Clipped from: https://www.businesstoday.in/opinion/columns/story/democratise-and-digitise-making-learning-inclusive-in-india-367877-2023-01-27
It will take a collaborative effort by the government, educational establishments, and industry to achieve India’s education targets. Initiatives such as the National Education Policy and integrated and collaborative digital learning platforms are a step in that direction
It will take a collaborative effort by the government, educational establishments, and industry to achieve India’s education targets
Education is a basic human right, and the foundation of all-round progress of individuals, communities, societies, and nations. It is seen that globally, an additional year in school increases hourly income by 9 percent. In pursuit of the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education by 2015, enrolment in developing countries increased to 91 per cent in 2015, from 83 per cent in 2000. But an analysis by UNESCAP found that India was lagging in this area, with many children staying out of school or failing to complete primary schooling. The quality of learning was also poor.
A Problem of Access
Unfortunately, several years down the line, the state of Indian education still leaves much to be desired. This is not only because of the inadequacies of the system, but also because high quality education is extremely hard to get: IIT Bombay, for example, has a 0.2 per cent student acceptance rate, way lower than that of the world’s leading universities. A number of tutoring programs have sprung up to prepare students for competitive entrance examinations, but they are expensive and out of reach for the vast majority of aspirants. There is a strong need for a parallel ecosystem offering accessible and affordable courses to make Indian education more inclusive.
This is the thinking behind Infosys Springboard, an integrated digital learning and collaboration platform offering courses in digital and life skills, and emerging technologies, absolutely free of cost. The holistic learning programs created in collaboration with entities, such as Coursera and Harvard Business Publishing, are fully aligned with India’s National Education Policy 2020, and are particularly well-suited to impart vocational skills. For example, Common Services Centres (CSCs) under the Ministry of Electronics and IT are using the platform to impart vocational and professional skills to 60 million people, aged 10 to 22, from underprivileged communities in rural and semi-urban India. This tie-up furthers the goal of inclusive education and bridges the digital divide by enabling equitable access to learning resources and promoting technology adoption at the grassroots level.
By 2025, the platform will enrol more than 10 million Indians in grade 6 and above, who will be able to access its resources at a time, place, and pace of their choice for life.
Learn. Or get left behind.
The idea of lifelong learning runs counter to the traditional model where people spent the first twenty years of their life acquiring specialized learning, and the next forty applying that knowledge at work. But today, when every industry relies on digital skills that are getting outdated within a few years, employees need to constantly refresh those skills to survive in their careers. At first, they may need to use digital solutions for productivity; as more activities get automated, they will need to work alongside robots and intelligent machines; and as digital technologies evolve in capability, their role will be to oversee those solutions and devise new use cases and applications. The last will call for higher order skills, like creativity, problem solving and innovation, along with technical knowledge.
A Vision for the Future
Enter National Education Policy 2020 (NEP). The vision of the NEP is to facilitate training in “21st century skills” to build a robust, digitally empowered workforce of the future. Focused on the needs of learners, the policy envisages a framework to promote holistic, inclusive, and all-round education and skill development. An important aspect of the NEP is that it allows students the flexibility to pursue Arts along with STEM courses, along with other multidisciplinary skills. Aiming to create a diverse and multiskilled workforce – to serve the needs of the nation and its people – the policy proposes a curriculum and pedagogy that also facilitates vocational training, along with critical thinking and analytical skills.
Building on the Millennium Development Goals, the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal no. 4 envisages quality education, with a mission to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. It prescribes several indicators to measure performance, including free primary and secondary education; equal access to quality pre-primary education; affordable technical, vocational and higher education; increased number of people with relevant skills for financial success; elimination of all discrimination in education; and universal literacy and numeracy. It will take a collaborative effort by the government, educational establishments, and industry to achieve these tall targets. Initiatives such as the National Education Policy and integrated and collaborative digital learning platforms are a step in that direction.
Views are personal. The author is Executive Vice President and Group Head, Human Resource Development, Infosys.