EdTech Tulna: Supporting informed, large-scale adoption of technology for education in India

EdTech Tulna helps governments select and procure the right learning software fit for their context and purpose. It's becoming the software of choice for all central and state government in India and can be adapted to other contexts.

June 15, 2023 by Riya Sarin, Central Square Foundation, Rashi Dhanani, Central Square Foundation, and Gouri Gupta, Central Square Foundation
5 minutes read
Children in a government school in India, sit in a computer lab. Credit: Open source/Shutterstock
Children in a government school in India, sit in a computer lab.
Credit: Open source/Shutterstock

In 2022, over 24 state governments in India expressed interest in integrating some form of education technology (EdTech)in over 98,000 schools, committing to spend over USD 470 million. This is indicative of the interest of the public schooling system in India to use technology for learning on a large scale.

This rising demand is matched by expanding supply, with close to 10,000 EdTech products in the Indian market today, with a wide array of solutions catering to different uses. In this context, making sense of what product or tool may be most suitable to achieve education objectives is a huge challenge for policy makers.

What are the barriers to effective, large-scale selection of learning software?

Despite the growth in the EdTech industry, one of the biggest challenges that governments face is selecting and procuring the right learning software fit for context and purpose.

For a successful EdTech program, the government needs to bring together 3 critical components: hardware (e.g., tablets, computers), software (the learning solutions) and ancillary services (e.g., program management, connectivity).

Historically, the focus of procurement has been on hardware, as this is the most capital intensive as well as it being easier to put specifications against hardware (e.g., screen size, weight, RAM, etc.).

The procurement of learning software has often been ignored due to a general lack of awareness of and standards for what is a ‘good quality’ EdTech, making it extremely challenging for decision makers to screen, vet and deploy programs incorporating innovative technologies for education.

As a consequence, there has been ad-hoc decision making with poor quality learning solutions being adopted, resulting in inadequate support for student learning and inefficiencies in public spending for education.

EdTech Tulna: Creating a shared understanding of what ‘good’ learning software looks like

EdTech Tulna is a product evaluation index built by the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai and supported by the Central Square Foundation. It aims to remedy this information asymmetry.

Tulna, which means, ‘to compare’ in Sanskrit, builds quality standards for EdTech product design to allow for meaningful comparison between products, creating a shared language for what ‘good’ EdTech products look like.

Drawing from global literature on robust product design, Tulna has created a framework of quality standards against which products can now be evaluated. These standards exist along 3 core pillars of i) content quality, ii) pedagogical alignment and iii) technology and design.

As such, Tulna can contribute to rebalancing power towards evidence-informed decision making in technology procurement in education. In the long-term, Tulna could help shift the narrative supply-driven, push-based marketing of products to a demand for quality solutions.

Tulna evaluates product design via a multi-dimensional index spanning 3 key constructs
Tulna evaluates product design via a multi-dimensional index spanning 3 key constructs.

However, standards alone are not enough to support effective decision making. Tulna features built-in support mechanisms that allow the use of these quality standards. Support mechanisms include toolkits and training modules, comprising rubrics, reviewer guidelines and illustrations to support users in undertaking evaluations using the Tulna standards.

The Tulna team also provides training to government officials on how to use these tools effectively. By using Tulna’s offering, state and central governments now have the option to consistently select high-quality learning softwares - a critical step in supporting student learning outcomes.

Tulna also conducts independent evaluations of products and publishes these in the public domain. This helps organizations to signal the quality of their product through an evidence-based approach, and also supports the creation of standard-aligned products for a more robust EdTech market.

Tulna in practice: Driving meaningful adoption of learning software at scale

Since its launch in 2021, Tulna has been well received by state governments in India, directly supporting and enhancing learning software procurement in 3 instances.

Adopted in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, Tulna has been used as the technical evaluation framework to select learning software. Tulna has supported these state governments to carry out an evidence-led procurement focused on the quality of the software being implemented, and thus, increasing potential to impact learning outcomes.

Through these instances of adoption, Tulna has directly supported evidence-informed, government-led, software procurement amounting to USD 118.3 million, impacting close to 700,000 children. While the cost of software within a procurement ranges from 2% to 10% of the total spend, the spend on hardware alone would have little to no impact on learning outcomes without the meaningful selection of software.

While these adoptions are promising first steps, Tulna is gearing up to become the framework of choice for all central and state government learning software procurements in India.

The way forward: A global Tulna?

While Tulna as a tool will continue to grow in India, the challenges that it addresses are not entirely unique to the Indian market. There is also a lack of quality standards for learning software globally, making it hard for users, be it parents, schools, teachers, governments or investors, to make informed decisions, particularly in lower-income settings.

Given that the Tulna standards are built on global literature and evidence, they can be adapted to different contexts to fit the needs of other geographies.

Over the next few years, Tulna hopes to be able to contribute to the global discourse around the quality of technologies for education, supporting the development and adoption of solutions that can help millions of children learn better and thrive in education.

Note: Organizations or governments interested in adopting Tulna for their contexts can reach out to the Tulna team, via the website or by writing to @email, who can then support applying Tulna to their context.


About the Central Square Foundation

Central Square Foundation (CSF) is a non-profit organization based in Delhi, India, working toward ensuring quality school education for all children in India since 2012. The Foundation’s mission is to help transform the school education system and improve the learning outcomes of all children, particularly those from low-income communities.

More information about the Foundation’s work can be found in their Reports. The Foundation has also recently conducted a large-scale survey of user sentiment, behaviors and attitudes towards the use of technology for education in India, called the Bharat Survey for EdTech (BaSE).

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