The Ed-tech industry needs a regulatory framework to ensure ethical practices – Partho Dasgupta
The Ed-Tech industry came as a savior for parents and students during Covid. This industry existed pre-covid as well but the push it got during Covid was phenomenal. Suddenly every school was jumping on the bandwagon to ensure that children are up to date with their syllabus.
The increased internet penetration plus the lockdown catapulted the Ed-tech industry to new heights. Not only students but working people were also taking up courses online to upskill themselves. A report by EBEF states that the industry is expected to reach US$ 4 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 39.77%.
In 2020 Indian Ed-Tech start-ups were able to raise more than US$ 1.43. Byju took the lead with 57% of the total cash raised, followed by Unacademy (10.5%) and Vedantu (9.5%). Many companies even made it to the much-coveted unicorn status! “Such high numbers can only be associated with a positive upward trajectory for the Ed-tech sector, however even after these positive numbers, all is not well in the Ed-tech sector”, shares Partho Dasgupta.
“We have all heard news about the working conditions in these Ed-Tech companies and the way they procure clients, especially school-going children. I believe the government should encourage self-regulation in the industry as education has become a business to its core.” Shares Partho Dasgupta Ex-CEO of BARC India and Presently Managing Partner, Thoth Advisors
The current controversies regarding Byjus, PhysicsWallah, and many other Ed-Tech giants have raised questions regarding the work ethics of the industry. Apart from financial irregularities. Byjus was called out by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights for harassing children and parents by cold calling them and using their data (school marks/pain points) to emotionally manipulate them into buying the course. Even PhysicsWallah, a startup that was praised for its core value of providing education to those in need, has become marred in controversies for its ethical practices.
Wrong advertising, manipulation, incessant calling, misuse of data, etc. are just the tip of the iceberg. Even working conditions for the salespeople have been questioned time and again as leaked audios become viral. Today social media has become so popular that it is not easy to cover up tracks. The industry must make an effort to change its image.
Partho Dasgupta says “In India education is considered of utmost importance and Indian parents usually give it their all to ensure their children have access to the best of education. The culture around education is very positive in India which makes it even more important to ensure that the common man is not being looted in the name of education”.
So what exactly can be done to regulate this industry? Students and parents should have an avenue to complain about the quality of education provided by Ed-Tech companies. The government can create a system for redressal of complaints, which can include penalties for companies that violate regulations. The government can also enact data protection laws that regulate the collection, storage, and use of personal data by Ed-Tech companies. These laws can be modeled after existing international standards, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.
The Indian government needs to put laws in place so that the common man is not duped. With the massive projections for the Ed-Tech industry in terms of growth, profits, and sheer scalability, the industry needs to be given an overhaul as far as ethics are concerned.