Dr. Akhil Shahani, Managing Director, The Shahani Group
The Indian educational landscape has seen a staggering growth due to technological advancement in the last decade. The presence of a tablet or smartphone in every household is now indispensable with kids as young as three or four, watching their favourite cartoons or nursery rhymes on these devices. The interactive features on these smart devices have made them a popular learning tool amongst children. Virtual assistants like Google Home and Alexa also make learning an interactive process by adding a human touch. As much as education has been changed due to technical advancement, the question remains; how successfully has edtech seeped into rural India?
Rural India traditionally lacked access to quality education due to a paucity of infrastructure like proper schools and educational institutions. There is also a dearth of teachers willing to work in remote rural areas. Other factors like gender inequality and often times the concern over the safety of the girl child can also hinder the ability to attain quality education. In certain cases, parents are not convinced to send their kids to school instead of helping with family chores leading to a lower school attendance.
However, the educational landscape in rural India seems to be transforming now. With the advent of technology, and an easy availability of smart devices at economical prices, most people now have access to a smart phone. Statistics show, that there are currently an estimated 200 million rural users of smartphones, with 42% users being women. Major telecom companies have also drastically lowered data prices in order to attract more customers, thereby giving an unprecedented opportunity for edtech providers to reach this underserved population.
Edtech platforms are slowly, but steadily seeping into rural India and creating newer opportunities. Edtech provides a new way of learning, by helping combat most problems faced by rural users. First and foremost, it discards the need for a traditional classroom which means that students can now learn in the comfort of their own home. They can help and support their families through the day and study at a time of their own convenience. It is also easy for rural users to sign up for online courses via their smartphones and learn the skills needed for employment. Payment for these courses can be done online, through mobile phone UPI interfaces. Those who cannot afford to pay for their education can benefit from the many free courses available online. A large proportion of these courses are also available in vernacular languages, making learning an easier process.
Technology helps personalise learning according to the students’ needs. Edtech apps are capable of tracking the students’ performance and behaviour through the course and can suggest changes and recommendations accordingly. Educators can save time by assessing and assisting students with the help of these platforms, which can prove beneficial as often the proportion of teachers to students is drastic.
Edtech can also help create various job opportunities in these areas. There are various free sites that list jobs available for blue-collar workers like Just Jobs, Quickr Jobs & Kaam 24 which the trained rural population can access to propel their careers. Edtech has therefore, successfully transformed the rural educational landscape and created opportunities for the rural population.
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