Education and E-learning
A Trariti Consulting Group Study by Swapnil Roy
The purpose of education is to provide individuals with the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to become well-rounded, productive members of society. Education helps to develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills that are essential in today's world. It also fosters personal growth and socialization, providing opportunities for individuals to discover their passions, interests, and strengths.
Moreover, education promotes economic growth and development by preparing individuals for the workforce and improving their earning potential. Additionally, education is a tool for promoting social justice and equity, as it provides access to opportunities and resources that might otherwise be out of reach for marginalized communities.
According to the World Bank, the global GDP (PPP) has grown from $24.8 trillion in 1990 to $142.9 trillion in 2019. During the same period, the world population increased from 5.3 billion to 7.7 billion people.
It is widely accepted that education has a positive correlation with economic growth and living standards. A more educated population is better equipped to participate in the workforce and contribute to economic growth. Additionally, education can lead to higher income and better living standards for individuals and communities.
E-learning, a concept synonymous in our minds with the names BJYU’s, Meritnation, Udemy, Coursera and Unacademy, the saviour of the education sector in the times of this pandemic, is a robust industry which surpassed USD 200 billion in size in 2019. However, in the context of India, where more than two-fifth of its population resides in rural areas, how far is E-learning relevant and implementable?
Adoption of E-learning In India
The story of the growth of e-learning in India dates back to the early 2000s when companies such as Educomp, NIIT, and Aptech began providing online education services.
However, challenges were there such as the lack of access to technology and internet connectivity in rural areas. Nevertheless, the growth of e-learning in India has opened up new opportunities for students and educators alike, making education more accessible and affordable.
The growth of e-learning in India has been largely supported by the increase in internet access and smartphone penetration. India has seen tremendous growth in the number of internet users in the past decade, with over 687 million internet users as of 2020, making it the world's second-largest internet market after China. The availability of affordable smartphones and the launch of Reliance Jio, a telecom company offering cheap 4G internet, has contributed significantly to the growth of internet access in India.
The e-learning industry in India has grown exponentially in recent years, with a market size of USD 247 million in 2016 and expected to reach USD 1.96 billion by 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the growth of e-learning in India, as schools and educational institutions were forced to shut down, and students had to resort to online learning.
However, it wasn't until the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 that e-learning truly took off in the country.
With schools and universities closed due to lockdown restrictions, millions of students across India were forced to switch to online learning. This resulted in a surge in demand for e-learning platforms and tools. Companies such as Byju's, Unacademy, and Vedantu saw a massive increase in their user base, with many offering free classes and courses to students.
The growth of e-learning in India has been significant, with the market expected to reach $30 billion by 2026. The government has also recognized the importance of e-learning, launching initiatives such as SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) to provide free online courses to students across the country.
This growth has not only provided access to education for students in remote areas but has also created employment opportunities and contributed to the country's economic growth. The increased adoption of e-learning methods in India has the potential to revolutionize the education system and bridge the education gap in the country.
Current Models In Rural E-Learning
Having had an overview of the hurdles faced, let us now look at how some small players have been working in this space by effectively dealing with the issues and gaining ground in a market not targeted by the big giants of the industry.
Ranging from Not-for-Profit NGOs to newly-founded start-ups, these E-learning players have deployed various models to deal with this urban-rural divide in their own way. The key players in the industry work
on a similar idea of strengthening the roots of Indian education as the major population resides in the rural area where the lack of educational facilities deprives our youth of employment opportunities. The age bracket differs in their target market but they follow a strict pattern of setting up stations of learning.
If we break down all the fundamentals, there are two ways in which they look out for means of providing courses: either it is through the pre-determined classes (STEM tools for one platform) or collaborating with organizations to establish different centres all around India so that they could provide interactive learning through the modes of LEDs but students being physically present.
Both approaches have been successful in their own way. The concept of personalized one-to-one learning works better as the teacher is fully focused in solving the doubts and there is a classroom atmosphere for center classes. The main target courses are - basics of science, mathematics, English and life skills. The concept of classroom has been designated by different names such as StudyMall, Internet schools, etc. wherein they either have volunteers or an established pool of teaching staff.
Some platforms have even tried to upskill the quality of teachers through their “E-Pathshaala” drive to tackle the dearth of 1.2 million teachers in rural education, so that students could have a better quality of education. The industry has even entered into providing financial help as some players believe it to be the right of every child to get educated and they must not lag behind due to the lack of financial resources. So, they run a StudyFin project to finance students (priority to girls) for gaining all the skills they need to have. Funded by Microsoft, Cisco, HP, Marico, Lenovo, Goldman Sachs and other giants, these organizations are all set to redefine the landscape of rural education through E-learning.
These small players are redefining education in the rural areas and are rapidly expanding their bases. The impending question is: are the giants of this industry planning to launch new frontiers for rural e-learning or is it going to be dominated by these small players?
Build an inclusive society:
The larger players would do well to tap into the vast rural market either through a tie-up with the smaller players or through separate initiatives in this area, funded by their income from urban areas. Given the current COVID situation, there is a dire need to widen the reach of learning portals to as large a base as possible. Otherwise, an entire generation of rural students would be left behind.
The Government could consider setting up a Rural Education Fund, which would raise resources through CSR activities, and public donations, which can be deployed in this area. This would help bridge the urban-rural divide and give an impetus to private initiatives in this area.
Tie-up of rural e-learning platforms with government schools: G overnment schools face a major dearth of teachers all over the country. The e-learning platforms can tie-up with these government schools to offer their services which could be a viable option to reach the masses in the fastest way possible providing maximum benefits to the rural students.
The lack of know-how of modern technology acts as an impediment to the growth of rural e-learning. If the government is keen on intervening in this sector, a major step could be to add to the skillset of the teachers by conducting training programs to make them adept at using these e-learning platforms.