Why India’s K-12 edtech revolution must focus on Bharat’s state-board students
While urban areas have been quick to embrace technology, the impact of edtech can only be sustained by turning its attention to rural India, where access to quality education remains a longstanding challenge.
The educational landscape in India has experienced a seismic shift in the past decade, primarily driven by technological advancements. Online learning’s growth received an unexpected tailwind during the COVID-19 pandemic, catapulting edtech firms into mainstream attention and revolutionising the learning experience.
While urban areas were quick to embrace this new technology, the impact of edtech can only be sustained by turning its attention to rural India, where access to quality education remains a longstanding challenge.
These issues are multifaceted and are the result of a series of compounding problems that stretch back decades. The biggest contributors to the situation are a lack of sufficient resources from regional and central authorities, an insufficient number of adequately trained educators, an absence of study materials in vernacular languages, and antiquated infrastructure and learning methodologies.
These issues are best demonstrated through the state board system and the K-12 demographic–the period in which the bulk of a child’s learning occurs. Graduates from state schooling systems are frequently at a disadvantage compared to their peers, lacking the basic tools and knowledge of their fellows and therefore beginning working life at a disadvantage.
Edtech as a public-private enterprise
The edtech sector has taken cognisance of this situation, and begun to work in tandem with the government to handle this gap in a targeted manner. Traditionally, the major edtech players have focused their time and energy on making inroads into the major metros and India’s large cities. The logic behind this approach was that Bharat was too difficult a market to penetrate, with obstacles that didn’t make the ultimate outcome worth it.
Recent years have seen new edtech players calibrate their focus from the country’s metropolises and Tier II and III cities to the smaller urban centres. Under this approach, these new edtech players have set their sights on families with an average income that ranges between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000.
This change in direction has in large part been driven by the realisation that the costs typically involved in education–from the schooling itself to learning materials, transport, and tuition–are beyond the reach of many families, and therefore this a key reason for the persistently high rate of school dropouts in rural areas.
The emphasis is now on providing solutions that are genuinely affordable to low-income families, whose budget for schooling may only extend from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000.
Edtech for Bharat: A tailored solution
In a move away from the ‘urban affordable’ approach, edtech companies will now have to introduce a variety of new services. The most successful by far has been the subscription-based model, especially in Tier III and IV cities, which caters to families with a willingness to pay in increments for a substantive education for their children.
The challenge of limited access to smartphones and the internet can be addressed by creating bite-sized content that is quick, downloadable, and available in vernacular languages. This ensures that households with only one smartphone will be easily able to access educational material.
Empowering rural India
Edtech in rural India will need to extend beyond the provision of online classes to creating opportunities for after-school tutoring and establishing a virtual classroom at home. Real-time doubt resolution and guidance for higher education and career becomes crucial, particularly for students who lack resources in their state schools. It will also encourage parents to be more involved in their child’s educational journey.
Another consideration is edtech’s role in facilitating flexible learning for girls, the value of which can’t be understated in regions where girls have typically been denied access to a full education in favour of familial obligations.
A number of strategies have begun to be implemented by government and private enterprises working in collaboration, including more targeted investment in learning programmes and infrastructure, the introduction of scholarships, and an emphasis on incorporating regional languages in edtech learning material, which has been shown to result in a 25% increase in comprehension rates among students in government schools.
The combination of personalised e-learning experiences tailored to each individual student’s aptitude and speed of learning, affordability, and enhanced accessibility has resulted in a K-12 revolution. This process will now have to shift to the nation’s rural region, intending to bridge the learning gap for economically disadvantaged children, and empower them to learn from their homes while supporting their families during the day.
In the years to come, edtech will only become more critical in bringing the promising faces of state board students of Bharat on the front page, thus paving the way for rural India to truly participate in the nation’s advancement.
The author is Co-founder & CEO of Vidyakul, an online education platform.
Edited by Swetha Kannan
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)