NEP is all good, but what about jobs?3 min read . Updated: 04 Sep 2020, 03:36 PM IST
- The policy seeks to revolutionize education but if the educated 18-year-olds are not employable, the policy might fall short of expectations
India’s political economy has essentially not focused on quality education. What has changed over the past few decades is the blast of aspiration and demand for education. In any case, that demand presently can’t seem to be channelized into institutional change. Our resistance to change has been stupendous. The New Education Policy 2020 marks a quantum jump in democratizing education, one rooted in Indian ethos and traditions and, equally, in 21st century knowledge systems and technologies.
We have to increase capacity by 30 million more higher education seats, something that is unprecedented, even China does not come close, and so the government has established the right building blocks—multi-entry, multi-exit, chose multi-disciplines options and this will go a long way. To reach this huge target, online learning has to be the key driver. And for this to be implemented with the right impact, strong mutual trust and respect are needed between all the stakeholders, government, regulators, colleges and universities and strong technology enabling partners.
However, much more needs to be done to take this landmark initiative to the next level and with the Right to Education extended up to 18 years of age, the next step for the Minister of Education should be to propose and implement Right to Employability—a clarion call for lifelong learning from “bachpan se pachpan". According to statistics shared by the government, the unemployment rate of educated persons in the country was at 11.4%. This is much higher than the average unemployment rate in the country at 6.1% based on the recent Periodic Labour Force Survey.
India needs to create employment opportunities for the hundreds and thousands of young men and women who graduate from our colleges and universities every year. UN population data indicates that India will have the world's largest workforce by 2027—over one billion individuals, representing 18 per cent of the global labour force. This is not surprising as half of India’s population is under 25 and about 66% are younger than 35.
So, with the ever-changing work environment, as we have seen during covid-19, we simply cannot afford to stop learning and upgrading our skills. This is the only way to stay relevant in the highly competitive job market. The pandemic had only enhanced the unemployment rates, and the situation is expected to marginally improve with many joining the labour force in the days following the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
The growing demand for skill training, especially in the technology and digital marketplace, will lead to a corresponding demand for education technology (EdTech) enterprises. I foresee more investors pumping money into the already crowded EdTech industry. While this will give the learners better options, it will also fuel a price war among the existing and new players. This is where quality, one of the foundational pillars of NEP 2020, will drive value and outcome for the learners.
The policy seeks to revolutionize education and turn India into a global knowledge superpower. However, if the educated 18-year-olds are not “employable", I fear the policy might fall short of expectations if its objective of increasing Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) does not translate into an increase in the country’s GDP.
All in all, this is the much-needed first step towards achieving the larger goal of creating a stronger Bharatiya workforce by creating more jobs and creating a significant drop in the educated unemployment rate. Remember one fifth of the world’s working professionals will come from India in this decade, and so it is critical that lifelong learning and skilling are given a push to ensure India owns the knowledge economy of the world.
Ronnie Screwvala is co-founder and chairperson of upGrad.