India holds an important place in the global education industry. The country has more than 1.5 million schools with over 260 million students enrolled and about 850 universities and 35,539 colleges. India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world. However, there is still a lot of potential for further development in the education system.
India has become the second largest market for e-learning after the US. The sector is currently pegged at $2 billion and is expected to reach $5.7 billion by 2020. The distance education market in India is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of around 11% during 2016-2020. Moreover, the aim of the government to raise its current gross enrolment ratio to 30% by 2020 will also boost the growth of the distance education in India.
The allocation for school education under the Union Budget 2018-19 is expected to increase by 14% to focus on accelerating existing schemes and ensure quality improvement. In order to boost the Skill India Mission, two new schemes, Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) and Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE) have been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), Government of India with an outlay of Rs. 6,655 crore ($1.02 billion) and will be supported by the World Bank. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Skill India initiative, ‘Kaushal Bharat, Kushal Bharat’. Under this initiative, the government has set itself a target of training 400 million citizens by 2022 that would enable them to find jobs. The initiatives launched include various programmes like Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015, Skill Loan scheme, and the National Skill Development Mission.
Role of the private sector
Most of our premier institutions of education have for long been backed and funded by the government. The entry of the private sector in education came about initially in the context of professional courses such as engineering, dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, etc. Private entrepreneurs realised that there was reasonable supply of such interested students who could afford the cost of private education.
The cost of setting up such institutions would be borne by a private entrepreneur or a corporate house but could later be paid back through the fees. Sometimes, private participation in education also helps to create a pool of talent that could be absorbed by the company. Private educational enterprises, therefore, came with social, industrial and economic pay-offs. But private enterprise in education became even more important when the Indian economy went through liberalisation and we realised the existence of professional opportunities in fashion designing, computers, media, jewellery design, travel and tourism, hotel management, bioinformatics, private security, management, insurance, etc.
Private educational enterprises offer a greater variety of educational choices that match the greater variety of educational needs and interests inherent in a radically expanded and more heterogeneous student population. Not just variety but modernity in course content appeals to the students, craving a direct relationship between the job market and formal education. Short-term, part-time, placement-oriented courses are a niche opportunity successfully catered to by private institutions.
Schooling at the new private institutions offers a larger variety of curricula including British and American educational systems and a wide range of personality development activities. Parents and students must be the best judge of whether this matches their long term objectives or not. According to a teacher from a government school in Kolkata, parents are not keen on getting their children enrolled in government schools. They prefer the English speaking ability and the national and international exposure that their children will get at private schools. He also feels that the government is in a way not interested in bearing the cost of education and is looking to withdraw gradually from the sector. So there are fewer initiatives on the part of the government to bring back students to government schools.
The problem of common syllabus and common structure
The right of a child should not be restricted only to free and compulsory education but should be extended to have a uniform education system throughout India. A uniform education system would achieve the code of a common culture, removal of disparity and depletion of discriminatory values in human relations. It would enhance virtues and improve the quality of human life. In future, it may prove to be a basic preparation for the Uniform Civil Code as it may help in diminishing opportunities to those who foment fanatic and fissiparous tendencies.
A teacher from the same school, under the condition of anonymity told BE, “A uniform syllabus will be good for society as a whole. It might seem that the idea of uniformity might hamper the diverse ideas but is needed in a country like India. But I know its practical implementation in a country as diverse as India is difficult.”
According to another source, “A uniform education system makes society monotonous as students read the same books and are encouraged to do the same type of thinking. It reduces the scope of building diverse perspectives.”
There are various bodies in the higher education sector like the UGC and the AICTE. There is an opinion that the government needs to do away with so many regulatory organisations and merge them to form one body. But that might not guarantee the desired outcome. These bodies work for different areas of study. One deals with general education whereas the other deals with technical education. Merging all such bodies might hamper the quality and extant of higher education in India.