Ed-tech advisory – Time to undertake a review

With almost a year having elapsed since the Union Education Ministry came up with an advisory, urging the citizens to exercise caution while engaging with education technology companies [1], authorities should consider commissioning an independent review to determine whether these recommendations have had any concrete impact on the ground.

The evaluation should determine whether the Ministry’s prescribed list of dos and don’ts has led to a substantial reduction in the number of customer complaints against ed-tech entities and, also, brought about any significant visible improvement in the functioning of ed-tech companies that would obviate the need for bringing in stringent rules and regulations for effective oversight of the sector.

The Quality Council of India [2] could be asked to conduct this review on behalf of the ministry given the organization’s expertise on the issue of quality improvement. Being a public-private partnership, the QCI is familiar with how the private sector operates, that could work to its advantage in any study it undertakes on the private sector-dominated Indian ed-tech segment.

A review would send out a clear message to ed-tech companies and, more importantly, their domestic and overseas funders, that while the government recognises the vital role education technology can play in promoting seamless quality education nationwide, this fact would not deter authorities from acting against such ed-tech firms that do not appear as customer-centric in their operations. Moreover, such an endeavour could contribute towards lessening any potential apprehensions that some average citizens may have that ordinary people have largely been left to fend for themselves as far as the education technology arena is concerned because of the sector’s unicorn-spawning potential. India’s ed-tech domain already boasts of several unicorns (privately held start-up companies that are valued at more than $1billion).

Progressive ed-tech companies that want to be there for the long haul should have no problems with a non-partisan assessment of how things have moved since the advisory was released. Actively cooperating with such an initiative at a time that has been dubbed the ‘funding winter’ (forcing many ed-tech organizations to shed staff) could enable these enterprises to showcase themselves as good corporate citizens focused not just on bolstering their own revenues and profitability but also on the best interests of the people they service. This, in turn, could lead to greater customer trust in their operations, make it possible for them to stand out from competition, and likely help these firms negotiate more attractive fundraising deals to increase their valuations.             

Unlike other sectors, India’s ed-tech domain does not have any dedicated regulator overseeing the working of this sector, thereby enabling education technology companies to pretty much play by their own rules. Post the issue of the Education ministry advisory in December 2021, select ed-tech companies had come together in early 2022 to form the ‘India Edtech Consortium’ (IEC) under the aegis of the Internet & Mobile Association of India as a kind of self-regulatory industry body for the education technology arena [3]. However, there is not much information available in the public domain on how effective the IEC has been in dealing with errant ed-tech companies that are not its members.

Incidentally, in an interaction with this writer in January 2022, Congress MP Mr Karti Chidambaram, who has advocated regulatory oversight of ed-tech companies operating in India, had asserted that having regulations in place would not stifle innovations in the education technology domain [4].   

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About the Author

Sumali Moitra is an Advisor at the Gurgaon-based R M Consulting. Views expressed are personal. Twitter: @sumalimoitra

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