Revitalizing higher education to put India as a leading knowledge-based economy

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Vikas Singh, managing director, Pearson India shares the gaps in India’s education infrastructure and why it is important to develop more practical, experience-based learning techniques and embrace technology as that will soon be the key enabler in education delivery. “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”

Over a century ago, the famed educator John Dewey cited the above quote in his book ‘Schools of Tomorrow’ – and the message still remains highly relevant.

India is one of the youngest nations, with a median age of 1.3 billion strong population being mere 30. This positions India’s student population to be a force to reckon with. Amongst them are potential thought leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers and executives of the future, who will be at the helm of driving further the ever-growing US$13 trillion economy of the country.

Vikas Singh, MD, Pearson IndiaThe Indian economy is fast emerging as a knowledge-based economy with human capital being its core strength. It is estimated that over the next 20 years, India will have nearly 10-12 million people added to its workforce on an annual basis. With a demographic dividend of having such a huge workforce to its advantage, the challenge for Indian higher education is to groom a workforce that can be inducted into the industries with minimal hand-holding.

However, currently, the companies are struggling to find talent that is industry-ready, and therefore have to invest time and money to train the hired resources to bridge the required skill gaps. This highlights the inadequacies of India’s education infrastructure for higher education. To bridge the gaps, the need of the hour is to develop more practical, experience-based learning techniques and embrace technology as that will soon be the key enabler in education delivery.

The need of the day…

Gone are the days when rote learning in the classrooms and heavy subject-matter books were enough to give students a platform that would enable a bright future for them. In today’s hyper-connected world, the education resources have gone beyond the textbooks. The current technology-driven world encompasses digital books, interactive applications, instructional videos and social media that are changing the face of education. The pervasive Internet and widespread availability of mobile devices with incredible computing powers have brought the world-class learning resources to the fingertips of our students.

Technology at the centre of learning…

Technology and its ever-growing capabilities offer unparalleled opportunities, which not only help in expanding access to quality educational resources but can also complement the course material for the learners who seek to upskill or specialize themselves in any given subject area after completing K-12 or 12th standard. Together, they have the potential to meet the knowledge needs of the country, while bringing interactive educational experiences to learners.

Though the traditional educational model of lecture halls continue to form the foundation of higher education systems, it is subtly being transformed from one that is instructor-focused to one that is student-centred. The current generation of learners are keen to adopt learning solutions that are tailor-made to their requirements, are interactive in nature, convenient to consume and provide continuous feedback. This integration of new tools and traditional pedagogies have opened up a variety of opportunities for the providers in the higher education landscape.

The Pearson way…

Being futuristic about education, Pearson had the vision to think differently, while keeping learners at the centre of everything from the very beginning. With our personalized and superior content, almost century-old global lineage and 20 years of rich experience in the Indian education space, we ensure that we develop products that are thoroughly researched, expertly developed, and continually improved. We have set out to transform the face of the Indian education system, with the aim to improve access and outcomes in education.

Today Pearson is developing products and solutions across the higher education spectrum in both print and digital format with the near-term aim of establishing ourselves as a digital learning solutions company, by making learning more accessible, fun and new-age to everyone. The advent of digital learning has changed so much that today our competitive landscape includes not only the local publishers but also the edtech start-ups and technology companies who are working in the digital learning space. Going forward, we will expand our product portfolio in the areas of Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering, Management and Test-preparation with holistic and student-driven products and solutions.

Tools for learning…

The student-driven phenomenon has necessitated that higher education institutions and education providers respond by creating tools and programs that deliver personalized learning experience to the learners. Here are some of the approaches to supplement the classroom learnings of students of higher education and give them a personalized learning experience:

  • Mobile Application: Mobile phone penetration in India is set to rise to 85% – 90% by 2020. The youth today is bound to their smartphones almost 24X7. Also, considering shorter attention spans, what was taught earlier in long classroom sessions has now transformed into bite-sized information, giving way to what is called micro-learning through mobile based applications and websites. These are short training capsules that offer interactive learning experience and focus on a specific learning objective. Such modules are typically designed as a 3-5 minutes duration game to provide additional learning in a fun and competitive way.
  • Video: The fact that human brain processes visual cues 60,000 times faster than text, reinforces the use of videos for learning. According to a study on customer training completion rates, courses with videos have 51% completion rate as against 36% for courses that are without videos. Institutions can offer the recordings of the lecture sessions to the students for reference after the college timings.
  • Content Curation: Another concept that is changing the way institutions are bridging the skills gap is through content curation. As delivering learning through online platform is becoming important for academicians, the content repository is evolving to be more than a content dump. Just like in a library, content curation prevents wastage of learners’ time by providing them access to valuable information that is relevant to them.

Digital technology is an ally for the higher education. With solutions developed around the ‘personalized learning’ concept, the institutions and universities can help deliver education that is not just a classroom learning, but incorporates vocational and experiential learnings as well. Thus, helping in bridging the growing skill gap in the Indian workforce of the future and making them more industry-ready. Education needs to be more futuristic, so that children of today are ready for the challenges of tomorrow.

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