Why Free education doesn’t work in India?

Programming Pathshala
3 min readAug 26, 2023

Recently, a senior of mine, asked me that he wants to build a free platform for education, powered by AI, vernacular and it should bring access to education for all kids in India. I said, it is a very hard problem, if not in terms of tech and Product, but more in terms of financial feasibility, building distribution and creating end results.

In the context of Education, India and technology, good intentioned people begin with motive of making education free- for the common sense is, you make a brilliant product, you teach really well and it is free — Woah! A brilliant combination to solve education.

Most people in education sector today, start from this point and realise later that it doesn’t work.

We at Programming Pathshala, state our vision as democratising access to education with definite outcomes in terms of employability and skills.

We have been able to achieve that to a very little extent (if seen in terms of population etc) and with this experience of around 4–5 years playing around education, I want to state the following things

Building an education venture/ social Venture or not for profit or free education is tough/ not because how you will teach, pedagogy/ vernacular/ etc

It is difficult majorly because of following things:

1. Distribution is the hardest part. How would you reach out to people? Reaching out has a lot of cost. Fundamentally all edutech companies spend a big chunk of their ticket price in acquisition cost. Argument like it is free then people will come, is not valid because still people need to be told about it somehow, they need to be told of its value and outcome

2. Second hardest thing is engagement. We use terms like serious pricing and non-serious pricing. For eg. in context of india, anything less than 10k, students take it as non serious pricing- hardly 10% students do course completion.

For a serious pricing >20k

Usually; TAM is very small in India

3. Most of Indian student crowd is disillusioned with what to study, not how to study. In fact, right now I’m in a college in Jammu, only successful private college here. Folks in third year of CSE don’t know that they should solve coding problems to get jobs.

Basically they don’t know what to study- if they realise what to study then there are enough of open source stuff to follow, mostly unorganised and spreaded out. Edutech companies like ours make courses and structure it at its best.

Last point:

A lot of good intentioned folks came into edutech particularly in covid era, for eg. Someone from Microsoft wanted to make a metaversity, another academies and schools etc wanted to make it accessible by income sharing agreements etc.

Almost all have got paralysed in terms of scaling it to the level where it solves real problems at population level scale.

Because when they venture into it, they realise that problems at the root are something else altogether



Programming Pathshala

We are working to democratise access to Tech Education. We help students learn coding and be confident about themselves.