'Inclusivity in higher education will be key to achieve 50% GER by 2035'

A teacher takes an online class for school students, in Kozhikode. (PTI File Photo)
A teacher takes an online class for school students, in Kozhikode. (PTI File Photo)

New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) 2020 was a landmark year for Indian education as the National Education Policy received approval and paved the way for major reforms in the sector. A key target for the entire industry was set -- to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Indian schools and colleges from 27.4 per cent to over 50 per cent by 2035. A large part of this will be pushed by the increasing acceptance of Ed-Tech firms that are providing online education in India.

In the last year since the pandemic and subsequent lockdown that forced schools and universities to shut physical classroom education, Ed-Tech firms have seen an upward trend in India. Post lockdown, there is a clear trend of students enrolling with Ed-Tech firms as an increasing number of students are opting for online modes of learning.

While tech adoption in India resulted in a total investment of $553 million in 2019, Ed-Tech start-ups attracted a total investment of $2.22 billion in 2020. However, the focus stayed on K-12 and Test Prep segments. The year 2021 is set to become an iconic year when India will break the shackles of the past and would be the starting point for high-quality higher education.

Says Aditya Malik, CEO - Talentedge, "For Ed-Tech firms across the world, 2020 was an inflection point. Both in terms of adoption and establishment, these firms became the main driver of India's growth in the area of education. Driven by inclusivity in higher education and outcome-based learning, this inflection point paved the way for a fabulous journey of growth for Indian Ed-Tech firms. The lockdown ensured a larger shift from classroom learning to online learning. Embraced by young learners and executives alike, there was approval on online and live learning with wide acceptance even from corporates and policymakers."

Malik added: "2021 will be etched in history as the year when education in India will truly be freed from the past. It will be a year that shall be remembered as the starting point for a belief that Talentedge was founded on - to make high-quality higher education truly inclusive."

Additionally, the new and progressive National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) introduced by the Government of India brought significant changes in the higher education segment. The policy is poised to make online higher education mainstream and highly inclusive.

The impact of the policy changes would be visible this year as top Indian universities would offer online degree programmes both for undergraduates and post-graduates. This will allow learners across the nation to access high-quality education from the finest institutions without having to leave their villages, towns, or cities. This would give wings to a million dreams while unlocking the demographic dividend of India.

In India, nearly 122 million people reportedly lost their jobs in August 2020 alone because of pandemic-related closures and lockdown which led to a huge loss of business for many. During the crisis, online education and specially up-skilling and re-skilling remained particularly agile and afloat. The trend is expected to continue as the pandemic has not only radically accelerated companies' digital transformation but also acceptance of online certifications. Additionally, the new NEP2020 has paved the way for online degrees and dual degrees, further accelerating employment and growth opportunities. Therefore, the effect of technology in education would go beyond schooling this year. It will be reflected in degree programmes, up-skilling, continuous learning, and re-skilling.

Now the responsibility of making the Ed-Tech sector more inclusive, rewarding, and full of opportunities lies on Ed-Tech firms. Companies such as Talentedge will help make remote-learning more cost-effective, engaging, personalized, and outcome-driven.

Another crucial aspect of online education is infrastructure, which needs attention to have an enhanced reach in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. And with Internet penetration getting better, over 50 per cent of all Google queries originate from these cities today. Moreover, over 50 per cent of all Internet data consumers in India are from rural India. This indicates that there is a bright future for Ed-Tech firms in India, as learners from non-metros across age-groups and geographies continue to spike.

Reputed Ed-Tech firms in India are offering courses jointly with world-leading institutes and corporates. For instance, Talentedge partners with top Indian and International institutes including IIMs, XLRI, MICA, SPJIMR, Jack Welch Management Institute (JWMI), and also with renowned corporates like OLX, Viacom 18, Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), and others. By enrolling themselves in these courses, learners can expose themselves to various lucrative career options and plan their future. The interactive lessons are already being taken by millions across the globe where industry-relevant learning by experts has become a norm.