Largest education system in the world but poor employability

In India, the return on investment on education has found to be pathetically low. Hence, the country needs to identify catalysts that can accelerate the pace of skilling. VP Singh, Professor of Economics & PGDM Program Director, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Gurgaon, shares his thoughts.
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India has around 25 crore students enrolled in school education and around 4 crore students enrolled in higher education, making it the largest education system in the world.

Large systems should enjoy economies of scale and make education cheap. Unfortunately, in India, the return on investment on education has found to be pathetically low. Students would get ‘educated’ tag but they are not skilled enough.

A study by ASSOCHAM in 2016 revealed that only 7 percent of MBA graduates churned out of 5,500 B-Schools in India were found to be employable. The ‘National Employability Report for Engineers 2019’ put out by a job assessment platform, Aspiring Minds, shows that over 80 percent of engineers in India are unfit to take up any job in the knowledge economy.

Such poor employability not only wastes the new job opportunities, but it also slows down the process of skill development of the younger generation.

The world is changing fast towards new knowledge economy, creating new opportunities for nations to gain dominance. It won’t wait for India to get skilled. In fact, India needs to identify catalysts that can accelerate the pace of skilling. The proposals on education in the Union Budget 2022-23 are in that direction.

Convergence and complements

The success in penetration of electricity, internet, and telecom in interiors of India needs to be leveraged for the penetration of education in the country. The confluence of internet, telecom, and television can significantly reduce the time and cost of rendering education to the students across the nation.

This confluence enables one unit of good content and one session of a good teacher having several times impact than the traditional system. Critics may compare effectivity of online versus offline teaching. Such comparisons are unwarranted as online mode is a supplement, not a replacement.

Success of online initiatives from past Budgets

DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing), launched on September 5, 2017, is being leveraged and developed for school education, foundational learning programmes, and to support inclusive learning for underserved and differently-abled communities of learners and teachers.

Around 8.5 crore course enrolments have been seen; 7 crore course completions have been achieved; 316 crore learning sessions translating into 2,775 crore learning minutes have been experienced. It supports more than 18 languages and 2,685 courses of various curricula of NCERT, CBSE, and SCERTs can be accessed.

NISHTHA is a National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement at the elementary stage under Samagra Shiksha – a flagship programme of MHRD. In the last one year, more than 30 lakh teachers have benefitted by being trained digitally. This shows the power of internet in improving the quality of education.

The eVIDYA initiative uses DTH channels for broadcasting and making courses available on TV. One can use the DIKSHA app and scan the QR code to study these courses. These initiatives were taken in the previous budget and have yielded reasonably good results. This budget has seen further strengthening of these initiatives.

The ‘One Class, One TV Channel programme of eVIDYA is being expanded from 12 to 200 and that too available in different languages. Critics have been unfair in comparing the efficacy of school learning and learning through TV channel as this mode is supplementary and not a competing mode.

Can the allocation target of NEP 2020 be met through Union Budget alone?

The proposals on education in this budget are oriented towards digital education, agriculture universities, and setting up of digital university.

Given the uncertainty about new variants of coronavirus, and to quicken the pace of learning and skill development, the country needs to create a robust online education system. The world’s largest democracy promised ‘Right to Education’ to the country on April 1, 2010. The date popularly known as April Fool’s Day is just incidental and may not have been intentional.

Unfortunately, even after a decade, India’s adult literacy rate at 81 percent is lower than the world average of 86 percent. Literacy rate of 81 percent doesn’t in anyway represent the skill level.

The education system requires a quick revamp. NEP 2020 recommends a spend of 6 percent of the GDP on education while the current allocation of Rs 1,04,278 crore is nowhere around it. Six percent of GDP translates to a spend of about Rs 14 lakh crore considering the estimated nominal GDP of Rs 232.15 lakh crore for 2021-22.

But the entire 6 percent of GDP allocation does not have to come from the Union Budget. Education is on the concurrent list and states have a larger responsibility in imparting quality education to their residents.

A back of the envelop calculation of states’ spend on education comes out to be Rs 6.11 lakh crore, much less than 6 percent of their respective GDP. This leaves around Rs 8 lakh crore to be spent by Centre to meet the Rs 14 lakh crore target.

Union Budget 2022-23 shows total receipts expected as Rs 22.84 lakh crore. Out of this deduct interest payment cost of Rs 9.4 lakh crore and one is left with Rs 13.44 lakh crore. If the Centre spends Rs 8 lakh crore on education, then the FM is left with a mere Rs 5.44 lakh crore to spend on country’s defence; electricity; transport; health services, agriculture, etc. Is it justified?

Edited by Megha Reddy

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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