India unlikely to go for a China-like crackdown on ed-tech companies

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NEW DELHI : The government may not go for immediate regulation of the ed-tech sector—rather it will wait and watch if self-regulation can uphold the standards set by the India Ed-tech Consortium (IEC) and address grievances faced by students, according to people aware of discussions between the two sides.

The government has taken the view that it will closely monitor this sector after the IEC presented its code of conduct to the ministry of education. The code is meant to be followed by all ed-tech companies, moving toward self regulation.

“The guidelines have been shared with the ministry and they have been received well. They (government) are of the view that they will closely monitor the implementation of the code and would prefer going in for full-scale self-regulation,” one of the people said, asking not to be named since the discussions were not public.

With the IEC setting up an independent grievance platform for addressing issues and consumer complaints, which will form part of a two-tier grievance redressal mechanism to be adopted by the ed-tech companies, the government wants to see how this system is executed before taking a call on whether to intervene, said industry insiders.

“The IEC as per its memorandum, requires each ed-tech entity to appoint a grievance officer and if a complaint is not resolved at this level, then consumers can approach the IEC which will set up its own independent grievance review board which will comprise of a chairperson who would be a retired judge and six expert members,” said Bhanupreet Saini, head of public policy at Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

Saini added that the IEC’s grievance redressal platform will be up and running within two months. The Board will comprise two members from ed-tech, two bureaucrats, and two members from other businesses, to ensure transparency.

The IEC, an autonomous and independent body formed under IAMAI, has startups such as Byju’s, Careers 360, Unacademy, UpGrad, Vedantu, WhiteHat Jr, Great Learning, Harappa Education, Times Edutech and Events Ltd among its members.

It was set up after the government cautioned ed-tech portals against making undue claims regarding the services they offer, and against predatory marketing practices.

Education minister Dharmendra Pradhan said earlier this month that the government had received complaints of students being exploited in remote areas.

He then directed school, higher education and skill ministries to issue advisories, and form a common policy on the sector in consultation with the ministries of law and electronics and information technology.

The online education sector has seen rapid growth during 2020 and 2021 as the covid-19 pandemic forced schools to close and shift in-person classes online, giving companies in the sector massive scale.

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