9th Sep, 23
Author: Aditi Joshi
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The Downside of EdTech - Commercialization at Scale

Rabindranath Tagore's words remind us that education should be about more than just information; it should harmonize our lives with the world. However, the global education landscape witnessed significant disruption in early 2020, marked by substantial investments in EdTech, with a particular focus on AI-based online tutoring and homework platforms. The commercialization of education, fueled by factors like the COVID-19 crisis, has raised questions about the rich getting richer in EdTech.

The Impact of the Coronavirus on Learning: Pandemics throughout history have forced societies to adapt, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different. With millions of students left in uncertainty due to school and university closures, the adoption of EdTech solutions skyrocketed, further fueling commercialization. The vast demand for higher education in India, combined with digitization and the pandemic, is expected to drive the growth of EdTech in the coming years.

The Role of Commercialization in Education: The COVID-19 pandemic forced educational institutions to pivot to online learning, leading to a rapid expansion of digital education platforms. While some EdTech providers offered free support and solutions, others have focused on profit-making, raising concerns among various stakeholders in the education industry.

Commercialization's Impact on Education Quality: The rapid adoption of digital learning platforms, primarily designed to leverage user data for profit, has raised concerns about declining quality in education. This commercialization shift has led to dissatisfaction among parents, teachers, students, and genuine EdTech firms.

Challenges in the Education System: Education, once considered a noble profession in India, has faced challenges such as management quota seats, donations, exorbitant fees, and other complexities, raising doubts about the education system's integrity. The financing of education, especially for students from low-income families, requires government intervention and initiatives.

Is Commercialization of Education Beneficial? Commercialization in EdTech, accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis, is driving a long-term revolution in the education industry. Tech giants offering free educational resources, EdTech startups exploring data analytics, government collaborations with technology companies, and increasing venture capital investments all contribute to this trend. However, concerns about the decline in Quality of Experience (QoE) and Net Promoter Score (NPS) are shaking confidence in the EdTech sector.

The Ethical Dilemma: The acquisition of a kids' coding company by India's most valuable startup sparked controversy due to its marketing tactics. The company's advertisements were criticized for promoting unrealistic career aspirations in young children. This raises questions about whether we should subject small children to the high-salary package rat race.

Education Beyond a Rat Race: A decade ago, films like "Taare Zameen Par" and "3 Idiots" highlighted the pitfalls of pushing children into careers solely for high salaries. These movies emphasized the importance of capability over success. Today, consumer empowerment in the digital age means that businesses must respect the informed opinions of their customers.

Navigating the Future: Commercialization in EdTech should be approached with a broad-minded perspective. While barriers to entry should not be increased, consumers should make informed choices when enrolling in online courses or digital learning programs. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for a new approach to commercialization, one that embraces empowered consumers and intelligent decision-making.

The commercialization of education, particularly in the EdTech sector, presents both opportunities and challenges. While it has the potential to revolutionize education and make it more accessible, concerns about quality and ethical issues must be addressed. It is crucial for all stakeholders, including consumers, educators, and policymakers, to strike a balance between innovation and integrity in the rapidly evolving world of EdTech.

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