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Will Indian Govt’s Focus On ELearning Expand The Pie For Edtech Startups?

Will Indian Govt’s Focus On ELearning Expand The Pie For Edtech Startups?

The Indian startups consider the 2022 budget as promising for the education sector in promoting digital learning

PM eVIDYA programme is the need of the hour as language cannot act as a barrier to receiving a quality education, especially for first-generation learners

Commitment to edtech will have a greater impact on education quality, resulting in more highly skilled individuals accessible in the country

In the post covid era, education specifically has taken a new direction that has made technology-based learning, whether online or blended, indispensable for India’s education systems. In this regard, the Union Budget 2022 was expected to be an important milestone in the journey ahead for the Indian edtech startups.

Overall, the Indian edtech startups have welcomed Union Budget 2022 and have called it an “inclusive” budget. While the previous two budgets were focused on setting up groundwork with the Higher Education Commission of India and National Education Policy, this year’s budget placed impetus on deeper penetration of digital education across the country and promoting upskilling.

Vaibhav Singh, cofounder, Leap Scholar shared, “The 2022 budget is promising for the education sector in promoting digital learning. In line with other initiatives such as e-passports and extended tax benefits for the startup community, the budget will further boost the edtech ecosystem and drive the economy’s growth.”

Yet there are concerns around whether the government’s initiatives are enough to bridge the digital divide in the country and open more opportunities for edtech startups. TV Mohandas Pai, partner, Aarin Capital highlighted a different view in one of Inc42’s earlier conversations.

“The idea of the university to create content with hub and spoke model will have limited utility. Because in the higher education, the challenge is not the content but the digital divide. There is enormous amount of content available. Children studying in government schools do not have any digital device with free-loaded software which could help them learn through elearning courses,” Pai said.

Overall, the Union Budget 2022 conveyed positive sentiments across industry. However, the question which arises is whether these initiatives will help Indian edtech startups directly? Secondly, what about the digital divide? Will government initiatives to empower students and teachers act as a booster for edtech startups or will put them on the sidelines?

Irrespective of the challenges and issues related to adoption, here’s what the industry is optimistic about.

On Universalisation Of Education

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the expansion of the PM e-Vidya programme. The initiative was launched in 2020 by the government as part of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan with an aim to provide technology-driven education to students during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a shutdown of schools. 

As part of the initiative, 12 DTH channels were introduced as part of the ‘One Class, One TV channel initiative’. It also included community and radio podcasts for visually and hearing-impaired students.

Under Union Budget 2022, this initiative has been expanded from 12 to 200 TV channels. The edtech startup community believes this will strengthen the broader vision of — accessibility of education for all.

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Achin Bhattacharyya, Founder and CEO Notebook believes that the expansion of the PM eVIDYA programme will encourage supplementary education in regional languages.

“This is the need of the hour as language cannot act as a barrier to receiving a quality education, especially for first-generation learners,” he added.

On Digital University

The analysts unanimously agreed that encouraging PPP projects will help in a centralised build-up of quality content in regional languages and ensure their easy access through mass mediums which will help the country reap the demographic dividend in the years to come.

Achin further believes that developing a digital university to provide access to students for world-class quality education with ISTE Standards will give a massive boost to learning. 

“This step has the potential to bring in globally renowned faculty members and students from all over the world and ensure excellent peer to peer discussion and discourse. It’s time to build centres of excellence that will make India proud,” he added.

On Upskilling

The Union Budget 2022 has placed impetus on promoting skilling programmes and partnerships with the industry for continuous skilling avenues, sustainability, and employability. 

“The National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) will be aligned with dynamic industry needs. Digital Ecosystem for Skilling and Livelihood – the DESH-Stack eportal – will be launched. This aims to empower citizens to skill, reskill or upskill through on-line training,” said the Finance Minister in her Union Budget 2022 Speech.

The government is also looking at to facilitating ‘Drone Shakti’ through varied applications and for Drone-As-A-Service (DrAAS). In select ITIs, in all states, the required courses for skilling will be started. 

“The government’s commitment to education and edtech will have a greater impact on education quality, resulting in more highly skilled individuals accessible in the country. Giving a licence to a renowned international university will strengthen this skill much more,” said Sandeep Lodha, cofounder at Netweb technologies.

Also, this initiative will facilitate growth across industries related to edtech. For instance, the introduction of 100 television channels will benefit the media and broadcast industries, which will necessitate a large amount of IT-related equipment, as well as a large number of portals for learning management systems.

Union Budget 2022: Other key education initiatives highlighted:

  • National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) to be aligned with dynamic industry needs.
  • To set up 750 virtual labs in science and mathematics, and 75 skilling e-labs for the simulated learning environment
  • High-quality e-content in all spoken languages to be developed for delivery via internet, mobile phones, TV and radio through Digital Teachers. 
  • To equip teachers with digital tools of teaching and facilitate better learning outcomes
  • Provide direct to home access for Doordarshan and educational channels in border villages with a sparse population, limited connectivity and infrastructure

Edtech Startups: The Road Ahead

Ujjwal Singh, CEO and President, Infinity Learn believes that with Union Budget 2022, the Government has recognised the importance of digital learning provided by the edtech startups in India. 

“The steps taken under universalisation of education will serve as the driver of socio-economic change, enabled through technology. Digital learning holds the potential to empower the country’s grassroots level population through democratized access to education, thereby facilitating continued learning sans infrastructural challenges, pan-India,” he adds.

Vipul Agarwal, cofounder, unlu looks forward to steps taken by the government for empowering teachers through digitisation. 

“To make up for the education shortfall during the last two years, the Finance Minister has proposed new TV channels for extra teaching (PM eVidya). In conjunction with the fiber optic connectivity for last-mile digital reach in communities, this will prove to be an important step towards rural development.”

In 2021, the edtech startups raised $4.7 Bn across 165 deals and today has more than 3,000 startups catering to the needs of future economy builders of the country. While the Indian government is putting a thrust towards digital, it will be imperative to see how the traditional educational institutions and authorities look towards this change.

Earlier this week, the media corridors were buzzed with AICTE demanding that edtech companies should not be allowed to offer online diplomas and degrees. Also, the impact of initiatives such as PM eVidya and Digital University are yet to be seen and assessed considering the less developed digital infrastructure in the country across tier 3, tier 4 and remote towns which these programs aim at addressing at the core.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see whether the government’s efforts towards digitisation of education will be able to bring edtech startups into mainstream education or will they continue to be considered as an additional resource of education. Also, with edtech unicorns like BYJU’S and Vedantu looking at international expansion, it will be crucial for the government to bring the focus of edtech startups towards tier 3 and tier 4 expansion to accelerate digital inclusion and open more monetisation opportunities for the edtech startups.

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