According to the All India Survey of Higher Education released by the Ministry of HRD (provisional 2014-15 edition), there are 757 Universities, 38056 colleges, and 11922 stand-alone institutions in India. These, together, serve 33.3 million students. There are an estimated 14.18 Lakh teachers which gives a Pupil-Teacher ratio in Colleges and Universities of 24.
According to one report, an estimated 40% of college teachers are non-regular, designated variously as temporary, contractual, ad hoc, guest or self-financing. They usually get anything between Rs 4,000 and Rs 20,000 per month, and work for about six months in a year on contractual basis. They get no other benefits. It is no surprise, therefore, that the quality of teaching in higher education institutions in India is not good.
On one side we have the premier educational institutes like the IITs and IIMs where conscious efforts are made to recruit the best faculty with incentives not only in the form of good pay-scales but also the offer of excellent facilities to do research in the areas of their interest. At the bottom of the totem pole are faculty members who are paid as low as Rs 5,000 a month, not given a permanent job and no facilities.
India today is estimated to have a population of 1.3 Billion of which a sizable number is still below the age of 35. The Census of India 2011 estimates that about 19.2% of the population is between the ages of 15-24. This means that roughly 249 million people are in the college-going age group. As against this, we have 33.3 million students enrolled (AISHE).
This large gap needs to be bridged. It cannot be bridged by building more brick and mortar institutions. Apart from the fact that this would require enormous amounts of money, we have seen that there is already a serious shortage of faculty across the board.
The only viable means of reaching the large underserved population is by using technology. It is an acknowledgment of this great shortage and in an effort to bridge the gap that online learning platforms are appearing on the Indian education landscape.
Platforms set up by Indian companies are more attuned to the Indian environment. Like in most other countries, the Indian platforms also offer advantages like customized learning, anytime-anywhere, self-paced and at lower cost.
While there are international platforms like edX and Coursera etc., that have been around for some time, they suffer from two major problems. The first is that the courses available on these platforms do not match the Indian syllabi and the second is that most of the speakers in these courses use accents that are not easily understood by the average Indian (except for rare exceptions like the courses offered by IIT Bombay on edX).
Indian platforms need to focus on curating locally created content. This is not easy to do especially in the Higher Education space, as there are a variety of different subjects that are taught. However, getting good faculty members to offer courses,though difficult, is not impossible. There are excellent professors available in some of the better private institutions and players like Millionlights have been successful in getting good Indian content to their learners, both on their portal as well as on their dedicated educational TV channel. In the school learning space, we have examples like Byju that are creating Indian content for Indian learners.
Indian platforms like Millionlights have another advantage that they own the entire distribution chain. This means that they can snap-fit the courses they offer to closely meld with the courses being offered by a college. By enabling this, they are helping the colleges to offer courses in the Blended Learning mode which has been found to be very effective.
Needless to say, like in most other products, the quality of the content that is offered by a platform will determine failure or success. Students will always gravitate to that platform where they believe the best and most useful content is on offer.
In the area of Skills and Vocational courses, it is best to offer courses that are designed and certified by industry. By doing so, there is a much greater chance that the person who has successfully completed the course and been certified will get good (or better) employment. In the IT Skills area, most of the major companies that offer widely accepted products are not Indian. Hence, the courseware created by them is mostly in English and with a foreign accent and hence difficult for the Indian learner to understand.
Therefore, the two key issues that have to be kept in mind by Indian platforms are
(a) to offer courses that are aligned with the Indian curriculum and
(b) to ensure that all courses are available in Indian languages and with Indian accents (if in English).
As we have seen above, the requirement is very large. To be able to really take advantage of the “demographic dividend”, the government and private players will have to work hand in hand, with the government formulating enabling policies, and the private sector reaching out to the millions of unserved learners.
(Disclaimer: This is a guest post submitted on Techstory by the mentioned authors.All the contents and images in the article have been provided to Techstory by the authors of the article. Techstory is not responsible or liable for any content in this article.)
Image Source: sicomindia.com
About The Author:
Professor Pradeep Varma, previously an advisor at the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), gave his counsel on critical Senior Management issues. He also oversaw the development of the National Institutional Ranking Framework for the Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India. He has over 35 years of experience in the field of education, IT and Software and top management in the corporate sector.
At Millionlights, as a non-Executive Chairman, his core focus area is strategic direction setting and evaluating and assisting with current and future business opportunities, including strategic relationships and partnerships.