‘Free at a glance’: Department of Education warns against edtech companies

India’s Ministry of Education issued a notice on education technology (edtech) platforms on Thursday, saying some companies are targeting families by having the electronic funds transfer (EFT) mandate signed or by activating the automatic debit function.

The Department of School Education and Literacy, he said, has received several complaints about such offers. “Because of the ubiquitous impact of technology in education, many ed-tech companies have started offering courses, tutorials, coaching for competitions, etc. in online mode. In this context, parents, students and all those involved in school education should be careful when deciding to opt for online content and coaching offered by a host of educational technology companies,” said the Ministry of Education in a press release.

Among the things parents should consider, the ministry asked stakeholders to avoid the direct debit option for payment of subscription fees in freemium models.

“Some ed-tech companies may offer the Free-Premium business model where many of their services may seem free at first glance, but to access continuous learning, students must opt ​​into a paid subscription. automatic can cause a child to access paid features without realizing that they are no longer accessing the free services offered by the ed-tech company,” he said.

He also asked citizens to read the terms and conditions, as their IP address and/or personal data may be tracked. They should also ask users to do a thorough background check of the edtech company and ask for a tax bill statement for the purchase of content-loaded educational devices/app purchase/learning USB flash drive.

“Check the quality of the content provided by ed-tech companies and make sure it is in line with the curriculum and your field of study and easily understood by your child,” he added.

He asked parents to clarify all their doubts/questions regarding payment and content before investing any amount for their child’s learning in an ed-tech company.

There have been reports of people losing money due to the auto-debit feature in edtech apps. Recently, during the winter session of Parliament, MP Karti Chidambaram raised the issue of edtech companies using practices that harm parents and students, and called for oversight and regulation of edtech platforms.

“It is satisfying to see the impact of his parliamentary interventions,” he tweeted on Thursday, posting a link to the opinion of the Ministry of Education.

He said these companies offer online courses that are not vetted. Although he didn’t name any companies, many people responded by tagging companies like Byju’s and Unacademy.

He also wrote to Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan asking him to look into the “predatory marketing practices that often prey on disadvantaged parents” followed by edtech companies.

The Department of Education advisory further instructed parents not to blindly trust ads from edtech companies, not to take out loans they are unaware of, to avoid registering credit/debit cards on apps for subscriptions and setting an upper limit on spending per transaction. .

He also asked users to avoid adding their data such as emails, contact numbers, card details, addresses etc. online, as the data can be sold or used for further scam attacks, and also to avoid sharing personal videos and photos.

“At present, Ed-tech companies have grown rapidly, increasing the number of students/teachers subscribing to their learning platform. The growing number also means that platforms need to be careful about the assertions regarding the services offered.It is very obvious that Ed-tech companies that can be considered as e-commerce entities must comply with the rules to avoid any untoward liability in the future and must put in place a dedicated mechanism to verify respect for the law,” the notice said.

He further stated that edtech companies must also comply with the general rules of the Advertising Standards Council of India’s Self-Regulatory Code on Advertising, in addition to other specified guidelines.

A report by Blume Ventures estimated that the edtech market was close to $750 million in 2020 and will reach $4 billion by 2025.

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