The Indian education system has been progressing from traditional pedagogy to a more digital form of learning in the past decade. Owing to rapid technological advancements, the Indian education scenario is also witnessing a proliferation of edtech startups. Just second largest in the world after the U.S., the e-learning market in India is attracting significant traffic and is expected to grow a user base of 9.6 million by 2021. Despite these promising figures, there are still some challenges that are being faced by people behind the edtech startups, some of which will be discussed below:
In spite of the leaps online education has made, the education industry in India is still primarily governed by classroom learning and private tuitions. Despite the rising concern of the implications of rote-learning that these institutions promote, parents and students still consider private tuitions as an indispensable source for scoring good marks. Moreover, these tuition classes have a full grip on the market which is not easy to shake. Edtech still struggles to catch up with all numerous user requirements these private classes cater to, from basic academic syllabi to preparation for competitive examinations like CAT, JEE, GATE, GMAT, UPSC exam, etc. While some tutors are beginning to accept e-learning apps as leading enablers of their reach to a wider set of students, a majority of them still consider online learning ineffective. If the edtech startups wish to make a definitive breakthrough in this defining norm of the modern Indian education sector, they need to come up with better models that offer users distinctive features like videos/tutorial, online assessment, virtual learning, etc.
As the internet has become more accessible, the information boom that it has brought has made both positive and negative repercussions. Not only is the internet filled with a plethora of sources that offer academic content, but it can also be accessed free of cost. This poses as yet another challenge for the people behind edtech startups. When there are already sources that offer free educational content, why then, would anyone would be willing to pay for subscriptions to courses? Generation of revenue is one of the essential requirement for any startup to succeed. Therefore, edtech startups need to come up with pricing strategies that are more aligned with users’ needs and demands.
India is a land that caters to multitudes of ethnicities, and as many languages and local dialects. With 20 recognised official languages, edtech startups find it difficult to mould their course materials so that regional audiences may accept them. While English is still the dominant medium of instruction, edtech startups need to invest resources in making their course material available in multiple Indian languages if they wish to set themselves apart. A crisis that edtech entrepreneurs are still struggling to solve, language crisis is a real challenge that demands a practical solution.
Hesitation Towards Online Learning:
Offline learning has been around for as long as anyone can recall, and this method of learning has been ingrained in the minds of generations of students. In a learning culture where traditional teaching practices continue to rule the roost, students are yet to familiarise themselves with online learning. As with every technological innovation, online learning is still met with apprehension, and the conventional notion of ‘How can something so valuable be available so easily?’
Furthermore, the level of teacher-student engagement that offline education offers is still a very prominent factor that neither the parents or the students are ready to let go off. The teacher-student interaction gives parents a level of reassurance, also why they continue to be sceptical about the ability of app-based learning to achieve the same. While ample resources are available in Tier II and III cities offering everything from K-12 curriculum and preparation of competitive exams like JEE, CAT, UPSC, etc., only some students are utilising these services. It will still take some time for students to be comfortable with online teaching practices.
The fundamental lack of infrastructure is another major challenge that edtech startups face, and is also something they cannot do much about. Where users in urban areas are still sceptical about online education, most users in rural areas are not even aware that online education even exists; and hence are yet to benefit from edtech platforms. According to a report released by the India Mobile Congress in 2017, the overall internet penetration is only 33%, of which the penetration in rural areas is only slightly more than null. Even after the government’s massive push towards making India digital, the ground reality is still far from bright and instead points at disheartening statistics. Of around a billion households in India, only 15 out of every 100 households in India have internet connectivity. With India’s broadband framework still far from reaching every nook and cranny of the country, these figures further debilitate the reach and impact that edtech startups can make.
Edtech startups are still understanding the Indian user base to come up with models that can benefit both the users and entrepreneurs. With all the challenges that are associated with the edtech industry, it is still in its blooming stage, and like every other nascent industry, needs some time to establish in the market. However, structural and behavioural challenges notwithstanding, the edtech sector promises a lot of opportunities to those who wish to invest their time and resources in it.