Articles on education

Education, the building block of a modern knowledge economy, is a key determinant of human capital that enters the growth and development of a country. The educators and policymakers consider education an indispensable asset that can transform human capabilities into economic and social outcomes in society and therefore, the Government of India has laid huge importance in improving the Indian Education System (IES) in the recent decades. India has seen a massive rise in access to education with near-universal enrolment in primary education, impressive improvements in secondary and higher secondary schooling. Higher education systems are also expanding across the world and India has undergone a profound transformation. The worrisome issue is the quality of education that is lagging despite a decade of considerable investment in school education. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER,2016) recorded that only 43 percent of children in grade III could read a grade I textbook and reading levels among grade V government school students remained stagnant at 42 percent since 2014 which in fact has fallen since 2010. Two-fifth of India’s children under five are stunted and do not develop the cognitive skills that will enable them to tap their full human potential (Pratham, 2017). Such non-improving standards pose a greater threat to the future of our 21st-century learners as lower educational levels dampen the job prospects in the long run. If this persists, the rising trend of joblessness of unskilled individuals will lead to a vicious circle of poverty as education is detrimental in reducing poverty and rising standards of living.

Numerous reports and studies have emphasized on the educational risks faced by 21st-century learners. The IES has witnessed a paradigm shift in recent times, moving from guru-oriented learning systems to private schooling and coaching learning systems (also known as the third emerging sector of education). This is because the horizon of today’s culture has expanded its limits as a response to rapid globalization, internationalization, and urbanization. Consequently, the educational agendas have shifted from “three Rs” (reading, writing, and arithmetic) to the K-12 setting that becomes a prerequisite in the process of preparing students to work independently with minimum or no supervision. With the changing dynamics of education and employment due to increased integration with the international world and rising exposure to artificial intelligence, our 21st-century learners and potential job seekers are not work-ready and lack relevant skills. UNICEF has warned that by 2030, over half of the Indian students will not have skills for 21st-century jobs. Hence, the onus of the future of our learners and the country lies with the educators, practitioners, and policymakers/administrators. There is a need to examine the current scenario of education as a response to the recent developments worldwide and devise a strategy that targets the creation of a skilled-employable workforce that is work-ready.

India has one of the youngest populations in the aging world and therefore enjoys a rapid productivity growth of its talent pool and excellence in the global world. The Times of Higher Education rankings showed 31 Indian universities among the top 980 worldwide. It reflects how our education system is rapidly improving in transforming the young talent into productive factors of economic growth and development. Coupled with these trends are the latest Government initiatives for eg. Make in India, which is a major national programme designed to facilitate investment, foster innovation, and enhance skill development, and Startup India, which provides a platform for innovation and entrepreneurship. The present era is focusing more on skills, innovation, and technology which are highly progressive and competitive in nature. Adding to this is the Industrial Revolution 4.0 which is expected to change the future of work with automation and intercommunication which will affect the employment dynamics. Given the rapidly changing scenario, the golden rule is to maximize the potential of 21st-century learners and prepare them for the future of work. When proper skills are imparted to the learners right in their initial years of schooling, they’ll be able to thrive in a globally competitive world when they enter the job market.

“A generation ago, teachers could expect that what they taught would last their students a lifetime. Today, because of rapid economic and social change, schools have to prepare students for jobs that have not been created, technologies that have not yet been invented and problems that we don’t yet know will arise. And success will go to those individuals and countries that are swift to adapt, slow to resist, and open to change. The task for educators and policymakers is to help countries rise to this challenge.”

– OECD

The key players to bring about such a transformation in the education system are our teachers, educators, practitioners, and policymakers as these skills go beyond academic excellence to include soft skills, entrepreneurial skills, emotional intelligence, media literacy, etc… Education today has to focus on Gen-Z and Gen-Alpha learners (those living with technology at their fingertips) as the challenge is to keep growing at a pace that matches the fast-growing world of technology and innovation. Education is becoming more about ways of thinking, involving creativity, critical thinking, and much more with the capacity to use technology and recognize new ways of problem-solving. According to the coalition P-21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning), the four Cs- Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration are essentially called the “21st-century learning skills”. The other important skills are Entrepreneurship and Emotional Intelligence. In other words, these skills are basically a set of abilities that learners need to develop in order to succeed in the information age. These K-12 skills can be categorized as (a) learning skills (the four Cs- creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration); (b) literacy skills (information, media, and technology), and; (c) life skills (flexibility, initiative, productivity, and social skills). In order to create a pool of skilled workforce, the teaching-learning practices have to be extremely engaging that involve the learners, and inculcate mental as well as emotional abilities.

The education system and job markets have become dynamic for which educators will have to be equipped with the technology and make classrooms more technology-intensive. The new pedagogy will have to include digital and cloud computing mechanisms. The idea of education in the 21st century is to necessarily impart learning that is sustainable through developing skills valued in real life and equip lifelong learning as opposed to learning that results in short-term outcomes. In order to foster motivated and dedicated learners, we have to drift away from reproducing content knowledge to extrapolating what we know and utilize it in a creative fashion under complex circumstances. Hence, in order to create a productive, skilled, and employable workforce for the future, we need to broaden our concept of education and make it more technology-driven, innovative, and versatile. This will have a positive impact on the educational performance of our learners, broaden their vision and enhance their socio-economic wellbeing in the future.

About the Author

Sonam Arora, Ph.D. scholar, National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, India

The author is a Ph.D. scholar of the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, India with a specialization in education, economics, and development. She completed her M.Phil in Educational Planning from the same institute and Masters in Economics from Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune. Her research interests include gender, education, labor, internationalization of higher education, and growth & development. She writes for national and international journals and her research findings have also been published as book chapters.

The views are the personal views of the author. The author can be contacted at Ph.: 9811133654, Email: sonamarora.nuepa@gmail.com, sonamarora@niepa.ac.in