April 30, 2021
India has a big role to play in the global education industry, being home to one of the largest networks of higher education institutions in the world.
Online education offers several conveniences such as flexibility and the freedom to learn from anywhere with just a laptop or a smartphone with an internet connection.
During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were several Government initiatives that helped transform the education sector to meet the need of the hour.
Online education offers several advantages that make it suitable for the future as well.
With over 260 million students enrolled in India’s schools and colleges, India has a big role to play in the global education industry, being home to one of the largest networks of higher education institutions in the world. With greater digitalization, newer modes of learning such as online learning started to gain popularity in India over the last few years.
India had 700 million internet users across the country as of 2020. This figure is expected to reach over 974 million by 2025, as per studies. With India displaying one of the highest adoption rates of technology among youth and growing popularity of smartphones, Internet adoption in India is only set to go up. India is also home to the second largest number of edtech companies in the world, accounting for almost ten percent of companies globally.
Online education offers several conveniences such as flexibility and the freedom to learn from anywhere with just a laptop or a smartphone with an internet connection. This is efficient for working professionals as well as individuals living in remote areas. In most cases, it also proves to be extremely cost-effective. Moreover, the online medium has played an especially significant role during the COVID-19 pandemic since it enabled continued education despite the movement and travel restrictions.
Online courses are now increasingly recognized and well-accepted by companies and employers provided they are accredited and approved by the Distance Education Council (DEC) of India. Organizations also actively encourage employees to upgrade their skill sets though online education.
The New Education Policy 2020 launched in July 2020 places emphasis on the importance of leveraging technology. It includes pilot studies for online education, content creation etc. It also covers the need to incentivize teachers, create standards on content, and pedagogy for online learning. During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were several Government initiatives that helped transform the education sector to meet the need of the hour. More needs to be done such as improving digital infrastructure across Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, providing translated/transliterated content for diverse regions, and developing innovative pricing models.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development introduced an online learning platform called SWAYAM (study webs of active learning for young aspiring minds) with a repository of 1,900 courses. Run by the Ministry, the platform attracted over 25 lakh registered users across 60 countries, including India, the US, Canada, the UK, UAE, Germany, Australia, Nepal and Singapore. In addition, the also initiated learning platforms such as Diksha, e-pathasala, NROER (National Repository of Open Educational Resources), NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling), e-yantra (robotics education), FOSSEE (open source software for education), virtual labs and language learning programmes.
In May 2020, Finance Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, announced the ‘Pradhan Mantri e-VIDYA’ digital education initiative aimed at helping students, especially those who do not have access to internet, learn through television and radio. She also announced initiatives such the Swayam Prabha programme with 12 new TV channels (one for every grade in K-12). This was an unprecedented step towards increasing the reach of educational content for Indian households, especially the ones with limited access to high-speed internet for the unhindered consumption of learning content.
The Ministry of Human Resources Development developed an online students evaluation portal (https://dosenl.in) as conventional tools of evaluation could not be used amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The portal is accessible through any mobile/laptop/PC and works efficiently even in 2G internet connection.
Online education offers several advantages that make it suitable for the future as well:
Compared to conventional schools and educational institutions, online education providers have the opportunity to reach out to the masses without the need to set up a physical infrastructure or incur large administrative costs. A KPMG report on ‘Online Education in India 2021’ finds that online skill enhancement courses are 53% cheaper than offline alternatives. These savings can get passed on to the users too, bringing down the cost of education.
Since geographical proximity is no longer a limiting factor, online education provides greater access and availability of high-quality education to a larger set of students across regions including remote areas.
India has the world’s largest tertiary-age population and second-largest graduate talent pipeline. However, the existing educational infrastructure is not adequate to meet the needs of this large population. In such a scenario, e-learning can supplement conventional models and help bridge the gap considerably. This also helps bridge the demand-supply gap with respect to the availability of skilled teachers.
The Government’s programmes such as ‘Digital India’ and ‘Skill India’ are aimed at spreading digital literacy and creating a knowledge-based society. Online education helps ensure ‘access, equity and quality’ in line with the Education Policy.
Given its several advantages, online learning is surely here to stay even post the COVID-19 pandemic.