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Is there a turmoil in ed-tech industry?

By G. Balasubramanian

Calling me on my telephone, a friend, occupying a senior position in Edtech Industry was lamenting on the turmoil that appears (?) to be happening in this industry in recent times. This is evidenced by a large scale cut in the number of professionals engaged in various companies, a few others being laid off, a few industries wondering how they would meet the expectations of their investors and a few others speculating whether they should draw the shutters down. In my personal view, such situations are not new to IT industry with their products being dumped out from their shelves oftentimes. Nevertheless, the industry has been raising every time like a phoenix and no wonder the same might happen with the emerging assault on the industry.

The issues on the education front

1. Many schools have discontinued their subscriptions to various Edtech based products with the schools reopening to their classical model. They want to run a marathon to the classrooms dropping whatever technology they have on the dustbins nearby.

2. The fatigue caused by an overdose of technology during the last two years has caused a phobia for the edtech products, even though many of them are still relevant, useful, purposeful and integrating.

3. The economic crisis that impacted the schools due to lack of revenue or downsizing of their budget in the last two years has forced them to get back to normalcy by avoiding expenses on products which are otherwise dispensable. (May be, this judgment on the part of the schools could be wrong!)

4. The prospects of changes in curriculum and pedagogy consequent to NEP is haunting the minds of educators, who really have no clarity on the future either in terms of the curriculum, the processes, the formal-informal learning synergies and the like. Hence while continuation with an older model is considered as an avoidable need, the newer models appear more mythological. Hence, they are not sure how edtech industry will support such directional changes. An overdose of caution by many schools in this regard seems to have an impact on the growth profile of the companies.

5. Many schools have a view that they have spent enough on technology over the last two years either at one go or through equated instalments; and hence the time is ripe to divert the expenses to other areas of importance.

6. Schools need to understand the technology is not a short-term gap filler in education, but they have a significant role to play in facilitating children to be future relevant in a world haunted by technology. Any misgiving in this area to use technology more for showcasing will do greater harm to the future generation than what it could do them today.

The issues on the technology front

1. While Edtech industries found enormous opportunities for investment and seek inclusion into education sectors to meet both the immediate and the futuristic needs, many of them were playing with the same or similar fields of educational intervention; thus, too many players impacted the same domain. With depletion in area specific needs, markets had to fall necessarily. Hence the reaction.

2. Regretfully, the edtech industries have not exploited many areas (the roads less travelled) in a hurry to seek immediate markets; some different interventions may need more time for research, experimentation and development. Hence lack of innovation has not created the much-needed excitement in education sector.

3. For a few decades, I had been feeling that both education and technology have been running like parallel lines of the track to facilitate mobility of ideas, but conceptual integration of education with technology has not really happened so far. It is time to develop exclusively technology- based pedagogies. In other words, technology should not function as a filler but as a carrier of educational concepts.

4. While sporadic attempts have been made to have people with in-depth understanding of learning methodologies into the design thinking of the tech products, the industry has not really favored the idea. In many cases, teachers did respond saying that we are treated inferior to tech graduates in some companies. Tech companies would do well to bring some synergetic thinking between the work forces.

5. it is to be understood that teachers need to be trained intensely on thinking with technology for classrooms, not sacrificing other vital areas of learning opportunities. But such opportunities of training may not be entertained through institutional models which are public funded as they have other priorities. The industrial conglomerate should invest some of their CSR funds to institutionalize the teacher training with several of the associations they have like FICCI, CII or others. (I am aware that some efforts are already being made by these institutions, but they need to be catalyzed)

6. Keeping in view the fact that the Indian schools provide a good playing field for numbers, the industry should think of lowering their cost feasible to the school levels.

7. Focused advocacy programs to schools and institutions of learning to show the BIG picture of technology would be essential rather than using it as an instrument for quick turnover.

Education always provides opportunities for innovative thinkers. I believe, the time is ripe for some innovative thinking by the Edtech industry.