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

New Delhi: Ensuring ethical sales practices, transparent marketing communication backed by authentic data and validated proof of performance, a sound financial policy and appropriate handling of grievances – these are some of the objectives included in the code of conduct drawn up by the ‘Indian Edtech Consortium (IEC), a recently launched self-regulatory body for all Edtech platforms that choose to be part of it.

While the ongoing pandemic and ongoing disruptions to learning have led to tremendous growth in the education technology, or Edtech, sector in India over the past couple of years, so far it is an unregulated area.

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

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

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

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

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

An IAMAI source told ThePrint that any Edtech company that wants to join the consortium must first express their interest to the body. IAMAI will then undertake its own series of checks and approve the new member.

Regulating the Edtech sector in India

According to the IEC’s code of conduct, its Edtech member companies will ensure that their sales practices are ethical and that there is no difference between what they promise and what the consumer actually gets, informed Healthy.

Likewise, marketing communication should be transparent and backed by authentic data and validated proof of performance. It was discussed and decided that companies should not be aggressive in their marketing practices, he added.

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

Companies will also have a robust two-tier grievance mechanism for consumers, under which they will appoint a grievance officer, he said.

What Edtech players are saying

“The IEC will act as an industry-specific rulebook to enhance the overall online learning experience, with a certain set of guidelines to help add value to learners,” said Mayank Kumar, co -Founder and Managing Director of UpGrad at ThePrint.

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

The main objective of the regulatory practices put in place is to ensure the best possible learning system for students.

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

Commenting on the consortium in the IAMAI press release, Divya Gokulnath, co-founder of Byju’s, also said that the company was “fully aligned with the government’s principles of protecting consumer interests and welcomes the establishment of Guidelines”.

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

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

“Such a situation will allow Edtech companies to grow their presence in an ethical and sustainable way, while protecting learners as they prepare for the future to play a greater role in the growth story of the India,” Tawde said.

(Editing by Poulomi Banerjee)

Read also : Why bankers, engineers, researchers and other professionals are transforming teachers on edtech platforms

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