Shekhar Jain a self declared technology enthusiast, has been in the corporate service for the last 22 years with his last stint being Managing Director, JP Morgan Chase India. He was the Lead Program Manager for implementing Robotics Solutions for JPM for the Strategic Unit of Reference Data Globally having implemented several Robotic Solutions for the bank. During his stint at JPM, he has also set up the Operations and Technology Capability for the Asset Management Business Unit for the bank across various technology and operations stacks.
The advent of the Pandemic in April 2020 has reshaped the way that education was delivered and received globally and more specifically in India. It has brought to the core that education is an extremely necessary requirement for all economic stratas of the society and that it needs to be reached out to as many students as possible.
India has 250 mn students in the K12 segment with a growth rate of 30% being added every year. This segment is the one where the maximum investments are being made by the Govt and the Private Sector through schools, curriculum development, supplements to curriculum development, complementary learning activities during school and after school as well as weekend activities to ensure that the students of tomorrow are more holistically developed over a period of time and not only make a career for themselves but are also able to make their parents, society and country proud.
Given the above, over the last few years there has been increased education govt spend on making education programmes available to students in the rural areas as well as spending in govt owned schools, govt aided schools and private schools has increased significantly where this has become a $4 billion industry and expected to grow to $10Bn in the next 4 years. This does not even cover the education of the students in the undergraduate degree space who are pursuing all different skills in engineering, medical, vocational sciences, commerce and culinary skills.
Emergence of Digital:
Though the emergence of Digital education started a few years ago with global institutions like Khan Academy offering all content digitally, we also saw that there was emergence of a lot of players like Bharati Airtel providing education access to rural areas through its mobile platform. However the takeup of the above digital methodologies were quite fragmented. The pandemic really changed the way that education was received and delivered in the following 3 ways :
- Impact to Digital Delivery of Education:
Overnight there was a change in the way that school and teachers across the country started developing a lot of online content, started understanding how students can access the same over their mobile phones, smart phones and laptops and how the delivery mechanism will replace chalk and boards. Even class management became more electronic in that sense as the mute button played the most important role in delivering a good session.
Content development became more visual, there was more use of graphics & colour and the engagement became more visual for K12 segment. Even for the colleges, the fact that all the content was laid out now visually and notes were available in more digital format and access to quality teachers improved, these colleges could now bring in more global subject matter experts / experienced faculty to teach their students.
Student Bodies / Schools started conducting webinars / live experience centers and brought education to the doorstep of the common man and education suddenly became available to all irrespective of economic backgrounds.
- Impact to students / parents of students:
Suddenly location or nearness to school was no more a factor for parents to discontinue education. Because it was digitally available, people could relocate to distant places and still continue doing their education. Quality education was suddenly available to all students at absolute cheaper costs and at time literally free. Students were able to access content / educate themselves in different areas as well as with different learning mechanisms as educators found that they could access more students around the country or even globally in some cases. Gig economies commenced where even industry professionals found time available to share their skills with many students who wanted to learn and grow. Even sports, culinary, vocational sciences, music, robotics and coding all were suddenly available to all students irrespective of economic background. Language as a delivery mechanism was also no longer a barrier as content was available in local language.
Reskilling became a norm across all age groups due to the ease of availability of quality teachers, excellent content, variety of content, flexible pricing and comfort of learning from your home and it has now become more of a requirement with so many youngsters being multi skilled in diffent languages and courses.
- Impact to Schools/ Education service Providers / Industries
Corporates who earlier spent a lot of money on retraining their employees multi skilled found that by going digital they could provide the same at a much reduced cost with very high benefits.
Schools benefitted with the fact that they were able to adopt new technologies, make their teachers more technology literate, improve their content delivery as they now made it more experiential as well as they were able to forge more stronger bonds with their students as they were able to connect more with them and their parents.
Education service providers were one of the largest influencers for creating the digital wave as they introduced systems to automate attendance, deliver content across multiple screens, track students attention using Artificial intelligence, assign homeworks, ensure that exams are conducted using proctoring tools and technology that can protect the sanctity of the exams and also effectively created an eco-system that helped bridge the gap between an edcationist and a student irrespective of their age.
Truly digital education has come of age and will continue to stay as the benefits far outweigh the negatives and will continue to improve issues around access of education to low income groups, access to quality education in rural areas, multi-lingual courses being offered as well as access to more quality educators.