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Ashish Rajpal

Ashish Rajpal, Founder & CEO, XSEED Education.

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Reflecting on Indian Education sector in 2017 and Outlook for 2018

In 2018, the Indian education industry must turns its focus to skills and competencies -- the ability to do things well.

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In 2017, Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishanan urged Indians to trade squabbles over meat eating for a focus on the quality of education for our nation’s children. Otherwise, he said, we would risk losing the race to China. In the same year the foreign minister Sushma Swaraj brandished India’s visionary feats in education at the UN, speaking of the iconic IITs and IIMs and India’s reputation as a major knowledge power in software and information technology. Which of these narratives is true? Both. Dr Ramakrishnan is describing the sick elephant in the room, while Ms Swaraj is celebrating the sprightly beetle atop it.

And yet, fancy mobile apps and marketing glitz dominated the private sector’s B2C efforts in education. Steeply priced, these have replaced the hype of the smartboard based B2B solutions, which dominated the headlines for the past decade. On the other hand, government-run and low- and middle-income private schools alike continued to focus on rote learning, a problem that these technology-based “solutions” fail to address. Though the sector is beginning to realize the benefits of technology in addressing some of these problems, many technology solutions focus narrowly on bringing more hardware and tools into the classroom. While exposing children to these tools is important, alone they do little to address the underlying problems that schools are grappling with.

Children who are going to compete in the 21st century require a dramatically different teaching and learning method, one the emphasizes not only knowledge but also comprehension, analysis, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. As a result, fundamentally changing the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom continues to be the major challenge for India’s schools. Across the board, a lack of trained teachers, poor infrastructure and high student-teacher ratios result in modest learning outcomes.

For its part, the government increased spending slightly, but the budget remains woefully inadequate for a country, which aspires to compete on a global scale. It  continues to focus on adding controls and restrictions (e.g., mandating NCERT books for all private schools), rather than trying to stimulate investment and leverage innovation in the private sector.

Outlook for 2018

In 2018, the Indian education industry must turns its focus to skills and competencies -- the ability to do things well. There is an urgent need to prepare the next generation with the skills they’ll need to thrive in the workforce both in and outside of India. Three things to look out for:

  • In 2018, demand for quality education institutions will continue to outstrip supply, and schools & colleges will need to look for innovative solutions to drive high quality education at scale. While the government will continue to regulate private players, it will hopefully also partner with them, and leverage the immense capabilities present there.
  • As the industry recognizes the foundational importance of the primary school years, I anticipate that there will be increasing focus on improving pedagogy for India’s youngest children. The industry is finally coming around to the truth: that improvements in high school, college, and on-job-training simply come too late.
  • I expect that the biggest gains will continue to come from edtech solutions that have sufficient “ed” in them. These solutions find ways engage all kinds of children, utilizing proven research on pedagogy that works, and building skills they can actually use in their lives. 

Indian children, regardless of place of birth or socio-economic situation, deserve the advantages that a high-quality primary school education can bring. In 2018, I look forward to seeing more authentic solutions that truly move the needle on learning, for all Indian children.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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