What Govts Can Do to Make the Most of EdTech – Instead of Handing Out Tablets to Students
As the bad news from various educational technology companies or edtech continues to arrive in India, I come up with some small but important news for readers and all stakeholders of the online educational space.
A few weeks ago I had written an article urging state and Union governments to step in to help and rescue unfortunate parents and students who are victims of mis-selling and misrepresentation of facts by certain edtech companies that they seem to be driven by a single person. reason: benefits.
I suggested that the Union and state governments, through the ministry and education departments, help separate wheat from straw and campaign based on its findings.
The good news is that governments don’t have to start from scratch. In 2020, amid the intoxicating boom of edtech, the Central Square Foundation (CSF), an education advocacy body, and IIT-Mumbai teamed up to create Edtech Tulna. ‘Tulna‘is’ comparison’ in Hindi.
The framework was created by an IIT Mumbai research team led by Professor Sahana Murthy with a team of about 15 full-time and part-time members and was funded by CSF.
EdTech Tulna is an evidence-based assessment index that aims to reduce information asymmetry in the ecosystem and seeks to build a shared understanding of how good an edtech is.
The framework sets quality standards and is built to evaluate products in three parameters: content quality, pedagogical alignment, and technology and design. Content quality measures the accuracy and adequacy of product content for intended users or learners. The pedagogical alignment measures the extent to which the product incorporates national educational requirements and pedagogical strategies. And finally, how technology and design are integrated with pedagogy to deliver a meaningful learning experience.
Although Tulna is currently a work in progress (product comparison for students and parents is yet to be done), more progressive states can already start making more informed decisions if they so wish.
In fact, in May, the Haryana government became the first state government to acquire customized adaptive learning (PAL) solutions to support half a million high school students, using EdTech Tulna as a framework for technical evaluation for the call for proposals (RFP).
Prior to Haryana, the government of Madhya Pradesh issued an RFP to procure PAL solutions for about 1,000 schools. The state has used EdTech Tulna as part of its prequalification criteria to ensure that all solutions considered first meet a minimum quality benchmark.
The previous paragraph may sound like a gobbledygook to lay readers, so let me explain why this is significant.
State governments have failed over the years to make sense of both technology and e-learning, so every time an election approaches, the minister in no way distributes tablets or some sort of d devices to needy students in the hope that this will translate into an electoral victory.
It is hardly thought if the student is in a position to take advantage of the free gadget he receives or if the software is in any way relevant to his age, stage or ability. It has been like throwing money into a black hole, hoping gold will come out the other end. This is perhaps the first time a state government has at least attempted to address the problem with student welfare and software needs in mind.
Second, as Tulna advances and expands its tentacles, it may be a good assessor for low-middle-income parents, many of whom study in India’s vast network of affordable private schools. This is the most vulnerable lot to mis-selling and misrepresentation of the facts that is wreaking havoc on the edtech ecosystem by players driven by not more for profit.
This would be such a valuable contribution as it helps state governments to provide the right products to their school students who, in the absence of state support, would be left without any online learning as the affordability of virtually anything remains a great barrier.
Ultimately, while the dissemination of information is a ball that will likely remain on the court of state and Union governments, at least half of its work has been done by Tulna and its advocates. Now, states can just grab that ball and run.
Anjuli Bhargava is a senior business journalist.