Thursday, July 18, 2013

Next wave of Innovations in (from ?) India .. Education ??

The next wave of Innovations to hit the world by storm will come out of India, experts say.

There is a school of thought which says these innovations will be in the technology sector. But India is a country which is at a weak position in relation to technology, excluding our advances in nuclear and space technologies.

An area where an innovation could make a great difference is in the delivery of education. Since there are lots of Indians who are waiting to get educated and find meaningful, worthwhile jobs and thus build careers, the social impact of such an innovation would be very high.

The case of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) is a good case to push this point. MOOC enables people from different parts of the world to continue their basic as well as higher education in small steps through small courses delivered for a large audience over the net.

Let us look at the educational demography in India as of now.
1. India is said to have approximately 200 million youngsters in the age group of 20 years to 27 years, (of the 610 million below 26.7 years which is the median age of our population). 
2. Of 100 students who finish high school, only 18 have the opportunity to do higher education. (Gross Enrolment Ratio of 18%, ). what happens to the rest 82% ?  
3. Out of 200 million between 20 and 26.7 years (assuming 33% of 610 million below 10, 33% between 10 and 20 years and 33% between 20 and 26.7 years), 26% remain illiterate ie.52 million,(literacy rate is 74%).  
4. Of the rest 148 million approximately, 50%, 74 million would go for jobs.   ( my fair estimation..)
5. Of the rest 74 million, 18% is roughly 13 million of youngsters get a chance to do higher education and the rest 61 million exclude themselves from the higher education (Tertiary Education). 
(With 636 Universities in the country to give higher education with 31,324 educational Institutes affiliated, at an average of 400 students per Institute, there are presently 12.53 million (roughly 13 million) students enrolled for higher education in the country. )
Do they remain content with the high school degree they have and stick to mundane jobs or would want to get higher education and contribute positively to the nation  by carrying out high value jobs ?

It is the need of the hour to ensure that the rest 82% completing schooling do their tertiary education and contribute to the nation. But how ?

We need innovative solutions in the education and education delivery areas in the country to solve this great problem our country will face in the coming years. Can our people deliver these innovative solutions or will we again depend on foreign countries to help us here too ?

Let us do something FASTTTTT ... As already mentioned, MOOC ( Massive Open Online Course) is a solution , but again it needs access to PC, Internet etc.. Can our people afford it ?

It was very timely to find the industry and academia getting together to offer this new MOOC fare for the people of the country ( as reported in Economic Times of 19 July, 2013, of the collaboration by 7 IITS, TCS, Infy and Cognizant to offer high quality MOOC courses, initialy three in Computer Science to be later incrteased to many subjects based on the exparience and learning from this exercise.

Meritocracy counts, but have we offered the people of this country a level ground to do this ? The chance for people from all across the country to compete for knowledge, degrees, jobs and careers on a fair and equitable level ground, I feel should be in place. This innovation will give just that.

But we need to ensure that
1. broadband internet access is made available across the rural areas of the country at affordable rates ( India has about 150 million Internet users, ie. 12% of our population while China has 43% (600m) and US 80% (250m) of their population respectively on the Internet)
2. the modules are offered on mobiles as android or iphone apps so that more people can access
3. the modules really optimised (both in terms of content and the software coding, for faster downloads)
We need to ensure least human interference, as MOOC courses can succed only if they are majorly machine and intelligence driven. Human interference in payment and the resultant delay will only kill this initiaitive ( as MOOC is basically designed keeping lakhs of students joining for any course in mind).

I am sure the concerned authorities have given enough thought to it and will do everything in their kitty so that this idea does not die out, instead will blossom to a great innovation of industry academia collaboration, to bridge the 'digital divide".

My good wishes .. ( an IIT Bombay alumni, which is also a partner Institution in this GREAT initiative. Proud of that ....)


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