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A Catalyst For Socio-economic Transformation

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The driving force behind the growth of the country is its youth which is almost 49 per cent of the total Indian population. According to a report published by IRIS and UNHABITAT, India is going to be the youngest nation by the year 2020. Education can be a catalyst for the socio-economic transformationof country with important attributes like knowledge and skill development. The market size of Indian education sector was INR 3.83 trillion in 2013. The public spending in the Indian education sector was 11.3 per cent in 2012 which is 3.4 per cent of the GDP. International aid to the elementary or basic sector fell by $278 million between 2010 and 2012 due to the economic downturn, even though India is among the top five countries in the world in the number of children still out of school. India saw highest cuts in this global funding compared to other countries.

Challenges faced by education sector:

Urban rural divide: About 70% of people live in 6 lakh villages of India. The teachers and education infrastructure is insufficient to cater to so much population in rural areas compared to the urban areas.
Inadequate infrastructure: Infrastructure has always been a hurdle for the Education sector. Schools lack quality infrastructure even after significant public expenditure.
Student class ratio:Under SSA (SarvaSikshaAbhiyan), the country has seen massive infrastructure development at the school level. The average student-classroom ratio (SCR) which was 39 in 2005-06 had come down to 31 in 2010-11. However, it is still very high.
Facilities at school: Only 4.8 per cent government schools have all nine facilities (building, one classroom per teacher, separate toilets for boys and girls, drinking water, kitchen, boundary, wall, playground, barrier-free access, one office-cum-store-cum head teacher room) stipulated in the RTE Act.One-third have up to seven facilities and about 30 per cent do not have even five facilities.
Availability of study material: The availability of study material and the quality of content has been a continuous problem.
High drop-out rate: About 40 per cent of the students still drop out of the elementary education despite free education under RTE.
High Pupil Tutor Ratio (PTR): Average annual PTR is 27:1 after significant increase in number of teachers under both SSA and state budgets. The challenge is the imbalance in the teacher deployment process. The schools that do not comply with the RTE Act have PTR fairly high.Professional qualification of a teacher is approved by National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) but 8.1 lakh untrained teachersare present in four states alone - Bihar, UP, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
Very weak Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER): There is a huge supply-demand gap in the secondary and higher education with just 15 per cent GER in the higher education. Economic condition of parents, employment status and availability of infrastructure for higher education are some of the reasons of low GER.
Low awareness about education: Lack of awareness about free education till class VIII, benefits such as free study material and mid-day meal scheme and the importance of education for children especiallygirl child.

Technology, media and telecom can help address many of these challenges.

Technology And Telecom
With almost 933 million subscribers, India has the 2ndlargest subscriber network, rural teledensity of 44and urban teledensity of 146 per cent. Government's plan to layout optic fibre across the country for a robust backhaul and to set the minimum broadband speed to 512kbps will be helpful in more interactive and high quality educational programs.India is also the preferred destination for IT and ITeS services for multinationals across the globe.
 
Digital India: The new government's focus to build digital India by connecting all villages with broadband will be beneficial for the educational sector. The allotted budget of INR 500 crores for National Rural Broadband can improve the connectivity which will help in delivering knowledge from anytime anywhere across the world. Broadband can help in online education, skill development and provide interactive and entertaining platform for the students.

Virtual classroom/ smart schools:
Virtual class-room is backed by an Internet connection. The government has allotted INR 100 crore for building virtual class rooms and online courses. e.g. SmartClass and SmartSchool solutions from Educomp provide technology enabled education tools for interactive, collaborative, multi-sensory learning and the assessment system.

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCS): With the increase in data connectivity and improved infrastructure the education sector is moving towards online courses. MOOCS can help in reducing the supply-demand gap and help in improving the pupil-teacher ratio.MOOCS has no restriction on class size and usage of social media and online tools makes it easier to access from anywhere. Data connectivity and improved IT infrastructure are fundamental for the success of MOOCS. The Government's project to connect universities and research institutes with broadband will help in early and higher adoption of MOOCS in India.

Digital broadcasting:
The move to digitise the broadcasting industry can be helpful for the education sector as many broadcasters provide education content atreasonable price and in a fun to learn manner. e.g. TataSky, Airtel, Videocon DTH provide many educational programs for children.

Gaming platform: Game based applications and consoles are gaining popularity for their interactive capabilties. e.g. Apps like Duo-Lingo and Mathway are successful because of the fun element in them.MILLEE (Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies) applications enable children in the developing world to acquire language literacy in game like environments.

m-education: The growing use of mobile phones in every age-group and the penetration of mobile phone provide an efficient platform to provide education to masses in an economical way. The content could be made available in local language and user friendly interface. The VAS (Value Added Services) industry is coming up with innovative ideas every day to provide education as VAS. e.g. English Seekho, Pragati, iPerform, Fisher Friend and BehtarZindagi are some prominent VAS services in this sector. The m-education is going to be a $70 billion market globally by 2020. Khan Academy, Tutor-on-Mobile aresome successful initiatives providing education on mobile platform.

Media
The print media, radio and television runs knowledge articles with their daily and weekly telecast on importance of nutrition, health exercise, meditation, yoga, etc. Kid's programs such as quiz contest which evolved from radio to television provide good platform for children to prove their talent. Animated programs such as Little Krishna, ChottaBheem, etc. help to make the next generation of children understand our epics and mythology. Channels such as Discovery and National Geographic run several programs to increase child's knowledge in today's competitive world. Several programs conductcompetitions in various fields like dancing, singing, acting, etc.and provide scholarships to students to promote talent and skill development.

Technology, media and telecom can help to reach the 6 lakh villages of India and address the lack of infrastructure, teacher, and classrooms through e-Learning and m-Education platforms.Going forward, we should not only concentrate on educating the children and women, but also to focus on skill development and knowledge management for the youth of tomorrow. In the current global scenario, strongly believing in VasudhaivaKutumbakam(the whole world is one family) can usher into a new world of wisdom and knowledge where digital forces can help to bridge between the elderly western world and the young eastern world of the future.

The author is a Partner with Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP


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