Learning transforms life with the individual characterization and the overall development of the personality. An educated society is the stepping stone to combined productivity that leads to the economic growth of the nation. The Indian education system is predominantly based on the old paradigm of Information delivery which involves in-person lectures and standardized curriculums. In the process, students gain basic knowledge but they lack essential 'professional skills'. The country urgently needs a learner-centric model that features the student as a central and active participant. Instead of experiencing education in the form of information delivery, memorization and repetition, students interact with subject matter experts and instructors to build capacities that are mapped to 21st century skills and abilities such as creative & critical thinking, social engagement, collaboration and communication among others.
There are clearly three fundamental areas of work that should be looked into to increase effectiveness of the education delivery model in India - building access, promoting equity and infusing excellence. Over the past decade, there has been significant progress in addressing the first two areas but the focus should now shift to the third key pillar of building excellence in the system. At higher-education-level, greater collaboration is required with the industry to impart relevant skills among learners to make them 'job-ready'. Some of the initiatives could be industry-academia partnerships to restructure course content, merit-based industry internships, industrial training for teachers among others. However, most of the Indian younger population does not possess skills required for these jobs or to say they are not 'job-ready'. Some of the challenges for knowledge, education and learning in this period will be ability for today's learners to be more familiar and comfortable with abstract concepts and uncertain situations. Much of the academic environment today, presents students with ready-made problems and asking them to solve only those problems. The reality of the rapid-fire global economy, based on information and knowledge is that problems are rare which are clearly defined. It requires those seeking valuable employment to seek out problems, gathering the necessary information, and making decisions and choices based on complex uncertain realities.
Technology can play a critical role in enhancing the reach and scalability of education delivery model across the country. With the advancements in technology and rapid globalization, the world is becoming a connected classroom. Particularly in India, the integration of technology in the higher education sector is becoming more pervasive. However, the scenario is very different in semi-urban and rural markets. One of the biggest roadblocks in technology adoption in these areas is the lack of tech-infrastructure. Therefore, we need to first ensure digital inclusion for all and initiatives like Digital India is a step in right direction. On a separate note, the power of m-learning is yet to be tapped into, considering India has one of the largest mobile internet populations in the world.
However, the need of the hour is to build a qualitative, outcome-focused learning framework, more so at the elementary-level by shifting from input-centric pedagogical approach to a more learner-centric approach, ensuring holistic learning in the early years. In the urban markets app-based learning, digital classrooms, tablets, e-books and e-libraries have so far been instrumental in simplifying complex theories, providing better understanding and making learning more engaging and entertaining. Also, professional certifications are gaining significance in India as they help professionals acquire and build on the right skill-sets for the job.
Learning also helps in connectivity with the world. Globalization created a connective world leading to constant development in the marketplace as well. Moreover, India is fast emerging as an economic superpower and the constant competition from the global markets is fast changing the market dynamics. In such a scenario, the working professionals are required to continuously upgrade and gain globally-relevant knowledge and skill-set. The dearth of globally-applicable skills, even in working-class is clearly evident through the rise in number of training programs conducted by current employers.
India at the cusp of next industrial revolution views a lot of expansion expected in several spheres like manufacturing, construction, retail among others. With the introduction of 'Make in India' campaign by the new government, this process has shifted gears and therefore, the industrial sector today is in need of highly-trained professionals having 21st century skills. In the last year, the new government introduced a series of initiatives to build a more progressive environment in the sector, the visionary initiatives being 'Skill India' and 'Digital India'. The Union Budget 2016-17 also focused on preparing a skilled and digitally powered workforce.
In an era of open learning, we all need to make use of technology and the available resources in the process of learning valuing the power of traditional ways without losing the goals.
Vikas Singh is a seasoned business leader with deep management experience, and wide business perspectives developed over the last 25 years of working across locations and sectors. He currently heads the Higher Education & Test Preparation business of Pearson India.