How digital technologies can transform education in India

eLearning is one of the largest growth areas in the global education market and is estimated to reach $169 billion by 2018, according to research by the Global Industry Analysts. A significant part of this growth is the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which have expanded opportunities to access high quality education regardless of users’ income or geography.

What are MOOCs?

Whilst traditional online courses charge tuition, carry credit and limit enrollment to ensure interaction with tutors, MOOCs are free and credit-less online educational courses. They may develop into an alternative way of earning academic credits in future, which would challenge conventional education providers’ stronghold over qualifications.

What are the challenges in the Indian education market?

  • There is a need to expand educational provision whilst ensuring it is of a good quality. The Indian government’s Right to Education Act of 2009 aimed to guarantee free and compulsory elementary education. Therefore, MOOCs have huge potential in this context to expand access to education, and boost its quality by enabling access to high quality resources and courses across the world.
  • The emphasis on rote learning in the Indian curriculum is the main cause of poor standards of education, according to a survey of principals conducted in late 2012 by EzVidya, an education service provider. Most of these principals felt that the Indian curriculum does not give enough scope for creative thinking.

Internet and mobile access in India is growing

India is estimated to hit 243 million Internet users in June 2014, at which point it is expected to overtake the US as the second largest Internet base in the world. This is according to the I-Cube 2013 report. Smartphone ownership in the country is also growing at a dramatic rate.  In 2014, this is set to surpass smartphone ownership in the US, with 200 million new Indian smartphone users.

The potential impact of MOOCs

India presents a promising area of growth for MOOCS, on account of its young aspirational population, its relative scarcity of high quality colleges and growing internet penetration, as the Financial Times recently pointed out. Whilst there is certainly no single answer to the complex demands of India’s education system, MOOCs are well-suited to improving educational opportunities in this market. In addition, relative to other emerging markets India has a large English speaking population, ensuring that current MOOC platforms are accessible there. As mobile technology is a large part of India’s growing internet penetration, MOOCs would need to be suitable for use on a smartphone and, for the Indian market, the content of MOOCs should be focused on developing creative thinking skills, to balance the curriculum’s emphasis on rote learning.