Healing a sick EdTech sytem

The Problem with Education today

Education is the passport to a better future , which is why parents are willing to invest a lot of money in helping their children score more marks.

The problem is that, even though primary education is free, the quality of most government schools today is so poor that even poor parents prefer sending their children to tuition classes and private schools.

Online Education as an Equaliser

The promise of the internet was that it would make education available, accessible, and affordable, because it’s easy and inexpensive to reach out to millions of students digitally, and the Khan Academy was the poster boy of this promise.

How the online edtech space has been hijacked by Byju

Sadly, this noble goal has been waylaid by VC-funded EdTech startups like Byju’s, which put profit before purpose in order to enrich their investors who are looking for a quick and profitable exit. By advertising heavily, aided by aggressive mis-selling, they are trapping parents into educational debt traps.

This has been well-documented in multiple places, but the government has chosen to turn a blind eye to these predatory malpractices.

The harm that Byju causes is not just limited to the fact that they cheat parents. Because they grab market share by selling lies, they corrupt the entire educational ecosystem, so that good EdTech startups can not survive anymore.

How Byju’s mis-sells

In order to recruit sales people to prey on poor parents, Byju’s employs a very liberal hire and fire policy . They offer a very lucrative package , but the variable pay component is based on the salesperson’s reaching astronomical targets. If he fails to do so, he is peremptorily fired, and replaced with another candidate, who is made to follow the same playbook. These young graduates are treated as dirt, and made to sell their souls in order to earn their pay. Their employee churn amongst their junior sales staff is mind-boggling !

The educational debt trap

Salespeople are incentivized to offer long-term packages, to lock parents into a multi-year subscription. They do this by luring parents by offering “scholarships” and getting them to sign contracts for educational loans, which are funded by financial intermediaries. Byju’s takes the revenue and then washes its hands off the matter completely. Sadly, many low-income parents have no idea what they are signing up for, and they end up having to fork out thousands of rupees every month , year after year, for obsolete technology (an outdated syllabus, delivered on a tablet).

The sales person ( also known as a mentor) promises that Byju’s offers a free 15-day refund policy, but when dissatisfied parents try to claim this, the sales person blocks their calls, which means they are stuck. They are angry and resentful, but don’t have the means to seek judicial recourse, which is why Byju’s continues to get away with this.

Byju’s also has a track record of silencing critics by deleting the social media accounts of anyone who has the guts to tell the truth about them, by hiring online reputation management agencies.

A Possible Solution

A GR can be passed by the Govt which makes it compulsory for EdTech businesses like Byju to offer only monthly subscriptions , which need to be renewed every month ( rather than forcing parents to buy expensive multi-year subscriptions) . This is friendlier for the student and parents as it’s much more affordable. Also, if they aren’t happy with the service, they can stop it at any time. This will force Byjus ( and other Edtech businesses ) to remain on their toes, and continue to provide outstanding after-sales educational support, because they know their students can always switch to a competitor if they are unhappy. Also, the Byju sales staff won’t be pressured to meet revenue targets to earn their salaries , so they aren’t forced to mis-sell by making false promises. This simple regulation will help to put students first ! By banning auto-debit for EdTech startups, this will be a great way to improve the education system!

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