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Ethical sales, finance policies, grievance redressal — how Edtech companies are self-regulating

New Delhi: Ensuring ethical sales practices, transparent marketing communication backed with authentic data and validated proof of performance, a robust financial policy and proper grievance redressal — these are some of the targets included in the code of conduct drawn up by the Indian Edtech Consortium (IEC), a recently launched self-regulating body for all Edtech platforms that choose to be a part of it.

While the ongoing pandemic and constant disruptions to learning resulted in tremendous growth for the education technology, or Edtech, sector in India in the past two years, it has so far been an unregulated area.

The Ministry of Education has also talked about the need to regulate Edtech platforms, minister Dharmendra Pradhan said earlier this month that the government will work on a common policy for the platforms.

But earlier this month, leading Edtech companies like Byju’s, upGrad and Vedantu, among others, joined hands to form a self-regulating body.

The newly-formed consortium will function under the aegis of the industry body, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). According to a press release issued by the IAMAI on 12 January, the other companies that have joined the consortium so far include Careers 360, Classplus, Doubtnut, Great Learning, Harappa, Times Edutech & Events Ltd, Scaler, Simplilearn, Toppr, Unacademy, UNext Learning and WhiteHat Jr.

According to the IAMAI, the IEC has been in the works much longer than the government’s regulatory plans for the sector. Bhanupreet Saini, head of public policy at IAMAI, told ThePrint that Edtech companies had been in discussion with the body them for a long time regarding the formation of the consortium.

“The consortium has met the Ministry of Education and looks forward to working with them closely,” Saini added.

A source in the IAMAI told ThePrint that any Edtech company that wants to join the consortium needs to first express interest with the body. The IAMAI will then undertake its own set of verifications and approve the new member.

Regulating India’s Edtech sector

According to the IEC Code of Conduct, its member Edtech companies will ensure that their sales practices are ethical and there is no difference between what they are promising and what the consumer actually gets, informed Saini.

Similarly, marketing communication needs to be transparent and backed with authentic data and validated proof of performance. It has been discussed, and decided, that companies should not be aggressive with their marketing practices, he added.

Saini also said the third and the most important target in the code of conduct is for companies to have a robust financial policy. “The financial policies of the Edtech platform should be very clear and transparent, so that the consumer understands them. If there are loans that the platform is offering with its services, the terms and conditions should be clear to the customer,” he explained.

The companies will also have a robust two-tier grievance redressal mechanism for consumers, as part of which they will appoint a grievance officer, he said.

What Edtech players say

“The IEC will act as an industry-specific rule book for improving the overall online learning experience, with certain set of guidelines to help add value to the learners,” Mayank Kumar, co-founder & MD of UpGrad told ThePrint.

“It will also help to address grievances and safeguard the interests of all stakeholders involved, thus maintaining a strict discipline within the ecosystem,” he said.

The primary aim of the regulatory practices being put in place is to ensure the best possible learning system for students.

“As part of the newly institutionalised IEC, we will build a sounder and more ethical ecosystem for students, so that we can ensure their safety and mitigate any risks they may encounter in their journey to be future-ready,” said Vamsi Krishna, CEO & co-founder, Vedantu.

Commenting on the consortium in the IAMAI press release, Divya Gokulnath, co-founder, Byju’s, had also said that the company is “completely aligned with the government’s principles on safeguarding consumer interests and welcome the creation of guidelines”.

The benefits of the consortium have also been accepted by those Edtech companies which are currently not a part of it.

Lehar Tawde, co-founder of ConnectEd Technologies, an EdTech platform that works with government schools told ThePrint that “we expect the IEC to work closely with Edtech companies and regulatory authorities to establish a progressive and mutually-acceptable approach to education-technology tools in India’s education system”.

“Such a situation will enable Edtech companies to grow their presence in an ethical and sustainable manner, whilst protecting learners as they get future-ready to play a bigger role in the India growth story,” Tawde said.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Why bankers, engineers, researchers & other pros are turning teachers on edtech platforms

Source: The Print

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