Ed Tech in India shouldn't become the infamous 'Bihar Topper' story!

Centre supports the EdTech but sounds a note of caution on ‘unethical practices. The Edtech sector is massively booming but it has also attracted questions related to ‘misselling’ to parents and also related to valuation at the bourses.

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Centre supports the EdTech but sounds a note of caution on ‘unethical practices 

Remember Ruby Rai, the Bihar School board topper from 2016, who could not answer even the most rudimentary of questions when interviewed by TV channels. 

The sensational case has shell-shocked Indian audiences but brought out a well-known truth. That unethical practices and inefficiencies often mar the Indian education sector. Six years later, as the education system has resolutely moved online, one of the major concerns of the Modi government is to ensure that the net proves a saner medium of learning. 

The Edtech sector is massively booming but it has also attracted questions related to ‘misselling’ to parents and also related to valuation at the bourses. 

The Narendra Modi government at the Centre wants the Edtech sector to grow but unethical advertising practices have to be kept in check, the Consumer Affairs Ministry has told a group of leading Edtech entrepreneurs. 

The self-regulatory body Indian Edtech Consortium (IEC) under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) met Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh on Monday. 

The aim of the meeting was to brief the top Consumer Affairs official about the ongoing efforts towards self-regulation of India’s Edtech ecosystem.

 As a part of the agenda, the members discussed the need to further safeguard consumer interests, through seamless, transparent, and feasible offerings for consumers. 

Joint Working Group for Advertising Guidelines

As a result, the Consumer Affairs Secretary agreed to support IEC to constitute a joint working group for laying down advertising guidelines for further sanitising the Edtech ecosystem, a statement released by the IAMAI said.

 “We want Indian Edtechs to grow, but until we eliminate the wrongdoings completely, we will not be able to achieve our mission. We would like to work closely with IEC in formalising set templates and operating guidelines for Edtech companies to keep unethical practices within advertising and communications at bay. It shall foster a holistic operating environment for both entrepreneurs and consumers to offer a fair chance of growth and learning,” Singh said while addressing the quorum.

Currently, IEC comprises Indian Edtech companies and represents 95% of the Indian learner community. The meeting was attended by representatives of IAMAI, along with IEC member companies including UpGrad, BYJU’S, Unacademy, Times Professional Learning, and Great Learning.

The IEC members also presented a report highlighting the efficacy of the 2-Tier Grievance Redressal and IGRB which has been successful in resolving 99%+ of the complaints raised in the last 10 months.

“IEC was formed with a mission to safeguard the interest of its consumers and we shall continue to take corrective measures in this regard. This indeed, is a big step and we are thankful of the government to have provided us with enough support for building an all-inclusive ecosystem that encourages ethical and transparent communication for its learners and key stakeholders,” said Mayank Kumar, Chair IEC. 

Concerns about the Edtech sector:

The Consumer Affairs Ministry and the Edtech platforms have engaged on a range of issues in the past as well. According to media reports, the Consumer Affairs ministry has in the past received complaints against Edtech companies related to mis-selling to parents. The claims made by Edtech companies in their advertising campaigns should be authentic, the ministry has been emphasising. 

Earlier in July, the Consumer Affairs ministry had issued a statement after a meeting with Edtech companies in which it had underlined its concerns. In the meeting Consumer Affairs secretary Singh had made clear that if self-regulation does not curb unfair trade practices, then stringent guidelines would require to be formulated for ensuring transparency.

The Secretary pointed out that it has been reported that certain advertisements and practices do not seem to conform to prevalent guidelines and existing regulations. Therefore, it’s imperative to work together to maintain robust checkpoints that align with the consumers’ interests, the official statement said. The problem of increasing fake reviews was also a major point of concern that needed to be contained, it added. 

Notably, a recent report by ASCI revealed that the education category is the largest violator of the advertising code in 2021-22, the statement further said. 

However. Following the latest meeting on Monday, the hope is that the Edtech sector entities would be able to take steps to address consumer issues.