A NEAT solution: Partnering private sector for online education bodes well

By: |
February 19, 2021 8:00 AM

As against 13 ed-tech companies participating last year, NEAT now has participation from 48 ed-tech start-ups, which can tie up with colleges and deliver customised courses.

Until now, colleges have been driving their own collaborations. Delhi Technological University, for instance, has collaborated with Coursera, EdX and NPTEL for online courses for one semester.Until now, colleges have been driving their own collaborations. Delhi Technological University, for instance, has collaborated with Coursera, EdX and NPTEL for online courses for one semester.

The immense appetite in India for online courses run by foreign providers/universities has as much to do with the high-quality content from such providers as with the limited domestic-market options—thanks to the government waking up to the need to promote digital education only after the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) and tech-education regulator All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) are trying to bridge the deficit by roping in the private sector.

Realising that it may take time for universities to develop their courses, content and tools, as also the fact that government’s SWAYAM and NPTEL portal for massive open online courses haven’t been as popular, UGC and AICTE are trying forge partnerships with ed-tech companies to collaborate on courses and online teaching.

Although the government had launched the National Education Alliance for Technology (NEAT) initiative last year, it is now expanding the initiative’s purview.

As against 13 ed-tech companies participating last year, NEAT now has participation from 48 ed-tech start-ups, which can tie up with colleges and deliver customised courses.

These companies are also expected to provide training support for college teachers, gearing them up for online teaching. Apart from this, they will be giving 25% of the courses free to the government for EWS categories. Until now, colleges have been driving their own collaborations. Delhi Technological University, for instance, has collaborated with Coursera, EdX and NPTEL for online courses for one semester.

The Centre’s push will certainly help higher education, but such initiatives also need to be made for schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana to increase employability through skill development programmes.

While the government has launched a third iteration of the scheme, a parliamentary panel report had pointed to the rather poor performance of the first two iterations. Of the over one crore students the PMKVY had targeted to train since 2016, the ministry was able to enrol only 69 lakh, of which 66 lakh got trained, and an even lower 50 lakh got certified.

What’s more, is that a meagre 15 lakh—less than a fourth of those trained—found employment. An association with online platforms and start-ups engaged in skill development can go a long way in ensuring better employability.

For instance, in the healthcare sector, a start-up called Virohan has been collaborating with medical training institutes across the country to standardise the curriculum for the training of emergency medical, medical laboratory, radiology and operation theatre technicians. The company has also tied up with hospitals and claims a placement rate of 85%.

Unless the government drives more such private partnerships, the higher education and skilling space will not truly get modernised. In school teaching also, the government needs to collaborate with the likes of Byju’s and Khan Academy to create curriculum that can better engage students.

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