Skilled youth will drive India to become a $5 Trillion economy: Dr Mahendra Nath Pandey


New Delhi: There are four stakeholders in the education and skilling ecosystem – students, Institutions, Industries and government, stakeholders need more collaboration to provide quality education, more skilled employable youth in order to achieve $5 Trillion economy, Dr Mahendra Nath Pandey, Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship said at an ASSOCHAM event held in New Delhi today.

The Minister also invited education sector to contribute their suggestions to bridge the gap between higher education and vocational programmes at the 13th Higher Education, Skill and Livelihood Conclave.

By 2030, India is set to have the largest working-age population in the world. Not only do they need literacy but they need both job and life skills, he said.

The budget earmarked Rs 99,300 crore for education sector in 2020-21 and about Rs 3,000 crore for skill development. “As per Budget, about 150 higher educational institutions will start apprenticeship embedded degree/diploma courses by March 2021 and will start a programme whereby urban local bodies across the country would provide internship opportunities to fresh engineers for a period up to one year,” noted Mr Pandey.

“To create infrastructure in education sector, steps would be taken to enable sourcing External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) and FDI so as to able to deliver higher quality education,” he said further.

There are many basic problems faced by higher education system in India. These include inadequate infrastructure and facilities, vacant seats in academic field and poor faculty thereof, low student enrolment rate, outdated and old teaching methods, declining research standards, unmotivated students, overcrowded and small classrooms and widespread geographic, income, gender, and ethnic imbalances.

Apart from these concerns relating to deteriorating standards and lack of facilities, there is reported exploitation of rural area students by many private education providers, said Mr Pandey.

The performance of undergraduate (UG) students in India is considerably low, out of approximately 30 million students enrolled at UG level, only six million graduated in 2017. By 2030, India is expected to have the largest number of people of college-going age. To accommodate this huge influx of students, India will need at least another 800 new universities and 40,000 new colleges by 2030.

In order to reduce the unemployable youth graduates in India, it is required to improve the Industry-Academia linkages to ensure that the academic curriculum is in line with the demands of the job market, said Mr Pandey.

The collaborations can be facilitated through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) where the collaboration can provide high-tech industries with skilled workers who meet the standards of their industry. This will eventually facilitate skill building and meet the fast-changing employability demands. Like international universities, Indian ones can also offer short term courses for foreign students. This will ensure better recognition of Indian institutions.

To achieve this, the government must ease regulations and promote India as a destination more aggressively. Professional institutions should be encouraged to collaborate with research-based academic institutions in curriculum development and skill building.

Research-based collaborations through faculty exchanges with domestic as well as international universities must be encouraged. This would also enable Indian universities to enter the global ranking.

Universities in India may engage with emerging industries in creating internships and other short-term work opportunities for students. Industries may also partner with universities in co-developing content/programmes related to the emerging market demands. For this, universities may participate in live projects, research, training and seminars, highlighted Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

Industries can also benefit from such collaborations by engaging their staff in continuing education programmes and soft skills training. India is today the second largest source of international students with approximately 700,000 students studying abroad in 2018 at all levels.

The aspiring middle-class population along with prospects of experiential learning is pushing Indians to explore the overseas UG market. The annual spending by Indians for studying abroad is twice the amount allocated in the Union budget for higher education, and nearly 20 times what the Indian higher education institutions have spent on research collectively.

Others who also spoke at the conference included: Mr Vineet Agarwal, senior vice-president, ASSOCHAM; Mr Prashant Bhalla, chairman, National Council on Education; Mr Kunwar Shekhar Vijendra, co-chairman and Mr Deepak Sood, secretary general.