By Byju Raveendran
With a consistent GDP 7% plus growth, India is the fastest growing large economy in the world. We have a very young population with over 50% of our citizens below the age of 25. India also has the largest school system in the world with over 270 million children enrolled in schools. In fact, by 2020, India will have the youngest population in the world with an average age of 29 and is all set to enjoy the demographic dividend.
While these statistics are very encouraging, it is important that as a nation, we invest in human capital to create a productive workforce. The demographic dividend is a double-edged sword; a sub-optimally educated unemployed youth can be a recipe for disaster.
In the face of globalization, technological advancement and high-level automation, it is only through right education that we can prepare for the unseen jobs of tomorrow.
In most Asian economies including India, education is considered as the best means of making it big in life. In fact, education ranks as the third most important expenditure for families after food and shelter in India. While enrolment in schools and colleges has steadily increased over the years, the quality of pass outs has been largely mediocre. Multiple reports state that the job readiness of our youth is incompatible with the requirements of the industry. According to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), more than 60% of our engineering graduates remain unemployed. But why this gap in employment even though there is a huge supply of jobs in India?
Our education system still faces core issues like lack of access to quality teachers, one-size-fits-all approach and rote memorization. These act as a huge hurdle in realizing the true potential of the young. We can solve these issues at scale only by embracing technology as an enabler. Integrating technology in education will help students’ access quality education irrespective of their geographical locations and proficiency levels.
In recent times, the government has made significant strides in creating an ecosystem that enables the use of technology to make quality learning more accessible, along with setting up new institutions and multiple programmes to train and improve quality of teachers. These efforts need to be doubled up to see better results – i.e. the government needs to further invest in quality education infrastructure and technology to create a young, powerful and talented workforce for the future.
Our classrooms haven’t changed in over a hundred years. The government should take steps to transform our education system through technology. This will accommodate conceptual and personalized learning and drive high student engagement and create life-long learners. We need to create students who take the initiative of learning beyond exams; a move from passive to active learning. After all, the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.
Overall, in the coming years, some jobs will disappear, others will grow and jobs that don’t even exist today will become commonplace. What is certain is that the future workforce will need to align its skillset to keep pace. And it is only through right education that we can create an adaptable young workforce to drive the Indian economy to new heights. The need is to create lifelong and active learners.
The writer is Founder & CEO, Byju’s