By Farhat Jamal
Education has an indisputable role in the formation of a vision of the world and the coexistence of so many value systems. India boasts one of the world’s most extensive networks of educational institutions. However, there is still a lot of room for growth and improvement in the education system.
As per IBEF, with about 27% of the population aged 0-14 years, India’s education industry offers substantial prospects for growth. India also has the world’s largest 5-24 years population—around 500 million—providing a significant development opportunity for the education industry. The education sector is projected to reach $225 billion by FY25. But, our public schools are marked by inadequate academic focus, poor infrastructure, a lack of resources, and other such factors. And private schools may be out of reach for the lower socioeconomic strata. Higher education may be expensive, and because English is the primary medium of communication, local languages are rarely given much attention.
At the same time, the decades-old brain drain looks unstoppable even today. India is often regarded as a land of ambiguities, and nowhere is this more evident than in the country’s working population and employment market. On the one hand, it possesses the strength of human capital from a significant youth bulge. On the other, we are in the throes of an employment crisis. According to the World Economic Forum, just one in every four management professionals, one in every five engineers, and one in every ten graduates in India are employable.
Hence, it is not wrong to assert that one of the major issues plaguing India’s education system today is offering a relatively excellent quality mass education to a large and rising number of college students in order for them to be employable. Although the number of students has grown from 30.2 million in 2012-13 to 38.5 million in 2019-20, the employability rate of college graduates has stayed below 50%, which is concerning. The 2021 India Skills Report provides some intriguing insights on college graduates’ employment rates within the existing system. Only 45.9% of college graduates are considered employable, with engineering graduates being the most employable (46.8%), followed by MBA graduates (46.6%).
Engineering and technology are represented only by 12.6% of undergraduate students. Surprisingly, arts graduates outperform those with engineering or business degrees—40.3% of arts graduates are employed, compared to 30% of science graduates. These findings are significant because arts, humanities, and social sciences account for 32.7% of all undergraduate students, while science accounts for 16% and commerce for 14.9%.How can we address this issue?
The solution may lie in changing people’s opinions about non-traditional occupations in creative industries. As technology advances, the demand for unconventional, creative opportunities grows—for rewarding careers such as content and product management, design, advertising, hospitality, tourism, photography, etc. The current worldwide trend is that the notion of skill must evolve to match the challenges posed by globalisation and rapid technological advancements. This coincides with the release of the OECD study, The Future of Education and Skills 2030. People must think creatively and work to produce new goods and services, occupations, systems, and methods to build a future-ready employee base, according to this. As a result, India’s higher education programmes and curricula should contain a wide range of courses that lead to new opportunities.
We are living in the era of Industry 4.0, when AI, machine learning, and robots are being extolled as growth drivers. As a result, we need education systems that utilise contemporary and traditional techniques via digital platforms and multimedia learning to educate students and learners in this increasingly technological environment. As learning and employment should go hand in hand, education must be comprehensive and ongoing, boosting agility and flexibility while preparing for volatility. Additionally, discipline-based education must be realigned toward skill-based education.
Various changes have been implemented to increase educational quality in the country. Education investment will almost certainly rise over the next few years. Many reforms have been outlined in the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), and more are underway. The NEP proposal to include vocational training in the educational system provides a chance to rectify the knowledge disparity in communities. We require a framework that allows educators to advise students on the importance of diverse occupations without diminishing them in favour of advanced higher education.
Vocational training was initially intended to assist students who had fallen behind in their schooling. The system is pressuring children to play catch-up in a game they will lose anyhow, because the broader conflict they face is the duality between achieving quick cash and maintaining long-term goals. Thankfully, this is gradually changing for the better.
The objective should be to provide a fair playing field that allows for the matching of ambitions and skills with no prejudice towards learners based on financial levels, scorecard, or other socioeconomic factor. To prepare the next generation for the future, we must focus on making education more employable. We must first improve infrastructure and technology convergence to reach every corner of the country.
(The Author is Veteran hotelier and chairman at Maulana Azad Educational Trust)
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