In the last few years, several online learning tools like BYJU’S and Khan Academy have made a splash in the education sector. Many argue they have made the process of learning easier, but some believe they are yet to replace coaching centres in India.
ThePrint asks: Have online learning tools like BYJU’S & Khan Academy made tuition centres redundant?
With online learning apps, good education is being democratised
The answer is yes and no. We need to ask what role tuition centres play in our education system.
Unfortunately, in most cases, they play a supplementary role to schools. Often, the quality of education is so poor in schools that parents send their children to tuition centres to learn and complete the syllabi. School administrations are aware of this fact. Thus, they don’t have any incentive to upgrade the level of teaching. This is a vicious cycle that damages the education system.
In this case, online learning can be partially effective. On the one hand, if the online lectures are clear, students will be able to comprehend and learn. Also, free platforms, such as a Khan Academy, coupled with rapidly falling mobile data costs allow a much larger audience to access these lectures. In that sense, good education is being democratised.
On the other hand, a lively classroom discussion and the ability of students to ask questions and counter-questions still hold merit. When it comes to understanding complex concepts and theories, online lectures will always be a little behind the real lectures.
In terms of tuition centres playing a complementary role to school teaching, online learning is definitely making these centres redundant.
Online classes may never convince parents their children are seriously preparing for exams
Senior associate editor, ThePrint
Online learning tools like BYJU’S and Khan Academy are becoming popular. Their user base is growing rapidly among both school and colleges students. These apps are trying to make the process of learning easier through a wide variety of tools.
But will these apps make tuition centres redundant?
I think that’s highly unlikely. First of all, not everyone is comfortable with online education. Many prefer the comfort and familiarity of a tuition centre and teachers.
Second, online classes may never convince parents that their children are seriously preparing for their exams. They may still need the reassurance that comes with seeing their children attending tuition classes.
Third, the use of online learning apps, to a large extent, depends on a student’s self-discipline. Here, there is no pressure on a student to regularly attend tuition classes.
However, for students faced with a tight budget, cost is an important determining factor. They are likely to opt for the cheaper mode of education among the two options available.
Tuition centres are not becoming redundant, but offering the best of both worlds
This question echoes one of the most contested debates in mainstream economics: the role of technological disruption.
Do new technologies completely alter the existing modes of social operation/organisation, in the process causing great harm as well as offering sizeable benefits to different sections? Or, are they co-opted within these existing modes by enterprising individuals, leading to more optimal outcomes for everyone?
I think the latter is a more likely possibility — and this holds true for these new-age apps as well, which are redefining the way we learn and the way we teach.
Existing tuition centres are not becoming redundant but are incorporating technology in their pedagogical approach. Thus, those who enrol in them get the best of both worlds: conventional personalised classroom teaching and the option to revisit a prior lecture if it was missed or not properly understood.
Simultaneously, these new tech startups are enabling those who couldn’t have earlier enrolled for regular coaching classes due to any set of reasons. For instance, a working professional preparing for GMAT would have earlier relied only on a text-based correspondence course but can now augment it by watching lectures on a mobile app while travelling in a metro.
Thus, new learning tools have allowed better product differentiation and not made anything redundant.
For many parents in small cities, learning apps can be an added advantage, not the only resort
Special Correspondent, ThePrint
Online learning apps like Khan Academy and BYJU’S cannot make coaching centres redundant and there are more than one reason for this.
The most important point is availability. Learning apps like these are available to a limited number of children, mostly in big cities. Some children belonging to middle class and upper middle class families in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities may also have access to these apps.
Many parents in smaller cities are not in favour of their children spending a lot of time on learning apps and they enrol them in a coaching centre. For them, a learning app can be an added advantage but not the only resort. In an environment of increasing competition, nobody wants to take a risk.
The size of the private coaching sector in India, according to an Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) report of 2013, was an estimated Rs 1.14 lakh crore and it was expected to grow to Rs 2.39 lakh crore by 2015. Private coaching is here to stay.
Content on these learning apps is mainly in English and that limits the reach
Online learning tools like BYJU’S and Khan Academy are providing ‘alternate study material’, and not replacing tuition centres. They add to the learning experience by offering an innovative presentation.
But since the content on these learning tools is mainly in English, it may not be accessible to a cross-section of students. These apps also lack the personal touch, which many students may need.
Further, one can’t deny a technology divide between rural and urban students, and the former may need training before they can use these learning apps.
At a recent interaction with UPSC aspirants in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar, I found that most of them, who come from rural areas, rely on coaching centres for exam preparation.
On the other hand, students from urban areas are better equipped to utilise these online resources, and need not depend on tuition centres.
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