Edtech majors have welcomed Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI)'s move to bring out a self-regulatory code in the country.
This development comes amid growing concerns of misselling and alleged unfair practices by edtech firms in India and the likelihood of the government cracking down on the sector.
On January 3, Moneycontrol reported that the Union education ministry was in talks with the ministry of law and ministry of electronics and information and technology (MeitY) to work out a policy for the sector.
The aim of the proposed policy is to curb monopoly and prevent the exploitation of students by some edtech platforms through lofty promises or unfair practices.
This comes at a time when the sector is witnessing a fundraising spree after clocking exponential growth in the past two years as schools and colleges were mostly shut due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. While Byju's and Unacademy have racked up massive funds in the past year, the sector has also minted three new unicorns - Eruditus, UpGrad, Vedantu.
Education minister Dharmendra Pradhan on January 3 said he respects edtech firms and is not against their business growth. “But there cannot be a monopoly…you cannot exploit students,” the minister noted.
This was a month after the education ministry issued a stern advisory asking students and parents to take guard against alleged unfair practices by some firms.
Eruditus cofounder Ashwin Damera told Moneycontrol it was only a matter of time before the government stepped in to regulate, given the aggressive student recruitment tactics used by some edtech players and the resultant consumer complaints.
"Had all edtech players self regulated and followed transparent and consumer friendly practices, this could have been avoided. At Eruditus, we welcome this move by the Government, as we already fully comply with the advisory note the government circulated" Damera said.
LEAD cofounder Sumeet Mehta said any regulation should incentivise innovation in the edtech industry while protecting parents and students against malpractices.
"In EdTech, Saraswati should precede Lakshmi. If we are overly focused on chasing revenue at the expense of what's right for the child, we would not succeed in the long term" he said.
On January 12, IAMAI announced the formation of a self-regulatory body called the India EdTech Consortium that will comprise of edtech firms such as Byju’s, WhiteHat Jr, Unacademy, Vedantu, upGrad, Toppr, Simplilearn, Careers 360,Classplus, Doubtnut, Great Learning, Harappa, Times Edutech & Events Ltd, Scaler, and UNext Learning.
The industry body said the overall Indian edtech ecosystem impacts over 500 million school students, college students and working professionals across India and, at this scale, it is critical that the ecosystem follows a framework that will protect the rights of learners in the country.
These edtech firms have committed to observe and adhere to a common 'Code of Conduct' and establish a two-tier grievance redressal mechanism.
IAMAI president Subho Ray said the formation of this self-regulatory body is an important step towards protecting learners as more students, teachers and stakeholders are becoming a part of the online education ecosystem.
"The last two years have witnessed the rise of online education as a connecting bridge to access flexible and quality education for students as well as working professionals. With the sole purpose of improving the delivery of education services, it is now crucial for us to foster and sustain stakeholder trust by safeguarding their interest as a practice," said upGrad cofounder Mayank Kumar who is also the co-chairperson for IAMAI edtech committee.
Vedantu cofounder Vamsi Krishna said as part the newly institutionalised consortium "we will build a sounder and more ethical ecosystem for students so that we can ensure their safety and mitigate any risks they may encounter in their journey to be future-ready"