As we step into the next decade, it’s more relevant than ever to evaluate the state of the early education market. The children who join the education system this year are set to become decision-makers and leaders in the decade to come. Children have always been the future. That has never been more true than with this generation.
With technological paradigms like AI, robotics, and automation set to reach critical inflection points with as-yet unforeseen consequences, it’s important to assess the state of the market right now to identify challenges, warning signs, and opportunities.
Looking East: Exponential growth in India and China
The biggest story of the decade in the early childhood market has been the exponential growth witnessed by the sector in India and China. Caregivers in these two countries alone spend close to $100 billion each year on early childhood care. In China, the market is growing at a CAGR of over 14 percent. Together, these countries have over 200 million children under the age of five.
Rapidly growing economies and increasing levels of disposable income have enabled caregivers to spend more on early childhood education than before. Levels of expenditure are still relatively low compared to the global frontier: average annual spend per child in the urban parts of India was approximately $500. The key takeaway, though is clear: An unprecedented number of post-Gen-Z children in Asia are receiving quality early childhood care.
E-learning set to play a greater role
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, schools are shut and hundreds of millions of kids around the world are trapped at home. But is this really a nightmare scenario for education? E-learning is set to play a much bigger role in the education sector this decade.
If the coronavirus scare has demonstrated anything, it is that, by leveraging technology, schools can provide kids with great educational experiences right from their homes. With the rise of online tutoring and edutainment games and apps, many people are coming to understand that e-learning has a place.
However, in the decade to come, we think the potential is far greater than just complementing the existing education system. By deploying PDF textbooks, online exams, and e-lectures, it’s possible to shift the entire education system online. This could be a way for developing countries like India to alleviate the infrastructure cost of running and operating thousands of schools, without compromising on education quality.
Children currently under five have never experienced a world without the internet, mobile devices, and other digital solutions. This has a great impact on the channels through which they learn new things. While e-learning plays a role in reinforcing classroom lessons, new digital paradigms in entertainment and media are having a profound impact on how today’s children access and assimilate information.
Kids today access multiplayer online games at a very young age. Many parents are concerned about addiction, violence or other negative factors. This, however, is missing the point: through online games and media, children are picking up key skills like cooperation, negotiation, and even programming while having a great time. It’s important to remember that there has always been pushback to technology.
This isn’t a new story at all: thousands of years ago, when writing was invented, educators bemoaned the demise of rote learning: writing lessons down would rot young childrens’ memory, they said. The same debate came to the fore when cinema and then TV arrived on the scene.
One thing is for certain: technology is shaping this generation to think of instant connectivity as a given. This will have a profound, positive impact on how society evolves in the decades to come.
Adults still matter in e-learning era
One common assumption that’s made is that the rise of e-learning will result in adults having less or even no involvement in education. However, even as learning goes digital, parents and other responsible adults will continue to play key roles as education facilitators.
Many e-learning solutions will require active adult involvement to configure lessons, monitor progress, and follow up with kids in the real world. Enhanced communication with parents through digital media is, as a matter of fact, one of the key innovations we see in the next decade.
E-learning solutions with integrated feedback and communication systems will allow parents and teachers to be on the same page with regards to their children’s education. This lockdown period has shown us, lots can be achieved with online learning, even the biggest naysayers will be convinced that learning can continue without a conventional classroom.
We are still a long way to go and more needs to be done to make it better, specially for children below age 10. But the dice is rolled and there’s no other way but to make online leaning more efficient for all ages.
In terms of early education, the big stories this decade are about Asia’s rise and technology’s rise. As the Indian and Chinese markets continue to grow, with CAGRs in the two-figure range, hundreds of millions of children are set to receive high-quality early education.
Even more significant is the transformative role technology is playing. The internet, mobile devices, and e-learning are set to completely change how education is delivered, with a greater focus on application-oriented learning. This decade, both where children learn and how they learn are set to change.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
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