Ed-tech: boon or bane?

As rightly said by Nelson Mandela , "Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world." Today, nations all over the world are prospering towards developing their economies into a holistic knowledge economy. With young population at hand, India has tremendous potential for building up a knowledge economy to effectively manage its human capital. The malignant coronavirus crisis has resulted in the shut down of economies all over the world, leaving the education sector as no exception. However, a lock down in traditional classrooms has resulted in ushering a boon for e-learning platforms. Since time immemorial the history of mankind has been testimony to the fact that new technologies have emerged amidst the dark clouds of recession. The global Recession of 1970s resulted in a new transformation into the economy introducing 'capitalism without capital' as a fact with tech giants like Apple and Microsoft entering into the international market and changing the entire scenario of capitalism. Economists all over the world predicted a global recession caused by the havoc of COVID-19.

Ed-tech: boon or bane?

However, the silver lining exists for the education industry as online learning industry has become one of the most profitable sectors in recent times. As all countries have shut down their educational institutions to ensure safety and security of the children, online learning platforms are witnessing a huge surge in registrations worldwide. Indian ed- tech start-ups have witnessed an unprecedented growth in registrations in the aftermath of announcement of COVID-19 lock down. With schools and colleges in lockdown, the void for knowledge is being filled up by the ed- tech start-up, thus brewing an ed- tech revolution in the country. Students are seeking refuge to online education providers like a Edx, Coursera, Swayam, UnAcademy, Byju's etc. to continue with their academic pursuits. Hence, even though the world is going through a rough patch, online-learning has gained much popularity and this revolution is being driven by ed-tech start-ups around the world. According to a BARC India and Nielsen report, lockdown has resulted in a 30 percent surge in time spent on online education apps in smart phones. Online education in India is being heavily supported by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) and the Department of Technical Education.

University Grants Commission (UGC) has also issued various guidelines for universities to adopt online education and encourage students to take up work-from home internships during lockdown. On one hand, online learning is a piece of cake for students residing in the advanced countries equipped with all digital gadgets and on the other hand, the students belonging to the lower tire of society or living in the underdeveloped economies are being devoid of the education and knowledge that they deserve, Another side of the pandemic has majorly exposed the digital divide that exists among the rich and the poor, the developed and underdeveloped economies. Various unfortunate cases of students commiting suicide and taking unexpected steps due to inability to attend online classes have surfaced all over the media in recent times, which is very disturbing as every child deserves the right to education.

In the light of these trends, the next quantum leap in the education sector will be driven by the 4 E's: ed-tech, edu-content, e-learning, and entrepreneurship. As the e-learning platforms offer a host of innovative and engaging learning techniques alongwith a plethora of courses to choose from, they are increasingly becoming "the student's best friend". Furthermore, most of these online courses are offered by the leading universities of the world and are excessively likely to draw attention of the students in the third-world countries. The flavourful e-learning also comes with the benefit of self-paced learning and tech savvy approach to education.

E-learning offers us an opportunity to become "life-long learners" and ed-tech start-ups are swaying the volatile education market betwixt the pandemic of 2020. What the future holds is a mix of online-offline education givers with edtech companies emerging as major players in the sector. The anticipated global slowdown is further expected to ease the path of these start-ups to overhaul the knowledge economy. India being the youngest country in the world is likely to see a major boom in the online learning sector with youngsters creating a huge consumer base. Ed-tech market in India is in an evolutionary stage and is here to stay, grow and flourish owing to the fast-changing technology and job market.

On one hand, digital learning seems to be an easy alternative for developed countries like Switzerland, Norway and Austria where about 95 percent of their students have access to computers whereas on the other hand, for developing countries like Indonesia, it's still far-fetched as only about 34 percent of students have access to computers, as per Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Similarly in the case of India, the question remains, as whether online learning is a sustainable alternative to traditional learning.

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