Aspiring to be a superpower
India is at a precarious position. When the world is aging, India is growing younger. We are set to become the youngest nation in the world by 2030 and according to the International Monetary Fund, this demographic dividend is expected to add two percentage points to per capita Gross Domestic Product growth per annum. However, if the youth is not educated properly and gainfully employed, this demographic dividend can become a curse.
The world is changing very fast and India is emerging as one of the strongest economies. With around 140 million people in the college-age group in the country, can it live up to its expectation of delivering a world-class higher education system? A major introspection and an in-depth analysis of our education system, particularly higher education, is required to align ourselves to international standards and marry education with employability to take advantage of the huge demographic dividend.
With a rapid growth of the middle class, Indian higher education system is faced with several broad challenges like unbalanced and skewed demand-supply gap, low quality of teaching and learning system with a chronic shortage of faculty, outdated and rigid curricula and pedagogy, lack of accountability and quality assurance, low levels of industry engagement and a weak ecosystem for innovation. Finally, India has always been a socially divided country and all segments of population do not have equal access to educational opportunities.
To address these challenges, radical changes in our higher education system should be undertaken at the uppermost level. Employability of our students is a major concern. By 2020, the average Indian will be only 29 years of age, compared with that of 37 yeras in China, the US at 45 years and 48 in Japan. At the same time, the global economy as a whole is expected to experience a shortage of skilled manpower of 56 million. So there is an unprecedented opportunity for Indians to skill themselves to suit the future demand for jobs in both domestic and
With only five per cent of India’s labour force having any formal training, Indian universities should focus on developing an ‘Inclusive India’ and bring the unskilled workforce into the ambit of skill development and vocational training. This can have far reaching effects with the help of technology to connect remote areas; to provide rural youth with educational opportunities; and to include them into vocational mainstream. Private universities should step up to establish public-private partnership and collaborate to fill this gap and the Government must support them. The US Government has given full support, autonomy, recognition and respect to private education system which has resulted in world-renowned brands in education like Harvard, MIT, Stanford and Cornell. We should learn and implement from the best education systems around the world.
Industry engagement is one of the important areas that can help the Indian higher education. The industry may also be encouraged to provide practical training and be actively involved for curriculum development, provision of equipment, training of trainers and opening incubation centres, particularly in rural areas. With an overemphasis on academic performance, even some of the best universities in the country are producing qualified but hardly employable
We need to reduce the courses undertaken by a student in the present system which is plagued by long instructional hours, whereas across the globe, teaching has been minimised with more concentration on learning outcomes which are application-oriented. It helps students to understand how they can contribute in solving the problems of the industry which can make the community, society, state and the country a better place to live.
Indian parents still pay higher education fee of their children. The university system should be designed in such a way so as to give enough exposure, time, flexibility to the students to learn while they earn. In addition, since we are all a part of a global village, it is necessary to expose the students to foreign universities for a semester or a year-long programme which can play an important role in widening their horizons. To over the problem of faculty shortage, higher education sector must attract best professionals by offering great salaries, job satisfaction, challenging environment and international exposure.