The world today is going through revolutionary changes. The changes brought about the digitalisation were unimaginable until a few decades ago. The past two years were particularly important as the pandemic helped digitalisation gain speed and momentum. Of the many beneficiaries of the rapid digitalisation in the past few years, the education sector was one of the most significant ones. Online education saw exponential growth during this period. Now when the pandemic is history and offline education has made a strong comeback, online education appears to have lost its luster. However, the value added by digital education to the education sector during the past few years has been immense. Online education has spread its roots so deep enough in the sector that it is impossible to ignore it. Therefore, even if digital education seems to be taking the backstage, its importance is not diminishing at all.
Online and offline education must complement each other
Almost all the stakeholders in the education sector unanimously believe that the coexistence of online and offline education is important for the education sector to prepare citizens and professionals for the future. Although the edtech sector was able to cater to the majority of students during the past two years, many students were still left out of digital education. The biggest challenge in front of the sector is how to bring every student under the purview of digital education.
Online education has several advantages like affordability, accessibility, and personalisation; however, it can never fully replace offline education. The real purpose of education is the wholesome development of an individual and it cannot be achieved without imparting life skills to an individual. During traditional classroom teaching, students acquire skills like teamwork, gender sensitivity, mutual respect, public speaking, and many more. The importance of these skills cannot be ignored in the life of a successful individual, therefore online and offline education need to coexist and work in harmony. While the infrastructure for offline education is fairly enough, the infrastructure for online education needs to be created at a rapid pace to meet the needs of the current and future generations of students.
Need for investing in edtech infrastructure
The edtech sector has been coming up with various new innovations to be able to complement offline education and remain relevant. However, one of the basic challenges faced by the sector is the lack of supporting infrastructure in educational institutions. Most students had access to a smartphone or laptop and an internet connection at home. But most schools do not allow students to carry electronic gadgets to school. Therefore, these devices cannot be used for digital education in schools. The majority of schools in the country face challenges with internet connection.
Schools across the nation suffered heavy losses during the pandemic. There were no fee increments. Even after the reopening of schools, the government has instructed the schools not to hike the fees. In such a case, it is impractical to expect the schools to make heavy investments in the infrastructure to support online teaching and edtech.
Edtech has not only helped in the survival of education, but it has also helped in making education personalised, experiential and immersive. It has made education much more interesting and fun for students. Therefore, in terms of digital education, there is no going back.
There is a pressing need for investments in edtech infrastructure across the education sector in the country. Although education is a noble profession, most private schools are profit-making entities. Getting loans from banks and NBFCs to invest in edtech infrastructure might not be a difficult task for them. There are various edu-fintech companies that specialise in financing infrastructure for digital education. Many such organizations even provide interest-free loans to educational institutions.
The way forward
The government must encourage the corporate world to provide finance for edtech infrastructure. Providing tax incentives could be one of the biggest motivators for the enterprises to come forward with the initiatives. With the launch of digital universities, the government has already recognised the significance of digital education. In future budgets, the government should keep provisions for the financing of the edtech infrastructure.
The importance of edtech in the education sector cannot be overstated. Digital education in partnership with offline education has the potential to take the education sector in the country to the next level. To take edtech to every nook and corner of the country, creating supporting infrastructure is a prerequisite. Creating infrastructure needs financing and it might not be possible for a single stakeholder to raise enough funds to meet the requirements of the sector. Therefore, all the stakeholders need to join hands to make it happen.
Views expressed By: Rohit Gajbhiye, CEO & Founder, Financepeer