In the 2019 Mobile App Growth Report, released by the analytics firm Adjust in partnership with Facebook, India was placed somewhere in the middle of the list of countries witnessing a growth in the use of mobile apps. Just two years later, in 2021, India was right on top of the list, emerging as the fastest growing app market in the world. Leading the charge was education, as the fastest-growing app vertical in the country.
With more than 250 million school going students, and more than 500 million in the age group 5-24 years, the education sector in India is a behemoth where the traditional classroom blackboard system has given way to a modern set-up infused with digital tools and apps. Some of which are making learning immersive and taking education outside the classroom by using “movie-like videos and game-like interactions”, along with a pizza to explain fractions, a birthday cake to teach circles, and a cricket game to demonstrate projectile motion.
Mrinal Mohit, COO at BYJU’S, one of India’s largest edtech companies, observes that this approach inevitably promotes better contextual learning amongst students. “With the help of gamified elements, we are able to test a child’s mastery over concepts in an engaging manner.”
A pivotal year
India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) notes that the edtech market in India is expected to reach around $3.5 billion (Dh12.8 billion) by 2022. Indian edtech start-ups had received a total investment of $2.22 billion in 2020, significantly up from $553 million in 2019. Mohit asserts that 2020 was a transformative year and an “accelerator of adoption” for the education sector in India.
The canvas of education going forward will be based on technology and it will have blended learning at the core. This approach will create an education system that is more efficient.
The pandemic brought online learning to the forefront, making it an integral part of mainstream education. Students and teachers shifted to a digital mode of learning almost overnight, while parents embraced its benefits.
Whether it is school or college education, the country prepared itself to tune their children to online classrooms.
Similarly, Dr Manjula Srinivas, Head and Associate Professor, Department of Mass Media, KC College in Mumbai, feels that the pandemic taught teachers to use a different set of skills. “Whether it is school or college education, the country prepared itself to tune their children to online classrooms,” she says.
And as education from home became the new normal in the absence of physical classrooms, online players offered uninterrupted learning to every student.
NEP to the rescue
Helping things along is the new National Education Policy (NEP), which aims to radically overhaul the education system in India. When approved in July 2020, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had tweeted that “online education and increasing the usage of technology have received great attention in the NEP. These are vital reforms for the education sector”.
The policy also highlights the overall development of students and their empowerment with 21st century skills.
“With the NEP in place, the emphasis has shifted on the development of the creative potential of each learner, instead of just rote learning,” says Mohit, adding that it also encouraged educational institutes to rethink their curriculum, by giving students increased flexibility and choice of subjects to study and develop critical thinking and cognitive capabilities.
A blended future
Mohit sees India moving towards a blended learning format that will combine the best of online and offline learning.
Students will be able to choose concepts they want to learn and the formats in which they learn these concepts. While the importance of schools will remain uncontested, online platforms will increasingly complement them by offering students holistic learning experiences from the comfort of their homes.
“The canvas of education going forward will be based on technology and it will have blended learning at the core. This approach will create an education system that is synchronous and more efficient,” he says.
Dr Srinivas too agrees that blended learning appears to be the future of education in India, along with a greater focus on self-study and self-learning. And yes, teachers will never be replaced by technology when it comes to learning.
Besides, with teachers now understanding the advantages of online learning tools, India is likely to see tech-enabled gains even in a classroom setting.
“The classrooms of tomorrow in India will have technology at its centre, empowering students to cross over from passive to active learning. The future will see us leap the traditional one-to-many approach to one-on-one learning experiences, providing students the best of both physical and digital worlds,” says Mohit. ■