The Future is in the hands of Digitally Educated Students
Over the last few years, Indian education sector have witnessed a tremendous change in the mindsets of educators and academicians. Today, every school understands the need to augment the traditional chalk-and-talk method with digital and physical resources. Schools are moving towards full-scale technology integration, with school ERP systems, and digital labs for subjects like Maths and Science.
As a technology solution provider for the education sector, Next Education has taken a mandate to drive the technological advancements in the Indian education sector.
In an exclusive interaction with Faiz Askari of SMEStreet, Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO, Co-founder, Next Education India Pvt. Ltd. shared an overall perspective on this sector and also unleashed his unique observations of Indian education sector’s evolution.
According to you, how technology solutions are transforming the education sector in India?
Digital classroom solutions offer benefits that are unmatched — high-quality, consistent, and adaptive to personal learning styles.
There is a huge scope to use digital classrooms at schools. Our minds learn best when young. The right time to introduce a child to digital classrooms is at the age of 2–8 years. Digital teaching platforms are a great way to build numeracy, literacy and relevancy skills.
Next Education has seen a lot of demand for digital resources from different cities across India. We believe educators and parents do realise the value of digital education, and are very keen to expose the young minds to content and technology that will enable them to succeed in this fast-paced world. Over the next few years we would like to see digital technologies as an integral part of school education, so much so that we no longer discuss them as aspirational.
Every child must know the basics of handling a computer even if s/he is located in a remote village. Needless to say, we would need better classrooms and basic infrastructure in villages to achieve that. Only when children enjoy going to schools and parents feel encouraged to send them, will the turnout of students improve. In comparison to most villages in India, cities have a better access to education. The quality of education can be enhanced with regular teacher-training workshops.
What are the key trends that are dominating in Indian education scenario?
Digital education adoption is happening at schools as well as individual learning front. At the school level, we have observed that over time, schools have adopted some sort of digital solutions. However, they are now looking for integrated solutions across spectrum like labs, digital classroom, assessments and much more.
On the self-learning front, digitalization is still at a nascent stage as a typical child spends almost 6-7 hours at school and relies on neighborhood tuition centers. However, we are observing that more and more parents are expressing a desire to get their child properly evaluated so as to determine his
areas of improvement. In my opinion, a key new trend in this sector are personalized learning tools that are based on high levels of evaluation.
Education is witnessing strong transformation with the advent of smart classrooms, e-Learning, etc. What are the key challenges that you witnessed as important stakeholders of this market?
There are many challenges that we faced while upgrading a classroom with the latest technology. Firstly, setting up digital classrooms requires a huge investment and not many schools are ready to invest. With rapidly-changing technology, equipment might require regular and expensive upgrades which might surprise school administrators. Secondly, we had to make quality content for India because we could not use western content straight away, so that took approximately 3 years and Rs 60-70 crore to build. Thirdly, without proper and regular training, it is difficult to convince teachers to leave the traditional chalk-and-talk method and adapt the audio-visual method. Lastly, each technology-based education solution provider has to build an in-house team that provides onsite support for hardware because vendors are not always able to provide support to the schools in remote areas.
How big is this market in terms of size?
We estimate the K-12 market to be around $20 billion. With schools gradually adopting digital education and hand-on learning methods, we are upbeat.
Do you think that infrastructure is a roadblock for this market?
We believe any problem where solution is money is not a roadblock. A bigger challenge is dealing with teachers’ rigid mindsets towards change and due modernization in teaching methodologies.
What are the key achievements of Next Education in the last one year?
We have been honoured with the ‘Best School Books Solution’ award at Global Learn Tech Conference & Awards 2014, for our books solution – NextBooks and ‘Best Emerging School ERP’ award at the Digital Edge ICT Conclave on Education, for our cutting-edge school management solution – NextERP.
In 2014, we have been able to add 1,500+ schools to our customer base. Currently, our products are being used in 6,500+ schools, reaching out to 6 million+ students across India.
What roadmap do you foresee for your business?
Digital education is here to stay. In today’s K-12 world, the traditional chalk-and-board method has been completely taken over by digital classrooms. Our products allow a healthy blend of new teaching methods that use digital means and traditional methods.
Currently, Next Education is an ICT provider. We are working towards becoming a complete K-12 solutions provider, providing solutions from teacher training to teaching aids.
We believe that this is just the beginning, with only 20% school penetration and 20% adoption at the classroom level. We expect the market to grow more than fivefold from here. Our vision is to be a leading value provider in this segment and capture 25% of the overall market.