’Edtech’ boom transforms how Indian kids learn

Author: 
Vishal MANVE | AFP
ID: 
1554047290068353400
Sun, 2019-03-31 03:01

MUMBAI: From a multi-billion-dollar education startup to
wired-up mannequins, technology is helping to revolutionize the way
Indian schoolchildren are learning — provided their parents can
afford it.
A host of online platforms are taking advantage of a surge in
smartphone ownership to engage millions of youngsters with
interactive games and animated video lessons.
India’s education system suffers from a lack of investment, and
the apps aid students who want extra tuition away from overcrowded
classrooms and crumbling schools.
Major foreign investors are plowing funds into India’s growing
“edtech” industry as they seek to capitalize on the world’s
largest school-age population who face fierce competition for
university places.
“I have been using Byju’s since last year and my performance
has really improved. I understand mathematical concepts much better
now,” says 16-year-old Akshat Mugad referring to a
Facebook-backed, Indian education app.
Byju’s has become one of the world’s largest online learning
sites since it was founded in Bangalore in 2011 and is currently
embarking on an ambitious overseas expansion.
It is just one of dozens of startups betting that kids are eager to
learn differently from rote memorization techniques that are used
across much of Asia.
Edtech platforms are also taking off in other Asian countries,
notably China and Taiwan.
“We wanted to make education fun,” said Manish Dhooper, the
founder of New Delhi-based Planet Spark, which uses “gamified”
teaching methods.
Garima Dhir enrolled her six-year-old boy into a Planet Spark
program to study maths and English because she wanted him to get
used to using technology at a young age.
“With interactive classes, my son is picking concepts without any
stress and enjoying the process without fear of failure,” she
told AFP.
Robomate, Toppr, Simplilearn, Meritnation and Edureka are others in
the market.
India has an estimated 270 million children aged between five and
17.
Its online education sector is projected to be worth $2 billion to
Asia’s third-largest economy by 2021, according to research
published by accounting group KPMG two years ago.
With revenues heading for $200 million, Byju’s says it has around
32 million users in India using its e-tutorials that feature
animations, live classes and educational games to match India’s
school curriculum.
It has raised more than $1 billion in funding since the beginning
of last year, including from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg,
valuing the firm at around $5.4 billion.
“We want to be the largest education company in the world,”
founder Byju Raveendran, 39, whose stake in Byju’s is now thought
to be worth almost $2 billion, told AFP.
Analysts say technology has the power to transform education in
India but note that at the moment it is largely the domain of
middle-class families.
A year-long subscription to Byju’s can cost upwards of $150 for
example, a small fortune for the majority of Indians.
At a state-run school in Mumbai teacher Pooja Prashant Sankhe is
using technology in a rather different way to change how her pupils
engage with lessons.
The 45-year-old hides an Amazon Echo device in a shop window
mannequin. When AFP visited children aged 11 approached and asked
questions such as, “Alexa, how many states are there in
India?.”
They also did sums and then asked Alexa for the answer to find out
if they had done them correctly. The device plays the Indian
national anthem at the start of the school day and healing music
during meditation sessions.
Indian media have carried reports of a teacher doing the same thing
in another school in rural Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is
the capital.
“The kids get really excited when they ask her questions,” said
Sankhe, 45. “Pupils are coming to school more regularly now
because of Alexa,” she added.

Source: *FS – All – Science News Net
’Edtech’ boom transforms how Indian kids learn