According to a report by transaction advisory firm RBSA Advisors, India’s EdTech industry is poised to become $30 billion in size in the next 10 years. The current market size is about $700-800 million. The COVID-19 pandemic caused its own disruption to the ed-tech sector by compelling schools to deliver their content online. However, a lack of dedicated regulations makes the ed-tech market susceptible to abuse and deficient services.
“We have heard reports that some education technology companies are exploiting students with loans for fee-based courses. If someone wants to subscribe to these out of their own free will, there is no problem. But students should not be lured to take loans by false promises from them,” said Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. “There is no place for exploitation or monopoly,” he said.
Only recently The Ministry of Education has issued an advisory for parents of students, asking them not to get “lured” by “free services” offered by EdTech platforms and opt for one only after doing their research. There is a need to swiftly address critical challenges like data security, privacy, social, and ethical issues.
EdTechstart-ups like WhitehatJr. Is under inspection for 2 defamation cases filed by its vocal critics over allegedly fictitious advertisements by White Hat Jr. which claimed that children as young as six years of age could learn how to code, while teens could increase their earning potential to unfathomable levels through the use of its services. The Advertising Standard Council of India also asked WhiteHat Jr. to take down five advertisements for violating the advertising code for being misleading and unsubstantiated.
Apart from this data privacy is another rising concern along with the safety of children using ed-tech. Multiple vulnerabilities in the online storage of personal data of WhiteHat Jr.’s 2.8 lakh students and teachers were exposed by an anonymous cybersecurity researcher late last year. Although the vulnerabilities have now been reportedly fixed, the incident points towards the reality of weak data security protocols followed by corporates who often have access to sensitive data pertaining to children.
The central government is working on a policy to regulate EdTech players operating in the country. The Union Education Ministry is in talks with the Ministry of Law, and the Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology (MeitY) to work out a common policy for the sector, which has been witnessing an upswell in the past two years.
This year alone marked exponential buyouts for EdTech companies. Byju’s, Vedantu, and Unacademy, the Indian EdTech companies have been diversifying uniformly and their valuations have grown significantly. Private equity and venture capital funding in EdTech are rising with approximately $1.5 billion funding as of September 2020, a four-times increase than 2019.
In May 2020, firewalls of one of the biggest EdTech companies of India were breached by cyber threat actors and threat groups, who put up personally identifiable information of the users for sale on the dark web. It is, therefore, imperative to take measures to protect, regulate, govern and control the insurmountable pile of personal data of the students, parents, and end-users.
The privacy policies of the EdTech companies are indecisive and ambiguous and assume that consent and responsibility lie with the user. Most of the consumers of these EdTech platforms are neither briefed nor have the legal know-how.
There is a need to educate, inform and increase awareness of end-users of the risks and challenges associated with app-based learning. Contact details of data privacy and legal offices of EdTech firms should be made available to end-users. There are no or minimal regulatory bodies in India today for controlling these concerns in the dynamic educational sector. A well-defined regulatory framework has to be in place to manage the ethical aspect of forced learning, behavioral and psychographic data drainage, content regulation, standards, and compliances.