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Will Online Education Take off in India? Here are the challenges spread across all the blocks that need to come together to give shape to this entity called online education

By Vikas Kakwani

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A study completed recently in India on online education by KPMG & Google reveals heart-warming statistics; total revenue will grow from $0.25Bn in 2016 to $1.96Bn in 2021 @CAGR of 52%, Internet users to grow from 409 Mn to 735 Mn and that Smartphone penetration would increase at breakneck speed. The revenue growth is expected to be across all categories viz Primary & Secondary education (which is expected to get the largest share of the pie), Test preparation, Reskilling and online certification, Higher education and Language & Casual learning.

Such a market makes online education a ripe fruit to be plucked by many. But this fruit laden tree lies beyond a thorn adorned path that in itself is arduous and serpentine. The challenges spread across all the blocks which need to come together to give shape to this entity called online education. Let's look at them one by one.

1. Statutory

In India, education falls under the not-for-profit category and is totally regulated by the government. In a country where almost 50% children drop out of Primary school leading to 8.5 cr children not going to school, this kind of control is counter-productive. Just like any other product or service, if education is deregulated, lot of investment will come in with some players vying for margins and some for volumes thereby benefiting everyone by improving quality and accessibility.

2. Educators' blinkers

A number of educators who have spent scores of decades in the education field believe online education is a flash in the pan. These belong to the same set of prejudiced groups that never believed computers would take over the world or like Nokia and Blackberry who could never get rid of their blinkers while Apple took over the world with its iPhone. It is important to keep an open mind and keep trying. Let people keep experimenting as one never knows what would work that can change the world.

3. Driving Behavioural Change

Over generations we are made to believe that schooling can happen only inside four walls and under a roof. The child needs to be dressed up in school uniform and be under the supervision of teachers. Bringing about a shift from this mindset to an anytime anywhere education is a tough ask. We forget that before the advent of British-style schools, we would get trained and educated in gurukuls and in the field. It's however just a matter of time like the frog in hot water fable. When did we start using online banking? Or GPS? It just happened. Online education breaks one from the shackles of fixed location and fixed time. However, we would need to put lot of energies behind educating people in adapting technology as a medium to acquire education.

4. All-round development

Schools or other physical institutes provide learning & personality development in a 60:40 ratio. While online education will provide the 60%, some offline programs & activities need to be created to cover the balance 40% of personality development that comes from inter-personal interaction & practical knowledge and exposure.

Just like mobile phones took the connectivity from a measly 3% through landlines to almost 100% within a decade, online education has the potential to take the schooling years from just 5 now to 12 (if we take USA as benchmark). Just that we need to work on sorting out the mentioned challenges by putting our heads together as soon as we can.

Vikas Kakwani

Foundation Expert

Vikas has worked in leadership positions for 20+ years across FMCG, Telecom & Real Estate sectors in India & Middle-East, in Marico, Coca-Cola & Aircel in India and Damac Properties & Scion International in Dubai. Currently he is in the process of setting up a start-up in the education space -  vidyalaya.
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