The higher education sector and employers must collaborate to develop skills necessary to cater to the realities of India in the 21st Century
The former President of India A P J Abdul Kalam said “The purpose of education is to make good human beings with skill and expertise. Enlightened human beings can be created by teachers.” Two decades into the 21st century and the higher education sector in India is yet to gear up to meet the future demands of the workforce. The current debates that revolve around reskilling and the development of skills required for the future fail to address the inevitable need for a structural transformation of higher education.
Historically, the higher education sector has evolved at a very slow pace but the tech revolution and demand from the industry have compelled the higher education sector to move in the direction of filling the huge demand-supply gap. Though advantageous in meeting immediate requirements, this is a stop-gap arrangement at best. Higher Education in India needs to be evaluated and reorganized across several parameters which include curriculum and pedagogy, faculty, governance, and finances to add value to the individual, industry, and the nation as a whole.
Degree and Skill Development:
The All India Survey for Higher Education (AISHE) report 2019-20, indicates that 79.5% of total enrolments are at the undergraduate level with only 0.4% and 0.6% of students enrolling for Certificate and PG Diploma levels. These data points indicate that obtaining a degree is of primary importance for students even though those degrees do not disseminate the skills necessary to function in the workforce. This is a colossal dis-service to the youth of the nation who even after investing a minimum of three years in a higher learning institution is deprived of the skills to earn a living. The lack of employability of this cohort has a detrimental effect on the resources of the state as well as the individual as the expense of higher education in India is either borne by the state by way of subsidies or by the family in the case of private institutions.
The All India Survey for Higher Education (AISHE) report 2019-20, indicates that 79.5% of total enrolments are at the undergraduate level with only 0.4% and 0.6% of students enrolling for Certificate and PG Diploma levels. These data points indicate that obtaining a degree is of primary importance for students even though those degrees do not disseminate the skills necessary to function in the workforce. This is a colossal dis-service to the youth of the nation who even after investing a minimum of three years in a higher learning institution is deprived of the skills to earn a living. The lack of employability of this cohort has a detrimental effect on the resources of the state as well as the individual as the expense of higher education in India is either borne by the state by way of subsidies or by the family in the case of private institutions. president of India A P J Abdul Kalam stressed the need for a complete change in the higher education framework. He believed that a focus on skill development will enable the workforce to meet future challenges.
Tailor to the demands of student-consumers and Industry:
Student demographics are changing and learners are searching for new norms that cater to the need for skill-based, flexible, seamless higher education that suits individual circumstances and preferences. One-size-fits-all and typical learning paths advocated by traditional educational structures are losing favor.
It is necessary to involve the industry in creating skill-based learning outcomes and pedagogy. In a bid to reform India's recruitment system at central universities, the UGC has approved the draft guidelines which will allow industry experts to play the role of faculty for three years in a college. The engagement of such professors of practice with on-the-ground experience in the industry can go a long way in creating skill-based programs which will help to hone the practical skills of the students and feed the specific needs of the industry. A developing nation like India cannot afford to waste time and resources on an education that is not targeted towards earning a livelihood for as Gandhiji once said, ‘true education must correspond to the surrounding circumstances or it is not a healthy growth”.
The dire need for a life-long learning approach:
The pace of change in the job market has hugely accelerated and the concept of job for life is passé, as the modern youth believes in embracing lifelong learning. Life-long learning is not a new perspective, but in a world that has become much more non-linear, the conditions and prerequisites for life-long learning have changed significantly. We need to continuously learn and update skills to stay up-to-date and relevant. The changing scenario of the digital economy requires substantial interaction with technology, labor automation, and more fluid employment.
Higher education must approach skills competency with a flexible growth mindset to serve students well in the world of work. Students in the 21st century must learn how to approach problems from many perspectives, cultivate and exploit creativity, engage in complex communication, and leverage critical thinking. There is an undeniable need to train the next generation in emerging digital competencies, cater to future requirements and employ technology responsibly. In-demand skills, automated processes, and globalization will affect the format, delivery, and areas of study. There is a huge appetite for wholly online and hybrid courses for diverse subjects.
Diversifying revenue streams to deliver quality education:
Decreasing public funding of higher education institutions and imminent financial crisis are a few of the many issues concerning higher education in India. Higher education institutions must opt for alternative revenue strategies based on financial returns, resources, and operational needs. The institutions must attract non-traditional students as the number of employed learners is set to surpass traditional learners over the next few years.
It is essential for educational institutions to develop sustainable business models. Fast-growing innovations in educational technologies can be adopted to face future challenges. It is a great time for higher education players to emerge with a business model with Edtech companies to use technology and data to implement blended learning approaches. Higher education Institutions must create linkages between faculty expertise and the private sector through models like Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, consultative services, and proactive commercial services, which can play a significant role in the financial sustainability of an institution.
The inclusion of industry and employers along with educationists in all aspects of decision-making and execution of our HEIs will drive the system towards a more employment-driven curriculum and practices which in turn, will make our graduates more employable. This will thus help to reduce the skill gap and minimize the time taken by our graduates to become productive members of society. An increase in Corporate involvement in the HEI sector will make it easier to tap the talent pool and increase the quality of the pool.
India Education Forum Editorial Desk