Saturday, October 19, 2013

Education = Knowledge = Opportunity

Education has always been a very important part of our society, well educated citizens generally earn the respect of their community. The Guru Shishya Parampara is rooted in our psyche and we pay our homage to our gurus on the pious occasion of Guru Poornima every year. I am sure we all remember some of our teachers who have inspired us to be what we are today.

Takshshila was the earliest recorded centre of higher learning in India from at least 5th century BC. The Nalanda University was the oldest university-system of education in the world in the modern sense of university. Western education became ingrained into Indian society with the establishment of the British Raj and the knowledge of English was possibly one of the good things that they did for our country.

Education is also very important for our socio – economic well being - India has seen success in the field of IT and Pharma industries because of its large educated population.

In Numbers –
We produce 50 lakh graduates every year
We produce 15 lakh engineers every year – more than US and China added together
The size of the Indian Education Industry is about Rs 3.5 lac crore now and will almost double to Rs 6 lac crore by 2015 as per a recent India Ratings research report. India's higher education system is the third largest in the world after USA and China.

Reach -
Our census puts the literacy rate at 66% - not good enough after so many years post independence.
As per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2012, 96.5% of all rural children between the ages of 6-14 were enrolled in school. 83% of all rural 15-16 year olds were enrolled in school. The challenge is now to keep these children in school and the programmes like the mid day meals certainly help.

Quality of Government run institutions -
20% of primary education is privately run whereas 60% of higher education is privately run. We know the problems in the govt run institutions – poor quality infrastructure, absent teachers, lack of motivation on the part of the teaching staff etc. Since a majority of our population (specially rural) goes to the government run schools, it is very important for their quality to improve.

World Class -
IITs and IIMs are the only world renowned institutes in the country. Their alumni today run many companies in India and overseas. There is a strong case for many more such high quality education institutes in the country.

Qualit0y of output -
While we produce a staggering number of students every year, very few of them are employable. All companies have a comprehensive training programme to train freshers every year. The quality of the students will improve once the curriculum is revised more frequently and have more interactions with the industry to gauge their demands so as to be able to adjust the inputs accordingly.

Commercialisation -
The private sector loves education. All aspiring businessmen now want to have a piece of this action and are creating more and more institutes. The potential of the sector is high – high profit margins, capitation fees and the chance of converting black money to white – no wonder most of the politicians have schools and colleges being run by them. The problem with this is the rapid escalation of costs across the industry – my friends today pay more for their kids pre school (couple of hours) than what I paid for 2 years of my post graduation – all this has changed over the last 10 years!! No one seems to mind really – education loans have become commonplace with some MBA colleges charging upwards of 15 lacs per year – I sadly think of graduates from these institutes who have a EMI burden on them before they start working.

New ways of delivery – online education -
The industry needs to innovate fast – a cost effective way to deliver education online/on mobile/TV needs to be found and implemented. There is very little possibility that those who are hungry for education would find their way into a school or a college – if the students can’t come to a school can the school go to the students?

Role of NGO’s/Training Institutes -
NGO’s are playing an increasingly important part in the industry – they reach out to students and adults and train them. Training Institutes which provide basic skills to the youth to make them employable in the catering business/shop floor/retail industry are also doing a good job.

Education builds character in an individual and hence is essential, more so in today’s world where your basic education qualification matters. One can also argue that it is not necessary -  one of our top industrialist was not even a graduate, but that was 30 years ago. In the modern world it has become absolutely necessary.

Some of the most successful people never stop learning – that is a characteristic that our education system should instil in all students – education can stop but learning should not.

Next week I will question some marketing fads – as a marketing graduate I hope that I would be able to do some justice to it.

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