Every year, as the government announces its annual Budget, the country anticipates big-bang reforms in various sectors. And when it does not happen, disappointment is natural. But, a desired change, especially in sectors such as education, and health — considered core to a nation’s growth and development — requires consistent and well-planned efforts over the years. And the annual Budget might help hre through the allocation of demand-based monetary assistance.

As a management professional, I always feel that to be able to solve a complex problem, we first need to define it with as much clarity as we can. And I have, in my corporate career, achieved several ‘tough’ targets by following this principle.

Having worked for years in the education sector, plagued by various challenges — lack of infrastructure, shortage of skilled manpower, faulty pedagogy, and so on — I feel we first need to figure out which aspect of education needs our attention and investment before charting out an action plan.

Revamp needed

In the next 10 years, India will be home to the world’s largest working-age population and these youngsters would need jobs. Since it might not be possible for the country to create enough jobs, students would need skills over and above academics to be able to start something of their own and make a living.

Thankfully, our policymakers seem to understand this. The Finance Minister, too, has kept education and better jobs, along with health, among the main ingredients for what she called ‘Aspirational India’. To become one, we need to start early. In the Budget for 2020-21, the education sector has seen an increase in allocation from ₹94,800 crore in 2019 to ₹99,300 crore.

While the increase is welcome, I would have preferred a higher allocation, considering that education in India requires a revamp. Every aspect, be it infrastructure, human resources, teacher training or quality, needs special attention. We need to make sure that the education we provide is in sync with changing times.

What can help us achieve this large-scale transformation in the education sector?

By introducing some disruptive, inclusive innovations, we can change the face of education in the country. We can leverage technology to change the way we teach and measure the outcomes of that teaching. We need to shift focus from a ‘marks-based’ academic curriculum to the ‘life-based’ overall development of a child. We desperately need to fill the gap between what students study and what the job market demands from them.

For that, industry and educational institutions should work together, from early on, and bring about the required change in syllabus, teaching methodologies, techniques and applied learning experiences.

Using technology

Technology or ‘EdTech’, to be more specific, can change what and how children learn right from kindergarten. Using frugal, technological interventions to make learning a fun-filled experience can go a long way in improving the learning outcomes and reducing the dropout rate among school children in rural schools.

At the college level, too, Internet access can revolutionise the way teachers and students interact. There are plenty of online platforms that allow children to pursue the course of their choice from wherever they are, making education affordable and accessible to more and more people in the country. Tools such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, data analytics etc can be utilised to upgrade the existing resources and use them to their potential. And the government’s emphasis, as announced in the Budget, on digitalising education in rural and remote India by expanding the optical fibre network is a step in the right direction.

The Budget this year, as the Finance Minister has herself emphasised, has been designed on three core themes — aspirational India, economic development for all, and building a caring society that is both humane and compassionate. If we aspire for an educated India and work towards it, it will lead us to an economically-sound and compassionate society. Now, we can definitely aspire for structural reforms and inclusive growth for the country and its children.

The writer is former CEO, HCL Technologies, and Founder Chairman, Sampark Foundation

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