India, the youngest country in the world, has the highest number of students enrolled in the schooling system. The Indian school system caters to more than 250 million students. Another 38.5 million students are engaged in higher education in the country. The 2011 census revealed that approximately 2.21% of the country’s population could be classified as differently-disabled. The education system of the country is largely neglected towards persons with disabilities. A United Nations study suggests that 75% of children with disabilities in India never attend school. Even those who are admitted to school drop out after the first few years of primary education. Some studies have shown that less than 13 percent of students enrolled in primary education are able to finish their education up to class 12. There are many reasons for this unfortunate incident.
People with disabilities need special care. Over the years, large-scale expansion, cultural and geographical diversity, large population and various other factors have posed serious challenges to the spread of education in many parts of the country. In a country where people in many areas face serious problems while receiving education, the situation of people with disabilities in various ways has worsened. Lack of supportive infrastructure, training of teachers and co-students and attitudes of society create serious challenges for children with special needs.
But the advent of technology is changing the landscape. It is noteworthy that when online education was abruptly implemented due to the lockdown, many experts suggested that children with disabilities or special needs could not adapt to the new form of education and many could be left out. Responds quickly to online learning and ad-tech situations and gradually adapts to the needs of differently-disabled students. The ad-tech sector understands that children with special needs cannot be ignored. The education sector for the disabled offers huge market potential and most of the edtech companies are coming up with ideas and innovations to fill this segment. It not only creates an ecosystem for a part but also helps to remove any kind of barrier that is responsible for the human resource development of the country.
Accessibility: Digital technology has removed time and space constraints from the education system. Infrastructure support is one of the biggest challenges facing people with special needs. Often, local topography also makes things difficult for people with different abilities. Now with digital education, differently-disabled students can study in the comfort of their own home where their family members support and support them. People with different abilities are usually accustomed to the surroundings of the house and can easily access facilities like toilets with or without the support of family members.
Affordability: Edtech has made education affordable for all. The cost of education in India is always high. Many differently-disabled children have dropped out of school for this reason. In financially difficult times, if a parent has to choose between financing the education of a normal child or a differently-disabled child, in most cases the normal child gets priority. By making education affordable, ad-tech has somehow helped to overcome this barrier.
Flexibility: Under the terms, most children with special needs need innovative and out-of-the-box ways of teaching and evaluating. Previously, most teachers were not trained enough to meet the needs of such children. None of them had the time or the patience to deal with a different situation. Edtech has enabled schools and educators to design personalized courses tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities. Personalization of education is proving to be a game-changer in education for people with disabilities in many ways.
Parity: Another touch of looking at technological interventions in the dissemination of knowledge is the sense of equality that it provides to a section of people who are often isolated from the mainstream. Technology can demonstrate a blanket approach but it can certainly fill gaps that are psychologically created and artificial in nature.
There are over 4500 ad-tech start-ups in India. Many established corporate players have also taken to the field. Most of these companies have special programs for people with special needs. Corporates see education not only as a way of doing business for people with different disabilities but also as their contribution to the welfare of society. There are even examples of start-ups founded and operated by people with disabilities in various ways. Despite having 6 ad-tech unicorns already in the country, many experts believe that India’s ad-tech revolution has just begun. The government’s approach to inclusive education, the changing perceptions of society and the rise of technology in education are promising a bright future for the education of people with special needs.
The author is the founder and CEO of Financier.