by Avantika and Swastika for Sobus Collective/ on October 2, 2020

8 Startups revolutionizing the modern education sector

The Chapter On Education

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. Could you read this? If not, try breaking it down pneu-mono-ultra-microscopic-silico-volcano-coniosis. Better right? The term refers to a special kind of lung disease contracted through the inhalation of silica particles, particularly from volcanoes. Google says that medically it is the same as silicosis. Now this was a simple example of education and if you could read pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, congratulations! You fall in the bracket of people who are educated. So let’s explore a little more about the Indian Education System.

One one hand, the youth literacy rate in India is below the world average. As per the latest available data by UNESCO, in 2011 India’s literacy rate was 86.1 percent, below the global average of 89.7 percent. However, on the other hand, with over 800 universities, 39000 colleges and over 70 million enrolments, India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world. Clearly, those privileged to be literate and pursue higher education have ample opportunities within the country. Yet not all privileged pursue their higher education in India. It seems those who can, opt to pursue opportunities across our borders. Statistics show that in 2019, 300,000 Indian students opted to study abroad but only around 47,000 foreign students came to the country in the same year. Evidently, India has a relatively low inbound student rate as compared to the outbound and rightly so. The truth is that we have unemployment rampant in our country, much like the pandemic.Those completing their education and graduating with honours degrees in our country also ultimately tassel with unemployment. In fact, the 2019 unemployment rate was higher among youth with higher educational qualifications! 16.3% of our population comprises of unemployed graduates and 14.2% of unemployed post-graduate candidates. Clearly our education system is missing something. Ding, Ding, Ding! It’s quality. 

The Challenges

The Indian education system lacks quality due to various factors. To begin with, the curriculum in most institutions indirectly promotes rote learning. The inherent flaw in their operation puts an emphasis on facets that do not call for quality education but mere memorising for marks. This rush for gold stars does not nurture students healthily at all. In fact, it creates an environment of intense unhealthy competition which results in mounting pressure amongst students to memorise more to fill empty examination papers.

Speaking of curriculum, there is also disparity in the importance given to various subjects and their evaluation. We are living in a country where science is glorified and reserved for the intelligent, while the arts seem to serve those who are not “competent” enough to pursue science. Parents also dread the prospects of their children aspiring to be a guitarist or painter, which are labelled as struggling professions and do not earn the same respect as other professions like engineers and doctors. 

  Next, rampant unemployment shows the lack of purpoing of our education system. One could graduate from school summa cum laude, knowing how plants perform synthesis yet not know how to do taxes or manage finances. This poses a serious question on the practical linkages of theory taught in educational institutions to specific trade fields.Our education system needs to focus on skills that interplay with industry demands and provide practical exposure that prepare students to thrive in the professional world.

Now we need a change not only in our mindset and education curriculum but also in its delivery. Educators, who are trusted with the responsibility to mould young minds, need to be trained to maintain quality in education. However, our system lacks sufficient training modules to accomplish this. Now with the advent of technology the emphasis on educators to skill, up-skill and re-skill is of prime importance. We are facing an increasing gap in the teacher to student ratio. We need more quality educators and someone to fill in the technological gap in the learning process as a whole. Yet incentivization for the development of educators is missing. Moreover, the metrics used to gauge the efficiency of educators - success of their students or their years in the teaching field, are not adept and require refinement.

Lastly, at the grassroots levels the struggle to provide quality education is due to accessibility where access to standard schools and teachers is lacking altogether. This cuts off a major portion of the population from the chance to receive even the education that is available from government aided schools.

The fixes

While current spending levels in India fall far short of the country’s long standing goal of spending 6 percent of its GDP on education, we welcome the change in curriculum through the new education policy and hope it stands true to its foundation pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability, & accountability. Here are some other solutions that are targeting to solve these same problems:

  • Byju’s founded by Byju Raveendran has become one of the household names in the education sector in India. Its biggest strength is the quality of the classes that it provides and is totally aimed at creating world-class content related to each topic. They say that their teaching techniques are copyrighted and instructors belong to some of the most prestigious institutes in the country.
  • CultureAlley by Nishant Patni, Pranshu Bhandari with its highly curated teaching methods is a platform for learning several languages. However, it is most popular in India, Pakistan and Nepal for its Hello English app which ranks number one among free educational apps. The app supports 15 local languages which form the basis of learning English.
  • Sneha Sheth and Sindhuja Jeyabal’s Dost Education is helping mothers who are not educated to contribute to their child’s education and desire to do so by deploying a simple, low-cost mobile, and voice-based curriculum via the phone.
  • Edudharma co-founded by Dinesh Manickam and N Balaji is trying to bridge the gap between students and funding platforms by creating an online crowdfunding platform for NGOs, corporates, individuals, and others which can help fund a student’s education who drop out for financial constraints. Within 100 days of launch, the company has raised Rs 12,16,801.
  • Entri by Mohammad Hisamuddin and Rahul Ramesh is a plug-and-play test preparation platform on the cloud for schools, teachers and coaching institutes. It’s key features are 30,000 entrance-oriented questions, study materials and a Q&A forum that allows for easy doubt solving with subject-matter experts
  • Based in Bangalore, flipClass founded by Vinet Dwivedi is an online portal Home Tutoring Solutions. Users can find private tutors, monitor progress of their ward and interested teachers can also join this community. Currently Flipclass has 2000+ tutors in Bangalore and Hyderabad for various subjects.
  • To solve the issue of unemployment, Upgrad  - Phalgun Kompalli, Ronnie Screwvala, Ravijot Chugh and Mayank Kumar startup targets professionals who are looking to upgrade their skills. The areas in which it provides specialization is diverse and covers courses from entrepreneurship to digital marketing.
  • With the goal of providing all the education in the world for free, Unacademy co-founded by Sachin Gupta and Gaurav Munjal has ventured into numerous fields of Banking, CA, CAPF, UPSC and other competitive exams like CLAT, CAT, JEE, Pre-Medical. It also includes tutorials for learning various languages. One can follow tutors and get courses from them directly on their homepage.

Our country’s demographics show that over 50% of the population is under 25 and 140 million people will be in the higher education age by 2030. The need for revamping our education system - offering quality with maximum reachability and affordability is paramount now more than ever. With the shift of emphasis to technology during the pandemic, ed-tech is having it’s moment. Hopefully with a strong demand, investor interest and smart moves these innovations can solve the challenges hindering the potential of India’s youth.

Let’s create the right impact together. Join the movement

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