In the run up to the Union Budget 2016, Sivaramakrishnan V, Managing Director, Oxford University Press, India, shares with Elets News Network (ENN) the key areas where government should lay emphasis on, from an education perspective
The relevance of education in any growing economy is uncontested. Its significance in a country like India that has a young demography with aspirations to be a part of the global knowledge pool, makes it exceptionally relevant.
While our policy planners have traditionally accorded priority to the education sector, the focus was mostly on programmes that would shore up the country’s literacy rate. In the changing world order where India’s ubiquitous position as the ‘knowledge capital’ has grown manifold, literacy is no more the terminus – it is in fact the start point! Life-skills, vocational, digitisation and skilling are the new buzzwords that now delineate education in India. The expectations from the upcoming budget are hence not just around policy reforms or increase in outlays – it is about providing impetus to a range of existing schemes, setting measurable goals and, most importantly, stressing on the efficacy of the work undertaken. Below are the four areas where we think the Union Budget of 2016 should lay emphasis on from an education perspective:
Teacher Training and Development: Teachers are the biggest influencers on students and hence hold a pivotal position in the education ecosystem. The teaching profession itself needs to be made more attractive for young professionals so that it becomes a career of choice. This could be done through increase in outlays for teacher salaries, incentivising them on the basis of student performance and outcomes or even with launch of a mass media campaign. Alongside, it is equally important to focus on the professional development of Teachers and Educators. This keeps them up-to-date on student related research, technology tools for classrooms and curriculum related aspects. A large-scale intervention targeted at training of teachers and educators, delivered through the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model, can provide the much needed impetus to classroom learning outcomes across schools, colleges and professional institutions.
Life-skills and Employability: Around 50 per cent of India’s population is under the age of 25. It is only prudent that we think of the employability of the growing young demography, as they have a critical role to play in the future economic development of the country. Programmes, such as ‘Make in India’ designed to make the country a manufacturing hub of the world, stand to gain from such measures. There is also a strong need to make our workforce globally employable, and proficiency in English language can immensely contribute to that effort. Therefore, English language courses must be incorporated in all life-skill programmes. Quality conscious private sector organisations can easily play a role in filling this gap through partnerships with bodies such as the NSDC.
Technology Proliferation: Technology is a great enabler and can prove to be the game-changer in education. While technology adoption in the Indian education space has happened at a rapid pace (especially in the K-12 segment), it is still limited to urban pockets. The real benefits of technology reaching classrooms will emanate once we ensure proliferation in tier 2 cities and sub-urban towns. This is possible through providing institutional subsidy on education technology products so that educational institutions find it affordable to adopt technology.
Research: Research spending and scholarly work in India is on a downward spiral – this is a very unfortunate situation. The budget spend on research has remained static at 0.9 per cent of GDP for the last decade. India presently has barely 200,000 researchers for a population of over 1.2 billion people. It has one of the lowest densities of scientific workforce, ranking even below countries like Chile, Kenya, when it comes to research workforce density in the labour population. As an example, in 2013, South Korea filed over 4,400 patents per one million of population while India could manage only 17 (Source: data compiled by Nature Magazine, May 2015). The education sector will be expecting some impetus for research in the country to spur innovation, modernisation and advancement.
We are quite confident that the policy makers will take a considered view of the needs of a modern and educated India, which is beginning to make its mark as a growing economy on the world economic and knowledge arena.