India's new National Education Policy (NEP) unveiled by the government is seen as the most ambitious reforms initiated in recent times
India's new National Education Policy (NEP) unveiled by the government is seen as the most ambitious reforms initiated in recent times. With sweeping changes in pedagogy, teaching methods, fee structures, evaluation, regulatory mechanisms, and openness to global universities, the education sector is witnessing a seminal moment.
The education landscape in India has lately been bustling for some other conducive factors too. Global and Indian corporate giants and business houses are making a beeline for big investments in education. The search giant, Google, recently announced plans to invest $10 billion in India over the course of five to seven years. It plans to train more than one million teachers in India this year and offer a range of free tools such as G Suite for Education, Google Meet, Google Classroom, and YouTube to help digitize the education experience in the nation. It has also partnered with CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) to deliver a “blended learning experience” across 22,000 schools in India.
Silicon Valley giant Facebook has also announced a partnership with CBSE, a national level board of education in India for public and private schools, controlled and managed by the Indian government, to launch a certified curriculum on digital safety, online well-being and augmented reality for students and educators in the country.
Mahindra Group has now launched Mahindra University (MU). The university is focused on offering world-class, futuristic education in India with a mission to develop multi-skilled leaders. Earlier, HCL Technology had started a university in Greater Noida through its non-profit arm Shiv Nadar foundation, and Wipro Ltd, through Azim Premji Foundation, had established a university in Karnataka.
Rise of education technology
Education technology is climbing fast in India, pushing the boundaries of traditional teaching. Emerging technologies like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and innovative gamification techniques are creating an entirely new learning environment. This has led to cutting edge blended learning, adaptive learning, 3d immersive learning, etc. benefiting all-students, educational institutions, corporates, and governments.
The power of EduTech is being experienced all the more now, during the lockdown due to coronavirus, with the growing popularity of online learning platforms, webinars, video streaming, virtual hackathons, etc. All this presents a huge opportunity for entering the sector.
India has the world’s largest population of about 500 million in the age bracket of 5-24 years, which provides a great opportunity for the education sector. Further, be it the number of colleges and universities, or students enrolled in higher education, the number is just phenomenal. Estimated at over USD 100 billion, the education sector is poised for exponential expansion. As it is, the country is the second-largest market for E-learning and the Internet in the world. The market and its size obviously is a great pull factor for investments.
Businesses, curating contemporary, new-age curricula can fully leverage emerging technologies like data science, blockchain, and data analytics in their business verticals. They can hire manpower of desired skills and competence, from their own universities and institutions. With such talent and skill endowments, it would be easy to excel or foray into emerging cutting-edge sectors like energy, communications, transportation, and defence.
Investments in the education sector are the sine qua non for meeting the demands of a knowledge economy, Industry 4.0 or Education 2.0. Having direct linkages with skill development, employability, and job creation, a vibrant education sector compliments flagship schemes of the government like Digital India and Startup India. However, the resources-starved government cannot meet all the unmet demands of the sector. Private investments, directly or through various collaborations and partnerships, can plug the deficit. The government, on its part, is creating a conducive ecosystem and providing policy support through relaxed FDI norms and better regulations. And now, the ambitious New Education Policy (NEP 2020), is being rolled out.
Some corporate chiefs are thought, leaders. They are really keen to drive a meaningful shift in the way education is imparted. Having been transformational leaders themselves, and invested in education passionately, they are naturally motivated to try their ideas on transforming talents into business leadership. Setting up a separate business vertical or institution for education affords them a platform to build a hyper-skilled, future-ready talent pool. However, some serious challenges remain, that need urgent attention and action for their early solution:
Apart from inequality in internet access, other factors such as access to devices, quality of connection, and related services and subscription fees, are exacerbating the split. Today the most pressing issue is the availability of access at an affordable cost and quality. The availability of content in vernacular languages is yet another issue. Ensuring a level playing field and an equal pace of progress in learning for all is a challenge.
Making Teachers digital tools-friendly and evolve: As it is, teachers are generally seen as a weak link in our education system. In this digital/web age, training of teachers in new learning devices and handling evolved curriculum is all the more critical. Sensitizing and training the teachers on pedagogy, and developing quality Apps for them to deliver virtual education effectively is a big task. In a virtual world, a teacher’s role, in building capabilities of reflection and innovation, and cultivating virtues of ethics and empathy in students assume more criticality.
If educational content is not right, there would be little gain from the knowledge and skills being imparted to students. Teachers and academic institutions need to ensure that the content they are using is lucid, appropriate, fact-based, and relevant. Quality content and quality delivery of content, both, are of paramount importance.
With a strong corporate commitment, backed by strong policy push by the government, and value addition by other stakeholders, the challenges, though daunting, can be addressed. To what extent the corporate stakes, investments, and policies in education will transform the learners and the sector is yet to be seen, but the recent developments definitely augur well for not only the sector but also the economy and society at large.
(The writer is a former bank executive who has authored the book X Factor @Workplace. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at email@example.com)