How entrepreneurs can improve India's Education SystemJagdeep Singh
India is a country with enormous intellectual capital and achievement potential. Today, there are more children enrolled in primary schools compared to a decade ago, and early childhood education is skyrocketing--a fantastic outcome in such a short period of time.
Yet there are also millions of children who still cannot adequately read, write and count, leave aside formal schooling.
The numbers seem to baffle your mind? These could be much more, who knows?
Indian Education System: An overview
India is a densely populated country with a large percentage of its population living in rural areas. This poses a significant challenge for the education industry and at the same time opens up various opportunities for entrepreneurs. This challenge needs to be taken up at various levels if it is to be solved in an efficient manner. As is obvious, the main reason for lack of education in India is the cost involved (which may reach billions) and the scale of the problem.
Higher education in India needs improvement. Students need to be taught to think practically and must be prepared to become problem solvers as well as job creators. The percentage of students taking higher education in India is much less compared to other countries like US and UK.
India’s present education system is lacking practicality. A recent article on education denotes that Indian education is based on the following facts:
• Quality of Education: In terms of infrastructure, teachers, accreditation, etc.
• Affordability of Education: Ensuring that economically weaker and deserving students are not denied education
• Ethics in Education: Avoiding over-commercialization of the entire education system
Due to the penetration of the Internet (even in remote areas), the world is now at the fingertips of every individual. This needs to be brought to full use and must be encouraged.
If one thinks about it, then there are two fundamental ways to tackle these challenges: either the cost of education should be lowered (while retaining quality) or someone else should fund it. For basic education, the primary sources of funding continue to be domestic country budgets, multilateral and country-specific aid programs and overseas remittances.
Also, availability of loans is becoming easier, with easy online loans available in India. Yet in the face of bulging education demographics and funding costs, this may not be enough. If it is supported by government funding then this should make sense.
The emphasis of education in India is focused more towards scoring high grades rather than gaining knowledge and ability and more than 90% of the subjects are theoretical. Students are seldom encouraged to learn from experimentation. This is not a healthy trend.
Schools are not giving enough importance to holistic, all round development of a student. This should be done by focusing more on extracurricular activities like sports, games and others. It is creating a false impression in children that education is the only important part in life, and not a balanced life.
How entrepreneurs can help
Here is where EdTech startups come into the picture – yes, they are India’s knights in shining armour and are filling the gap pretty well. Here are a few ways this is happening:
Seed and Venture Funding
Recently, with the Modi government’s initiatives like Startup India and Make in India, seed and venture funding has got a major boost. The Indian start-up eco system is flourishing and deserving start-ups are getting funded. Such types of funding are very important for entrepreneurs, who may face a tough time getting access to funding from banks. Thus, venture capital has a big role to play in providing quality education, via education start-ups.
The popularity of peer-to-peer (P2P) lending (in which technology allows the matching of individual lenders with borrowers outside of traditional intermediaries such as banks) is spreading quickly across India. Companies such as the P2P platform Finzy are offering easy loans which can be accessed online via their digital platform. Thus, providing vast potential for student finance needs and a much way around traditional banking systems. One should not skip P2P if one wants the easy loans online.
India’s educational institutions must concentrate on quality. They should ensure that their curriculum is being updated constantly and the students are learning the latest techniques. Constant updating needs to be the norm rather than the exception. This is important if they want their students to adapt successfully to the constantly changing market scenario.
The benefit of such updates will be that students would be more willing to learn by experimentation and learn by doing rather than just memorizing. They would be able to internalize what will be taught in the class well. Introducing new practices and applied research work will also bring about fruitful results.
If the above developments, along with mentorship (of parents and students, both) take place in India, then it would be advantageous as in the long run students would be more willing to pursue higher education which may well fulfill corporate expectations.