTech from reaching the children most in need. The national EdTech policy, ICT@Schools has not led to universalization of infrastructure, while the market is unviable for private players.