The education sector of India has gone through a lot of reforms in the last decade. The literacy rate of youth in India stands at 90.2% which is way below China at 99.7%. India spends only 4% of its GDP on education, which is again below the world average of 4.9%. Though the literacy rate is improving, there are concerns that need to be addressed if India plans to remain the technical and call centre hub that it currently is.
Issues with the current educational system
Probably the most important concern would be the quality of education being imparted. In 2009, students from Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh attended the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which is a worldwide study conducted to test the performance of students in mathematics, science and reading, India ranked second last among 78 countries. This put a lot of controversy on the quality of education that young minds are exposed to.
Another major concern is questioning the skills that are developed after studying. Most curriculum in the Indian education system are syllabus based and do not have room for critical thinking. The syllabus generally covers a vast scope of information and teachers struggle to finish it within a semester. The result is that there is no understanding of the subject and students just learn the subjects from an examination point of view.
The rapidly changing job environment calls for performance based management, where companies compete to keep the best minds. This environment calls for critical thinking, working in teams under pressure and effective business communication. Sadly, none of these points are reflected in the Indian education sector.
The quality of teachers also plays an important role in assessing the overall quality of education. Teachers, on average, are middle aged and are underpaid. They face enormous pressure from family and educational institutes regarding grading the assessments. Though technology has developed and bought new interactive ways of teaching; the teachers are resistant or do not have access to learn about the same. As a result, they continue with the regular chalk and board lectures. In striving to complete the prescribed syllabus, many teachers lack complete understanding of the subject and discourage any form of participation in class. The teachers should also be assessed to ensure that they deliver the content correctly. The younger generation, who may be capable of conducting better lectures; seeks teaching as a last career option; due to the low pay.
Yet another deterrent to education is the poor infrastructure of many institutes in India. Apart from tier-1 cities, most schools do not even have proper seating arrangements. The 2013-14 report by District Information System for Education shows that only 58% of Indian schools have access to electricity. This, along with lack of toilets could discourage students from attending classes. This would in turn affect the quality of education.
New Lessons that needs to be incorporated
At a school level, children need to be encouraged to reason out and ask questions. Though our culture dictates that teachers are always right and should not be questioned, children having a differing viewpoint should be encouraged and appreciated. This develops a mindset that everything should not be taken at face value. Children should also be taught extra-curricular skills, apart from the regular syllabus. These skills will enable them to be independent and confident in their approach towards life.
At the college level, the reasoning skills should be extended; such that open discussions and debates are part of the lecture. Assignments should be argumentative-based and not just a carbon copy from the textbooks. This will enable students to think critically.
Most of the real world problems do not require having a closed book theory at the back of your mind. With increasing ICT; all concepts, definitions and processes are obtained on the internet. Therefore, conducting three hour closed book examinations on the retention power of students would not help them in their future. However, the ability to read the concepts online and come up with suitable methods to solve an issue is what needs to be learnt. Critical thinking assignments will help that.
The corporate world calls for people who can work efficiently in teams. A certain sense of leadership along with team building should be taught at college. Students should be allotted to random groups and asked to work on presentations and assignments. Though India does have team work, most of the institutes allow students to choose their own team members. However, working with random people will bring about the tension and knowledge that would otherwise not be learnt. These situations should be introduced at an early level so that students can cope with the same when they face real world challenges.
College level students should also be engaged in improving their communication and presentation techniques. A recent study showed that most Indians, even after taking a bachelors/masters degree are not effective communicators in the workplace. A quantitative analysis that was taken up in August 2015 showed that almost 97% engineering graduates could not speak English fluently. Most students are also not comfortable with business communication and writing emails. These skills are important in every industry and due importance should be placed on the same. Since we are in the globalization era, talking to people from different ethnicities is not a fantasy option; it is a reality. Also, most companies outsource their businesses to India, allowing the BPO industry to boom. Therefore, though India is doing really well in the BPO industry, it needs to have more people who are clear and confident in communication to have an upper hand in this sector.
India is a country with growing potential. Population wise, we are second only to China; which means we stand a great chance of having the best minds take on the challenges of the world. We have produced some quality leaders who are currently at top positions of various multinational companies. A better quality of education will help India to retain its potential workforce and pave the way to being a developed country in the near future.