Is Indian education system ready to compete globally and innovate its way around in 21st century?
Are we providing our children opportunities to grow as powerful engines of growth for future India? Or We putting them in fighting pits to somehow fight their way out all battered, tired or left behind and devoid of respectable future.
Is India's next generation ready to be the growth engine, and center of the world.
We started looking for answers and at the composition of some of the core institutions of excellence in India. The idea was :
- To expose the systemic in-inefficiencies in our education system.
- To see how ready is it to drive the growth engine we need.
- How it is equipped to pull hundreds of millions out of poverty, while keeping sustainability principles intact.
Our first series of tests and research are focused on what is the composition and economics behind top few institutions in India. To sample what is achieved by top percentile coming out of Indian primary and secondary education system and what can be done to improve the skill readiness along with pulling up the rest of young population into the highly skilled workforce - in an even, widespread and meritorious way.
We will start with gender ratio composition and money spent to achieve the best we got in terms of professional education, to start identifying critical points.
We started with IITs which influence the semantics behind how the 12 years of education preceding it should work.
The data points we are looking at are -
1. Is our current education system sending correct gender ratio in these institutions.
2. Our district level data unanimously shows a huge gap between the number of primary vs secondary schools across districts. That means a lot of children are falling through the education system after primary education simply because the path is closed for them. Can we somehow fix it.
We think the most critical aspect of our education and skilling India is the secondary education system starting at 8th year till 12th year of the school which is the stepping stone for any reasonable education.
As per the research conducted the student ratio of females in IITs ranges between 2 - 10% of the strength.
So is the selection process biased towards male students or is there a general dis-interest among girl students towards engineering degrees. We started looking at the process and facts.
Is there a disinterest among girl students to go for engineering courses in IITs or other engineering courses - Doesn't look like, seeing the range of job opportunities it opens in Indian IT and manufacturing sectors.
So is the process biased towards Boy students ?
Lets break this down into how our selection process works and data points around them.
ASSOCHAM'S Report suggests the Private Coaching Industry in India is $40 Billion in 2015 which is Rs. 260,000 Crore. Its roughly 3.64 times of the budget allocated by Indian government for School + higher education (69,074 Crore in 2015) and 77 times of the budget of Central School System (Pretty decent working schooling systems in India with 11.75 Lacks students).
Its a huge amount of private money(parents willing to pay out of their pocket), working for an unregulated teaching system.
Now look at the results page of a few coaching institutions we went through (Vidya Mandir, FIITJee, Super30 ) Do we see any girls here, one or two may be, among hundreds of students, what happened here??
Here is how the whole entrance system works in India.
1. Starting 8th standard parents start putting their children into these coaching centers, which are concentrated in urban areas or some belts like Kota or other tier II town in India.
2. Since these centers are either out of station, or after school. Due to dismal female safety record in India, parents think million times before sending them to these centers (Google Kota coaching and get images you wouldn't see any girls).
3. These coaching shops are not cheap, so parents with lesser means (which is 99% of the population) are forced to put their girl's education on back-burner and fund the boys who can safely go out and study after school or out of station.
So girl students start lagging behind their male counterparts starting 8th year of their studies, that leaves a huge percentage of our workforce out of directly contributing towards Make In India.
IITs are not the only technical institutions in India, but process is about same. So the same coaching center trained pupils are spread across other technical institutions as well.
Now what these centers do to the education environment in India and overall development of pupil.
These centers are all about how to "crack" the examination which comprises of three subjects (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics) or may be biology for PMT etc .
Leaving many other subjects out of reach/"market" of our young minds, like English, Art, Literature, Language, History, Social Science, Geography, Political Science, Philosophy, economics, sports etc. Which are part of our mainstream education system (Since they are defined by education boards responsible towards larger society).
This doesn't make for a wholesome education system building great community members.
As long as we are aiming for low quality BPO jobs it will work, the day we think about competing with first world in innovations it will all crack.
Now what can be done about it.
Well Simple, - Start phasing out JEE and similar entrance examinations, and use performance in school (8th till 12th) with teachers across subjects open feed back as a criterion for selection in any higher education system in India.
Here is how it will work.
1. Make studies till 12th standard free for children across country. - We will write a plan around how to fund it and how private players can find incentive, but its for later action group. (It can be done, but need systemic reforms).
2. One digital system where performance of the pupil starting 8th standard would be tracked in a systemic manner across India to find out his inclinations and interests. It will be done in an open manner by teachers.
3. Number of years spent in school should be de-linked from number of years in education. We want our children to be expert in one set of subjects at their pace so ample opportunities and time be provided.
e.g. if there is a kid from under-privileged background (working in fields during day, studying during nights) he is free to finish 12 years of education in 15 years. Education system's sole aim should be to educate people at any cost without putting artificial colonial era constraints and stigmas, looking at larger goals.
4. The evaluation done across a range of subjects (8th to 12th) should be used by the colleges to evaluate pupils. The higher education institutions should get involved in secondary education system at much early stages, watching and pivoting their prospective students across India.
Here is how above will fix this whole circus we see our kids are going through now.
1. All the private money which is after opening up unregulated, unchecked expensive coaching institutions ($40b and growing) will start coming back to mainstream secondary education system.
2. The teachers who are gravitated towards the coaching centers due to huge payoffs would come back to support secondary education system.
3. Above will not only increase number of secondary schools, but improve quality of education in neighborhood schools.
4. With the improved quality and quantity of our neighborhood schools biggest beneficiaries would be girls, it will put them on the same fast lane available to boys.
We need to act very fast in removing these colonial era in-inefficiencies at the core of our society buildup if we want to support a growing economy.
Else majority of our population would be with less than 8 years of education, a few who will go past secondary education will not be capable of the innovations needed to survive in global 21st century.
And it paints a very grim picture.
Please keep an eye on this space for more.