India has one of the largest education systems in the world with a network of more than one million schools and 18,000 higher education institutions. More than half of the country’s 1.2 billion population falls in the target market for education and related services. Online education, thus, brings unique advantages, the prominent being the ability to provide personalised attention to all students, which is not possible in a conventional setup except only when a highly skilled tutor offers one-to-one tutorials. Another advantage is that people living in smaller towns and cities can get access to the best possible learning resources from across the globe, at a very reasonable price. This helps create a level-playing field.
Although the foundation of education is still reading, writing and arithmetic, today’s students need broader education. Contemporary classroom, hence, needs to deliver live instruction, video content delivery, student to- student interactions via video-conferencing, remote test administration, up-todate materials, self-learning etc. Digital India campaign is likely to benefit education by bringing many of these and other important elements together.
Even as the previous government tried to bridge the digital divide, Modi’s masterstroke offers a lot of positivity for the Indian education market which is estimated to be worth Rs 5.9 trillion in 2014-15 against Rs. 3.33 trillion in 2011-12. With nearly half the population of India below the age of 25 and increasing penetration of Internet and mobile devices in this demography which is expected to reach 250 million soon, rivaling the US and second only to China, India’s potential as a huge market for e-learning is enormous.
Thankfully, big names in the tech world such as Intel, Qualcomm and Tata have made some strides in this direction. Intel recently launched ‘Digital Skills for India’ initiative under which it introduced Digital Skills Training Application that is comprised of modules on Digital Literacy, Financial Inclusion, Healthcare and Cleanliness in five Indian languages. Qualcomm has launched Play ‘n’ Learn program for school children ages 5-8. It is providing 3G tablets under the Qualcomm wireless Reach
initiative. Similarly, Samsung recently started on a Smart Learning initiative to provide interactive study materials to students.
Likewise, Tata, Reliance and BSNL are among the prominent Indian names that are going big on this sector. While Tata is expanding its school education solution, ‘Classedg’, Reliance has picked up over 38.5 per cent stake in digital education company, Extramarks Education Private Limited, through its subsidiary, Infotel Broadband Services Limited. Governmentowned enterprise BSNL has tied up with Greycell 18 Media Private Limited, to launch its online education service ‘Topper Education’. Other noteworthy names in this segment include the likes of DataWind, Meritnation, and Classteacher. Even some of the e-commerce players have expressed their willingness in this segment. Needless to say, if the e-learning/education market takes root in the country, it will definitely improve the education scenario which desperately needs a shakeup.
While the government’s aggressive National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) is all set to be spine of the Digital India drive, spreading out of broadband connectivity is going to aid growth of e-learning. According to Ritesh Raushan, Co-Founder and Director, The Gate Academy: “There are three components of technology-enabled modern education; Digital Content, Technology platform and delivery infrastructure, or say the Internet. But there is a scarcity of internet infrastructure. Availability of high quality wireless internet speed is still a challenge. Penetration is also an issue. A correct ecosystem can be created when we will be able to empower better quality mobile based Internet. Increasing internet footprint will also help to create the right ecosystem.”
Lately, the gamification too is gaining a lot of attention. A lot of interactive online and offline tools are being developed to modernise the segment. Robotic education has also taken off well in the country. Next Education India Pvt. Ltd is one of the companies targeting this segment for quite some time. According to Sameer Bora, EVP of Research & Development in the company, “Robotic education is growing globally as well as in India. It has all the potential to help education gets modern and make learning easy for students.” Robotics, he foresees, will play a major role in the future, so it is very important that we prepare the present generation of students for this transition. The use of robotics in the current Indian education system is interestingly an intriguing mix of theory and practical, he feels. “When used properly in schools, it forms the basis of cross-curriculum activities and becomes an ideal resource to teach Mathematics, Scientific principles, Design and Technology and Computer programming,” Bora enumerates.
As per Rohit Aggarwal, CEO & Founder, Koenig Solutions Ltd: “Online learning or Live Virtual Classrooms (LVC) has paved the way for modern education in India. With the evolution of technologies such as the Cloud, Data Centres and Virtualization, there is a huge potential for new technology to be integrated into education industry. However, this segment is largely untapped. Low adoption rate is one of the reasons because technology enablers in rural India are still scarce. The requisite Infrastructure and Security must be in place in order to set the ball rolling for digital education. Availability of internet in remote areas that allows two-way interaction and performance feedback are some of the fundamentals needed to launch a more extensive platform for LVC market in India.”
Kudos to Digital India and other government initiatives, the ecosystem we seek is not far from reality. Indian youth are technology-driven and find online learning to be especially beneficial as it saves them significant amount of cost, time and effort. “For young working professionals who are determined to imbibe new skills to excel in their careers faster, LVC is the perfect choice as they can pursue knowledge at their own pace and time,” feels Aggarwal.
Even as the government is a strong supporter of e-learning and the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) has been actively developing tools and technologies to promote it, what we need is more devices and an ecosystem. There is a need for a greater participation from the industry and stakeholders. For this to happen, the tech companies have to take the lead and help enable a strong ecosystem. We also need more applications and services to strengthen the ecosystem. The developers and content providers are going to be encouraged only when there is a plenty of devices, more importantly interest of tech companies. Apparently, there is a huge opportunity yet to be tapped, even as infrastructure and regulation issues might be slowing down the otherwise accelerating education space in India.
Two Indian institutes make it to Times’ top 40
In a great news for India’s universities, for the first time two new entrants have jumped straight into the top 40 of second annual Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies rankings. With this, the country has increased its representation with 11 of the top-100 places, up from 10 last year and it has a new national leader – Indian Institute of Science in 25th place and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay in 37th place. While around 18 countries are featured in 2015 rankings, nearly 15 universities – from Chile, China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey – have entered the tables for the first time.
On the other hand, India’s arch-rival, China, has cemented its dominance among the emerging economies, retaining the top two places and increasing its representation among the top-100 institutions to 27, up from 23 last year. The rankings have been given after accessing all aspects of the modern university’s core missions (teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook).
Talking about the ranking analysis, Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings, stated, “India is starting to show its potential in these rankings, increasing its overall representation in this new top-100 list to 11, from 10 last year. Only China and Taiwan have more top- 100 institutions than India, which remains ahead of Russia and Brazil among the giant developing economies. But this improved showing is partly due to the fact that more Indian institutions have recognized the benefits of being part of the rankings process, and more are sharing their data with Times Higher Education.”