Education Space – promise, future trends and prospects

I was interviewed by TOI on the growth prospects of education sector, trends expected in the near future and the path Career Launcher is espousing. Here I reproduce the interview that will appear very soon.

How the education sector is sailing through the economic slowdown –

– Education gives hope for a better future, thus education sector will always be a sunrise sector, irrespective of the state of the economy
– Especially when economy is down and out, education sector performs even better because people want to enhance their employability chances through,

  • Gaining greater skills or re-skilling
  • Undertaking courses or degrees that are valued more in the market place

When I say education is a sunrise sector, it does not really mean every institution in this sector will be in demand. Only the institutions who are really concerned of facilitating every learner earnestly, will do well in the long run. When I go through statistics of enrolment process over the last few months across the segments in education – number of universities, numbers applying for any university selection, preparatory programs, skill schools, vocational training etc – I can safely say the growth visible this year is to the tune of at least 20-25 percent this year, despite economic slowdown.

Growth prospects of the education sector –

Ironically, growth prospect of education sector is always extremely bright due the distance our nation has to travel. The challenge is daunting, but surmountable.

Is there any doubt about the curve the  education sector is facing –

  • With over sixty percent of population expected to be below the age of 25 by 2020, the nation has a great challenge to facilitate the FUTURE India.
  • With only about 11% of the population progressing beyond class 10, we have a vast majority to participate in learning and facilitating
  • With over 80% of professionally qualified people considered to be unemployable by the industry, we need to train them in skills that can enable them employable or even better, self-employed or entrepreneur.

We need thousands of new educational institutions every year that provide meaningful education that is accessible, inclusive, affordable, flexible, and contextually relevant. Yes, there are certainly a lot of doubts about how many of these institutions really have an intention to provide such a meaningful education in a very honest way. I am not excluding the government here.

Trends expected in the education sector vis-à-vis current trends –

If the feedback from the industry says that over 80% of freshly qualified personnel are unemployable; If a couple of lakh ‘skilled workers from diamond Industry’ get laid off and a few of them unfortunately choose to give up their lives instead of looking at re-skilling themselves; If a highly qualified engineer drops an unwanted newly born child into a well; if a young educated airhostess jumps from the top of a multi-storied building because she was stopped from smoking; if a group of youngsters waylay cars and drive bullets into occupants only to lay their hands on credit cards to splurge, then there is a dire need to have a re-look at what we call education and how the young minds are facilitated.

What do we mean by education? We certainly have to move away from the focus on ‘good marks’, away from an assessment system that can be hoodwinked by studying only in the last 48 hours to gain so called ‘professional’ qualifications?

Education is very different from literacy. “LIFE IS ALWAYS OUT OF SYLLABUS,” is the thought that is very centric to our approach to education.   An education system has to facilitate an individual to be in command of self and such an unpredictable and dynamic life.

In the short term, the transition towards the right direction will be a slow process, but if we look at a longer perspective of ten – fifteens years, there will be dramatic shifts.

Trends I foresee –

  • We will have to move from syllabus-testing curriculum to learner-enabling curriculum. NCF 2005, national curriculum framework, is a great step in that direction. It will have to be made the bible for schools to follow to move away from stress giving teacher-driven classroom, testing and marks-seeking mindset. We as parents will have to be facilitators for the schools to move on in that direction.
  • We need to create great teacher enabling and parent coaching institutions to facilitate them create learner centric environments. I see quite a few private initiatives emerging in this domain.
  • More open schools and distance learning programmes emerging and gaining respect in the society.
  • The demands of the society for qualified people across various careers, not limited to Engineering, Medicine, Accountancy and Management; Humanities will again find its shine under the sun. Evolution of National law colleges, and Design schools coming together are a great examples of such developments I can foresee.
  • Technology will create aggregating platforms where outstanding professors, professionals, freelance experts, eminent artists who may not be qualified by conventional standards, retired scientists etc. to offer programmes that will excite and facilitate interested learners to gain what they want. Check out NPTEL channel by IIT consortium on YOUTUBE, the second largest used virtual learning channel in the world.
  • The programmes will be highly flexible – one may just get trained to be an electrician, can progress to gain a diploma, a few years after could go for a degree. A few may even undertake Ph.D. programme in their lives.
  • The entry for any course may not be controlled as is being done now. Every one who is interested in a programme will have a choice to undertake that programme, but the exit evaluation for awarding degrees may be very stringent to give productive individuals to the society and nation.
  • There will be national assessment bodies that will create unifying evaluation processes for every profession, ala CA, ICWA, CS bodies. Example – every engineer irrespective of which institution he or she studies from, will qualify to be an engineer only on being certified by this assessment body.
  • On the reach side, there will be community colleges and community enabling centres within the reach of every village and block that will make use of all these developments to reach every child. All forms of ICT, mobile technologies and sixth-sense technologies will play significant role in access side.

All these developments will make education accessible, affordable, relevant and contextual, learner-friendly, market-friendly and inclusive in every respect.

Scope for the test-prep sector (being a core area of CL); Growth Plans of Career Launcher;

Core Area of Career Launcher is EDUCATION, in its entirety. It was a compulsion to start with preparatory education, only because economically-modest graduates from IITs and IIMs, with a dream of contributing meaningfully to education, did not have any money whatsoever to get into areas of schooling or higher education that demands enormous investments. For training aspirants for IIMs and IITs, people did not ask any question about infrastructure. It all started under a tree!

Endeavours of Career Launcher in education encompasses Early-child education, K-12 schools, rural schools, community enabling centres, E-learning and tutoring, Technical education (ITI), Skill schools, Employability and Finishing schools, Business School that fosters entrepreneurship and in the near future an exciting university.

The wildest dream is to reach meaningful education to children in 6.7 lakh villages of this great nation in the next couple of decades, by working with like-minded co-creators.

As I shared above, the preparatory education space will continue to flourish till the barriers are broken to make meaningful education accessible and affordable from the very early age.

Looking forward to your comments and feedback. You can share either here or on sreeni@careerlauncher.com

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