In India, we are habituated with 10 + 2 years of schooling and following that up with university education. But, like everything else, COVID-19 is here to change that as well. This crisis has given us a fantastic opportunity to encourage online education on a wider scale, especially for higher education, with a focus on enabling students to “learn” rather than an emphasis on traditional grades.
This reminds me of the banking reform of the late 90s – in the olden days when you needed a reference from another bank customer to open a simple bank account in State Bank of India (SBI). Followed by banking reforms and ICICI bank representatives coming to your house to collect all documents and signatures to open your bank account. What a welcome change!
A similar change is now underway in the education sector due to Online Education. And it’s much needed. Students will now have the choice to apply and learn from some of the best schools and universities from across India and the Globe. What’s more, Online education costs are significantly lesser and provide the flexibility needed for students, as well as for working professionals wanting to upgrade their skill-set. Education Cost and flexibility are both crucial when we consider that India will have the largest working-age population of the world by 2030.
An interesting example with regard to online education is from Kota, Rajasthan. Kota is famous for it’s coaching institutions for Engineering and Medical. It has the top-notch coaching institutes for grooming the next generation. Due to this pandemic, the city is shutting down its many hostel facilities. These coaching institutes are now shifting to online coaching, one-on-one, or classroom style. This gives an opportunity for many talented students wanting to crack major competitive exams.
In the second step, universities will be able to offer fully online programs. This in turn will lead to true democratization of higher education in India – as more and more sections of students can access these temples of learning. Another interesting input is that Universities will also be able to tap into leading professionals to take classes on weekends/evenings for their students. These “teachers” will be able to give practical knowledge and make the students employable and vocationally qualified.
At the launch of India’s 2020-21 budget last month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke about the need to make India’s young people more employable through better higher education opportunities. With online education, there will be more emphasis on being “capable” rather than just being “qualified”.
Online Education is challenging the existing formal schooling system and higher education system in India as we know it. And, if the education system sees a change from the ground-up, we will have better engineers, better managers, and better bankers. Isn’t that what we want?