By Lavu Sri Krishna Devarayalu,
In this new era of education development and consumption, traditional regulatory mechanisms will be ineffective because they will lag behind the rate of change in the edtech sector. At the outset, it might seem contradictory and unproductive as edtechs are primarily working to provide quality education across categories like K-12, higher education, and upskilling domains. There are also numerous edtech providers that teach coding to both children and adults, sometimes in the same class. Several ed-tech companies have already formed the India EdTech Consortium (IEC) under the auspices of the Internet and Mobile Association of India. This is a positive development since it relieves the executive of the burden of establishing rules and regulations in a continually changing environment.
India has the world’s third largest start-up ecosystem. It is anticipated to witness continuous 12 to 15 percent y-o-y growth. These start-ups have generated over 7.68 lakh jobs in the last six years. The government of India recognises the need of collaborating with disruptive innovators across the value chain and utilising their innovations to improve public service delivery while supporting them through initiatives such as Start-up India and Stand-Up India schemes. Start-ups have always been disruptive to the status quo which calls for the need for regulation by various sections of the government and society. However, unnecessary governmental regulation can deeply hamper the innovation process as well as economic growth.
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Within the start-up ecosystem, edtechs have seen phenomenal growth in the last decade especially post-covid lockdowns. In just two years, this sector has minted six unicorns. Funding for Indian edtechs have also seen a 200% increase since 2019. Various complaints have been raised by parents, students and teachers in the last two years which is forcing the government to consider regulating this sector. However, in this case, it would be more beneficial to let the industry regulate itself.
It is often believed that only the government can look out for protecting the interests of students and affordability for the masses. However, various cases can be seen where self-regulation by industry associations have done better and also led to better compliance within the industry. When rules are created by industry participants, they are more likely to be perceived as sensible. The bottom-up structure of self-regulation lends it greater legitimacy. In the United States, for instance, the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating system prohibits children from viewing films containing adult content. To prevent stock market crashes caused by high-frequency trading, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority of the United States of America implemented “circuit breakers.” These businesses agreed to go beyond the law, sacrificing precious profits, in order to serve the general public for the greater good.
Self-regulation is more adaptable than traditional regulation, which emphasises a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Due to their adaptability, self-regulation can be more effective when the industry or scenario to which they are applied changes rapidly.
If the entire sectors adopt a uniform method of self-regulation, in addition to increasing consumer trust, the need for more government regulation may be eliminated. For growing industries where rules have not yet caught up, early and transparent self-regulation may prevent future restrictions from being unduly harsh or burdensome.
Self-regulation is a powerful and viable choice due to the domain expertise of industry professionals. It is more efficient for the government to rely on the aggregate expertise of the industry than to duplicate that expertise at the agency level. In the Indian setting, organisations such as FTII (‘Film and Television Institute of India’) and CINTA (‘Cine and TV Artists’ Association’) might serve in this capacity.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) self-regulatory method entails the formation of a “Board” with a Chairperson and Board Individuals comprising expert members from the community, as well as a Grievance and Complaint Board. Thus, executive decisions are made by the ASCI Board with a public narrative and the industry’s interests in mind, and with quicker redress. In the absence of such a forum, the judiciary is responsible for remedy, which increases the burden and duration of such redress.
Self-regulation is less expensive for the government since it transfers the burden of creating and enforcing rules to the industry. Consequently, self-regulation is independent of the ideology of the governing government.
Clearly, self-regulation has multiple benefits for the industry players, for the government, and for the society at large. It develops ownership on the industry to take the ‘right steps’ and also follow the rules decided amongst oneself. Prominent industry players who have formed the Indian EdTech Consortium aim to right the wrongs in their industry by developing a common set of guidelines and a self-regulatory code of conduct, which are necessary to achieve widespread adoption in a sustainable manner for learners, educators, and the society. The industry participants have solicited consumer feedback and independently established an organisation to combat deceptive advertising, oversee the quality control of teachers and pedagogy, and address consumer rights issues by establishing a two-tiered grievance resolution system. Effective self-regulation also prevents top-down regulatory restrictions that might stifle innovation and stifle the sector, as we have seen in China, where the country has effectively decimated the edtech sector with its heavy-handed approach.
In the brave new India, where a plethora of changes are being introduced by the government, the society, and the industry, it is only appropriate to have mechanisms by which start-ups can enable regulatory frameworks of their own to change rapidly in order to innovate and flourish, thereby allowing the nation to prosper as well.
(The author is Member of Parliament, YSRCP, and Vice Chairman of Vignan University. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)