How Affordable Are Private Tutoring and Digital Learning in India?
In India, Private Tutoring and Digital learning are the two most demanded supplements to traditional schooling. Although the pandemic did turn the tables, and the digital side has currently taken over the dominance, a fact we must consider is that the rural areas in India are still not enjoying everything digital learning has to offer. I discussed this in detail in the article on improving digital learning in Rural India using voice technology.
There are a lot of diverse opinions regarding the affordability of these supplemental educational services in India. So, stay with me till the end, as I break down the facts and explore if these tutoring services are truly affordable for all, including the underprivileged.
Finally, I will also be sharing my thoughts on how Atlas Primer can impact the financial liability of Indian parents regarding educational expenses.
A few decades ago, the term Private Tutoring in India used to be associated with students having learning difficulties, or for students who struggled to clear the passing score. But ever since, there has been a huge change in the trend of students opting for private coaching. Indeed, more than 55% of Indian students take private tuitions to supplement their formal education. In the current educational landscape, the demand for tutoring has spiked and has gained popularity. But something that surprises me is that even the students who have obtained academic excellence prefer personal coaching. To be frank, I think it is a great boon for young minds to have someone who can personally assist them in their learning.
But let’s get down to the real deal now, i.e., how affordable are these so-called private coaching services? Well, you can easily guess that these services won’t be cheap, considering the time and money spent on travelling. So, let me give you the figures first, before comparing affordability. On average, in India, a tutor can charge a fee ranging from $6/hr and to $70/hr depending on the class, the subjects, travel time, location, etc. And at the school level, the average expenses for accommodating a private tutor can cost more than $1K annually.
Now, you might be thinking that this doesn’t sound like a huge number, but what if I tell you that the average annual income in most of the lower middle-class and lower-class families is around or less than $5K annually. So, if we do the math, it tells us that families from middle and lower sections, who wish to hire or arrange for a private tutor for their kids, would have to spend more than 20% of their annual income. How does this sounds in terms of affordability, I ask. Can you imagine having to spend almost a quarter of your annual income on tutoring expenses alone? And let me remind you that, we are talking about an additional educational expense here and not even the basic school education expenditure. But the truth is that some parents are forced or compromised to hire a private tutor despite being unaffordable, as they are left with fewer choices when it comes to helping their kids score good grades and pursue a better life.
Although, the pandemic was a pretty heavy blow to the private tutors and it did pressure them to find other ways, mostly like opting for video conference platforms and so on, to resume their teaching. Additionally, both parents and students weren't satisfied with tutoring over zoom because it had certain limitations and is a lot different from the offline mode of tutoring.
Because of the shutting down of schools due to the pandemic, the classes were being conducted online and the students became desperate to opt for digital courses, as they couldn’t understand and keep up with the pace of the syllabus. And these digital learning platforms do provide live interactive sessions, personalized teaching, instant doubt clarification, individual assessments, etc. Overall, it sounds pretty cool right? I mean, there is the flexibility of learning, comfort and safety of home, engaging video lectures, and many more. And when talking about the rates of these courses; at school level, they range from $300 - $400 per year. Now, these rates have been further discounted due to the pandemic and thereby, these rates do sound affordable.
But we aren’t done yet. To access this digital content, we require good internet speed and connectivity. In India accessing a high-speed internet broadband connection can cost more than $130 per year. Last, but not least, we need advanced devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops to access the course, thus adding an extra $400 or so to the list of expenses. So, the summary of expenses or the total expense would be around $900 annually during the first year (expenses regarding equipment are excluded after the first year) but the average expenses can be considered to be around $550 per year. This amount doesn’t sound that expensive when compared to that of home tutoring, which might be the very reason why these digital courses are getting so popular, making the Ed Tech market grow rapidly.
But there are still some restrictions to talk about. Despite being the second-largest online market in the world with an internet penetration rate of 50%, India ranked 131 out of 138 countries in mobile internet speed as of last year. This is a serious issue and does highly contribute to the restriction of the underprivileged from accessing these digital courses. And yet if middle-class families, wish to subscribe to a digital course, they will have to opt for taking educational loans. Nowadays there are special financers like eduvanz, zestmoney who particularly provide loans for such online courses.
These private tutoring and digital learning are comfortably affordable only for the privileged or the high-income category. I feel disappointed saying this, but here in India, we haven’t been able to close the educational gap between the rich and poor. It is an ugly truth that the underprivileged do miss out on quality education in India.
How can Atlas Primer help
Ever since I got to know about Atlas Primer, I have always felt that it can provide many possibilities and solutions regarding the current loopholes in the education system in India. The cost of Atlas Primer would never be that expensive when compared to the home tutoring and digital education expenses. It is also a bonus that, Atlas Primer doesn’t require high-speed internet to operate, as it completely functions in the form of audio and speech, thus saving or reducing the expenses for premium internet connectivity. For a learner, Atlas Primer can be a perfect study buddy and a teaching companion. And also, parents need not spend extra bucks on fancy (or) advanced devices such as tablets, laptops, etc., as Atlas Primer can be operated via. simple voice commands using voice assistants like Google Assistant, Alexa, etc. All of these savings can indeed influence the financial freedom of low to middle-income families.
Something I always note during my talks with Mr. Hinrik Jósafat Atlason, Founder of Atlas Primer, is that he doesn’t brag about the achievements or the future marketing goals of his company, but is rather keen on knowing more about the educational challenges in India and how Atlas Primer can step up the game or help find a solution to those problems. This truly indicates the whole attitude of Atlas Primer. Being committed to improving the rural education in India, Atlas primer doesn’t wish to drain the pockets of the parents, but rather help them afford and access quality learning with ease.
Education has become a major liability for middle and lower-class families in India. And I am not framing Atlas Primer to be the perfect solution for all of these problems, but I do believe that certain significant changes can be made to the overall education system here in India, with the introduction of an AI-powered assistant like Atlas Primer. And I greatly look forward to the entry of Atlas Primer into the Indian Ed Tech sector and hope that the quality of learning is improved for all, thus closing the gap between the underprivileged and the privileged.
Blesson K. B. is an associate of Atlas Primer and researches the impact new technologies and inclusive learning can have on rural India.