In our second Finshot today, we tell you why there was an urgent need to revamp our policy on education. If you haven't read the first part, you can read it here.
You’re probably expecting us to offer more insights on the new education policy. However, this story is big news already and so many people have dissected it in so many ways (including us). And honestly, I don’t think we can add anything beyond this. So instead, we will explore another subject — what does this new education policy really try to achieve?
On the face of it, the answer is rather simple. Education leads to employment and a new education policy ought to create more employable individuals. This bit is fairly accurate And although many people are rightfully disillusioned about the return on investment associated with education, it’s safe to say that you’re likely to do better with a degree in tow. Here’s data from a 2011–2012 survey on employment. Better education equals better returns.
But there’s a crisis brewing in India. Despite churning out more high skill workers than ever before, unemployment is on the rise. When you talk to employers, they’ll tell you stuff like — “80% of Indian engineers are not fit for any job in the knowledge economy.” When you go look at the state of skill development in India, you’ll see we are lagging behind on most metrics. And if you put all the facts together you’ll realise this is a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode.
As a McKinsey report notes —
“In Japan, an estimated 700,000 young people, known as hikikomori, have withdrawn from society, rarely leaving home. In North Africa, restless youth were at the vanguard of the demonstrations that toppled governments in Egypt and Tunisia. In the United States, the still faltering economy has been so difficult on Generation Y that there is even a television show, Underemployed, about a group of 20-something college graduates forced into dead-end or unpaid jobs. It is a comedy, but of the laughter-through-tears variety”
India is at a similar crossroads right now. We are at the precipice of hosting a large working-class population and barring a nuclear catastrophe, young boys and girls you see around you will become the hard-working men and women that build the nation of tomorrow.
It’s the fundamental premise on which India’s growth story is built. It’s the idea behind the demographic dividend — when a country experiences low birth rates in conjunction with low death rates and receives an economic dividend or benefit from the increase in productivity of the working population that ensues.
However, if these very kids who’ve worked so hard to graduate from school and university aren’t able to secure a decent living, then social unrest will inevitably follow and India’s demographic dividend will quickly devolve into the demographic nightmare.
So bridging this gap is quintessential to our cause.
You could always solve this problem by creating new job opportunities. However, if the education system consistently produces graduates who aren’t equipped to tackle the needs of a 21st-century employer, then you won’t make a significant dent either way.
Which means you can’t solve this overnight. Employers need to actively engage with educational institutions to produce graduates who better fit the bill and you must also offer students the same kind of flexibility — To pick and choose as they like. If the education system is highly rigid, students will be forced to go through a program, even if they feel they are better suited elsewhere.
Consider for instance the simple act of offering prospective graduate students multiple entry and exit points throughout the undergraduate program.
As Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare noted in a web conference yesterday
“The credits that the students obtain in their first and second year will be stored using the Digilocker system. So, in the third year, if they want to take a break and continue their course within a fixed period, they can utilise these credits for further education”
Meaning students will now be offered a certificate in the first year of graduation, a diploma in the second year and a degree in the third or fourth year, depending on the course. And they can come back within a fixed period to do more if they so wished. It’s an insurance policy. You can take a drop year and it won’t be the end of the world. You can go work at a startup. You can do NGO work. You can experiment. You can try your hand at different things and you’ll still have a certificate that’s valuable.
It’s this sort of flexibility that the Indian education system so desperately needed. After all, if you don’t offer students the right kind of incentives, they’ll keep doing the same things and you’ll keep getting engineers who are barely employable.
Hopefully, the new education policy gives students some breathing room. Pursue creative arts while studying physics. Learn how to code if you so wish. Study in your local language and maybe you’ll finally walk out of the system ready to do something that you really desire.
Note: Once again if you’re looking for an explainer on some of the key initiatives proposed here, you can read our draft here.