National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT) Scheme, a first of its kind public-private partnership for improving learning outcomes in higher education with the help of latest technologies, is bound to elevate the growth of e-learning industry in the country.
NEAT Scheme: The Background
On 19th September 2019, the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) announced a new scheme National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT), proposing alliance with the edtech companies which can use artificial intelligence (AI) to develop adaptive platforms through a PPP model. Recognizing the role of technologies like artificial intelligence in providing adaptive learning, the MHRD intends to cater to the needs of diverse learners in higher education.
However, the most important thing about NEAT is the cognizance of the efforts being made by new start-up and other edtech companies for bringing innovative solutions in education. MHRD now wishes to collaborate with them by developing a common platform where the learners can easily access the best of the novel educational technologies and choose from the many options as per their learning preferences. Bringing all educational innovations under one such umbrella will not only benefit higher education students, but will consolidate the unorganized e-learning industry too.
The proposed platform is set to be launched in November this year. AICTE will be the implementing agency which will function under the guidance of an apex committee constituted by MHRD. MHRD has invited proposals from edtech companies for alliance which will be screened and finally shortlisted. Independent expert committees will be specially constituted for the evaluation of educational solutions being offered by the various edtech companies. This will be followed by signing of MoU with the shortlisted companies.
Meanwhile, the innovative cell of MHRD has also opened a NEAT logo contest for inviting logo designs for its said NEAT portal. The edtech companies will be responsible for developing solutions and managing registration of users through NEAT portal. The companies will be free to charge fees for their solutions as per their policy. However, they will have to offer free coupons for about 25 percent of the total registrations. This 25 percent free coupons will be utilized for providing access to these solutions to the most socially and economically backward students.
Awareness programs will also be taken up for teachers and students to create awareness of educational solutions available at the NEAT portal. Hence, the role of MHRD will be to facilitate quality educational solutions to a large number of economically backward students and teachers who can use them in their classroom teaching.
NEAT Scheme: A Positive Push to India’s Edtech Industry
Given the above backdrop of NEAT, it is pertinent to discuss the implications and impact this scheme (along with other similar government initiatives for use of technology in education and online learning) can make in the coming years. Let’s discuss how the various domains like society, economy, e-learning industry, education, educational institutes, teachers, learners etc. will be impacted by the changing face of education in the digital age via government’s initiatives like NEAT.
1. Increase in the Share of e-learning in Higher Education Segment
According to market survey reports, the growth of e-learning industry has been lagging behind in the higher education sector. However, the latest NEAT scheme of AICTE and recent UGC’s regulation for online courses will have far reaching implications for the e-learning industry. Not only will this proactive initiative by GOI help in consolidating the edtech market but will also catalyze the growth of e-learning industry in the country particularly in higher education. The previously projected CAGR of e-learning in higher education is expected to get significantly propelled by the MHRD initiatives.
2. Increased Accreditation to and Credibility of Online Courses
Doubts about recognition of private online courses is one of many barriers for the growth of e-learning in the country. The apex autonomous regulatory bodies like UGC and AICTE have been granted the onus to regulate the quality of online courses and NEAT portal respectively. This will go a long way in garnering trust for online courses among the public. Moreover, the private edtech companies which will form alliance with these governmental initiatives will also gain popularity and recognition.
3. Increased Opportunity for Educational Start-ups
The macrocosm of cascading changes in e-learning domain is creating a favorable climate for flourishing of new edtech start-ups with novel and innovative ideas. With opening of governmental funding and support for the smaller e-learning companies, the country may witness starting of a large number of edtech start-ups in a few years.
4. Enhanced Awareness and Promotion of E-Learning
With government emphasizing more on the use of technology in education and online learning, the educational institutions, teachers, educators and learners should now be more inclined to adopt e-learning for teaching-learning as well as self-development. The NEAT scheme also focusses on spreading awareness of educational solutions to teachers and students. Enhanced government-driven awareness will definitely give e-learning the requisite boost and even those who are still untouched by the developments in the field of educational technology might also start coming into its fold.
5. Upcoming Trend of Public-Private Partnership In Education
The PPP model can on one hand bring in the best talent and educational solutions while on the other may help in maintaining equity and parity by making them available to marginalized or socio-economically backward classes of learners. Private alone is not self-sufficient to manage its expenses and do social welfare unless supported by the government. More number of such PPP-based alliances are on the cards for the Indian edtech industry.
6. Increased Attention to Learner Preferences
Learner-centric education will be provided in true spirit with effective utilization of latest technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These latest technologies can together help in creating adaptive platforms which are highly personalized and customized keeping in mind an individual learner. The diversity of learners and hence availability of multiple methods of learning for each individual learner has been stressed by MHRD for creation of NEAT portal.
7. Socially and Economically Backward Students to Benefit Immensely
Students who cannot afford quality education due to their social or economic moorings will not be left behind any further. The governmental initiatives and regulations will ensure that a wide range of such learners can educate themselves and get opportunities to improve their circumstances.
8. Integration of Technology with Pedagogy
Technology sans pedagogy holds no educational values. The expert committees for evaluation of edtech solutions will comprise of eminent educationists, scholars and technologists to see whether the learning solutions are pedagogically effective in improving the learning outcomes. This will indeed help in achieving quality in education.
9. Moving Towards Recognizing Individual Differences and Universal Designs
Technology-led educational design will be built on universal principles of access and equality. Even the learners with physical or intellectual disability who so far could not be successfully brought into the mainstream will be benefitted. This will bring in inclusiveness and help combat social disparity.
10. Increased Revenue for E-Learning Industry
The entire educational landscape is turning in favor of the e-learning industry. It might witness increased revenue and CAGR in a matter of few years. The development of e-learning industry in the country is the need of the hour keeping in view its growth worldwide especially in the developed nations. Many international edtech companies are also keen to come to India. All these can help not only in creating a knowledge society but also will contribute to the development of the nation.