After a two year dream run in business, the Indian EdTech bubble has burst. As long as schools were closed on account of COVID-19, online tutoring was booming, with hundreds of EdTech platforms blooming in the ecosystem. Now, with schools reopening, a significant part of the process of EdTech, online classes, are redundant.
And the biggest victims of this fiasco are teachers. Hundreds of teachers have been laid off recently by leading EdTechs, after their services have become less viable profitably.
Over 1,400 teaching as well as nonteaching staff have been laid off by Indian EdTech companies since the beginning of 2021. In May, Vedantu, an online tutoring platform, laid off about 425 employees, constituting 7% of its total workforce. Around the same time, it was forced to laid off 200 more employees.
In February, another online platform, Lido had to shut shop, cut out 1,200 employees.
800 teachers from Byju’s owned WhiteHat Jr resigned after they were asked to work from office within a month without getting relocation charges.
“Most of our sales and support employees were asked to report to Gurgaon and Mumbai offices from April 18,” a WhiteHatJr spokesperson told Rest of World.
The Tech Panda asked two EdTech entrepreneurs about how this crisis came about and what these teachers will do.
More than 50 online lecturing startups are laying off teachers due to inefficiencies of suboptimal utilisation of resources for months
“Many schools were not able to pay salaries to teachers during the pandemic and this has led teachers to look for other options. However, this was temporary for the last two years. If you look at what is happening in the sector, more than 50 online lecturing startups are laying off teachers due to inefficiencies of suboptimal utilisation of resources for months,” he explains.
“During a pandemic when all the operations at physical schools were closed with uncertainty, the online classes made a massive disruption in the ecosystem. The complete ecosystem was forced to capitalize on the unforeseen circumstances,” says Sharad Bansal, Co-founder, Tinkerly.
This unseen challenge opened the door to many tech-savvy EdTech firms that were there from the beginning. Not only did they receive a huge influx of funds to operate but also attracted all tech-savvy teachers from schools to join
“Those teachers who never had given a second thought to using technology in teaching were the ones who faced initial turbulence in the show. Schools were finding issues in sudden training, equipping, forcing, and paying their warriors,” he explains.
“This unseen challenge opened the door to many tech-savvy EdTech firms that were there from the beginning. Not only did they receive a huge influx of funds to operate but also attracted all tech-savvy teachers from schools to join,” he adds.
Back to Offline
Many tech savvy teachers, who had moved to EdTech startups instead of returning to schools, are now facing a crisis. Will they be forced to rejoin offline schools?
Varshney says since offline classes and schools are bouncing back, teachers are actively joining the offline mode again.
The online learning space is set to shrink as the startups in the lecturing space are solving wrong problems with an unsustainable approach
“The online learning space is set to shrink as the startups in the lecturing space are solving wrong problems with an unsustainable approach. Even with sizeable funding, the efforts are pooled in the wrong direction, as they follow the trends and fail to look beyond two-three years of timeline. More than being forced, over 90% of teachers will choose to join the offline setup,” he says.
Bansal says that while initially, teachers were joining online jobs on the basis of hourly payment as well as the feeling that they’re running their own business as an entrepreneur, things have changed.
It’s time for EdTech companies to innovate here and treat their teachers as good as they treat their employees and stakeholders
“But, now down the line, in the past two years of the pandemic, again schools have started opening, and I find many teachers are moving back to school due to constraints including saturation in the ecosystem, fixed payment systems in schools, uncertain teaching hours in EdTech, and business accountability burden in EdTech,” he says.
“Hence, it would be good to research quantitatively on the data, but in my view, if the scenario of crisis prevails then yes maximum of them will think to rejoin schools. It’s time for EdTech companies to innovate here and treat their teachers as good as they treat their employees and stakeholders,” he advises.
Some EdTechs Are Hiring, But Not Teachers
While a few EdTechs have been hiring aggressively, a lack of online classes means the teaching staff hasn’t seen any uptick.
EdTech firm AdmitKard announced aggressive hiring plans in the NCR region to onboard around 100 employees to take the overall workforce figure up to 250. The company currently boasts a strength of 150 and with this current enrolment will be increasing the strength by a whopping 66%. However, it’s not clear that this number includes teachers. In fact, most profiles they seek are in business team and product and technology.
Another EdTech startup PrepInsta announced to increase their workforce by 100% by recruiting at least 50 employees by the end of July, this year, mostly in Noida in the work-from-office format. While the firm professes to resolve the existing imbalance of career opportunities in India, the company is looking to onboard candidates in content, marketing, L&D, business development, UI/UX, and operation. There is no mention of hiring teachers.
It begins to feel like, all that the Indian education sector gained in the last two years in terms of exposure and technological boost has receded back to where it was pre COVID-19. The age of Jetsons like schooling is once more a distant dream.