Recently, I have been seeing a lot of news and opinions posted on LinkedIn about the wrong and unethical work practices in the ed-tech companies in India. Many new age internet and social media activists have been dragged into this debate and brawl against such companies. Even these companies have been threatening with legal actions ( some have filed cases as well.) against such activists and those who had witnessed unethical work practices while working in such companies. I won’t get into the legalities and who is right or wrong as its upto courts to decide.
But I would like to add my two cents on the current picture of education in India. Infact, the picture is so gloomy that education has become business and a money minting machine these days. Because such companies know very well that in India, only two domains are such that they are never questioned about their value for money or even if they are worth paying for? Any guess what they could be? ..Well, they are Education and Religion.
The Indian family ( especially middle class) can spend millions on their kids education and never even question if its really worth paying so much. The ROI is hardly ever taken into consideration, atleast when it comes to schooling and bachelors degree. Maybe masters and even higher studies might not be favoured by the families, but basic schooling and college education is a must. One of the reasons for Indian parents/families having blind faith in spending exorbitantly on education is because, unlike USA or other western countries, where a person can progress in life even without a formal college degree or even a school dropout, provided he/she has the required skills earned through the practical lessons of life. But in India, a school and college degree is a one way ticket to the success and materialistic progress in life. It is impossible for anyone without a degree to excel in life, even if they might have the skills acquired with practical experience. Even though exceptions exists, but they are as rare as a honest politician to find.
And the real problem is even if that degree is not even worth the paper, still millions are spent on kids to get that degree with a blind hope that degree will shower on him/her a good job or even a good bride. Education in India is less for gaining skills or even less for learning, but certainly valued more for social status, internal family/neighbour jealousy, or even just as a pre-requisite for appearing for govt jobs like civil services. That’s why it only happens in India, that a young engineer also has a MBA degree but works in Civil services. Even strange, is that many doctors also try desperately for getting into police force or administrative services. Does it sound peculiar?
So, when the purpose of education as perceived by the people is just for getting a job, gaining social respect, winning a family feud, or just to qualify for the particular entrance exams, then no wonder the quality of students and learning experience degrades. And this provides a perfect environment for such ed-tech companies to mint money. In short, vultures are invited to have a feast…..
So, when we see these companies asking Indian parents to pay lakhs of rupees for a 3rd grade kid to excel in life( I wonder how that would be..) then parents do not hesitate ( most do not..). When a ‘XYZ’ ed-tech company tells the parents that they teach 6 year old kids to learn coding and thus become the future Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, then parents do not mind. When ‘ABC’ ed-tech company tells the people that they teach the best courses online, not as a teacher, but as a partner for their kids bright future, then it is hard to resist the dream of their kids becoming successful one day.
This is the background on which such ed-tech companies are rapidly becoming unicorns and their founders billionaires. They don just teach kids and students about education, but they also teach parents to dream. I am afraid if that dream might someday turn out as a mirage.
Today, when public schools in India are failing ( with the surprising exception of Delhi), when in person coaching or tuition has become a thing of the past due to Covid, where teachers teach for the sake of making ends meet, where students learn just to get a degree and go to America, and where parents are willing to spend lakhs and crores on classes, tuition fees, books and exam preps, then is there any better environment than this for the business of education to prosper in India!
We all know the answer very well!
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