Mobilising education in India

Updated: Jul 15 2013, 05:43am hrs
Two powerful trends are shaping the future of Indias economic growth and cultural fabricincreased demand for quality education and the rise of mobile technology.

In a country of 1.2 billion people, 54% are currently under 25 years of age and in need of K-12 schooling and higher education. And as many as 47 million people will enter the workforce by 2020, according to the India Brand Equity Foundation. The public and private sector is working hard to meet the ballooning need for quality education; Indias illiteracy rate has dropped from 35% to 26% between 2001 and 2011 while the higher education sector is expected to grow at 18% CAGR until 2020.

Despite these advances, however, much work remains to ensure greater access to higher quality education.

Enter the mobile device, which has arguably impacted India in ways unlike any other technology. Over 865 million people have a mobile phone compared to 80 million PCs in India. For many, their mobile device is the only screen available to them, as well as their first internet experience. With such far-reaching influence, the mobile ecosystem is also well-positioned to help meet the equally widespread demand for education in India.

Independent mobile video and media company Vuclip recently surveyed 80,000 people worldwide to examine pressing issues in education, as well as whether or not mobile technology could help address them. With 30,000 of the participants from India alone, the survey results revealed the following:

l As many as 50% of participants from India cited insufficient finances as the number one barrier to pursuing quality education.

l Indian students are more open to learning at home with only 18% preferring to study in a school as compared to 25% globally.

l Of participants below 18 years of age, 82% were highly responsive to accessing education through their mobile phones.

These findings point to the potential of mobile phones in democratising education. While not a silver bullet, mobile education is proving increasingly effective around the world. In Bangladesh, the English in Action project uses mobile to teach English; it expects more than 25 million people to be involved by 2017. According to the GSMA and AT Kearney State of the Mobile Media 2013 report, education is one of the three biggest priorities for young people in the emerging world with 63% believing they can learn through a basic mobile device. As many as 180 million children in developing countries will have the opportunity to stay in school between now and 2017 due to mobile education. The developed world is also taking note; educators are adopting mobile to encourage peer-to-peer learning, create interactive lessons and expose students to international perspectives.

The role of mobile video in education, in particular, is worth examining. Video traffic globally is expected to grow by 60% annually through to 2018, as determined by Ericssons 2013 mobility research. Serving 1.5 billion minutes of video every month, Vuclip has created an education specific channel that serves content from organisations such as the Khan Academy and MIT Higher Education to anyone capable of browsing video on the internet, anywhere in the world. To fully encourage the democratisation of education through mobile and mobile video in India, the following changes are needed:

l Decrease the prices of tablets and smartphones.

l Provide easy-to-consume content in a way that is suited for mobile. For example, create clips that are 10 minutes or less in length.

l Make the user experience engaging by adding elements of fun like geography games or virtual science experiments.

l Create new business models that bring down the cost of receiving an education. For example, online higher education provider Udacity makes content from top-tier universities accessible and free to everyone but requires a fee for students looking to earn a degree.

As the mobile industry evolves and the need for education increases, India has a remarkable opportunity to make affordable education available to the masses through mobile devices. The entire mobile ecosystem is in a unique position to actively foster accessibility and create new education models. We look forward to future developments in India and throughout the world.

Nickhil Jakatdar

The author is CEO, Vuclip