In 2018, 600 Mn of India’s population was estimated to be under the age of 25, making it the youngest country in the world by demographic. The same year, a study by World Education News + Reviews stated that 28 per cent of the population was less than 14 years of age, with over 30 babies being born every minute.
What’s more, the United Nations predicts that India will overtake China as the most populous nation in the world by 2027 and grow to about 1.5 Bn people by 2030. These figures are telling – the Indian workforce is poised for a major paradigm shift in the coming years.
Simultaneously, India is home to a rapidly expanding middle class. There were 50 Mn Indians in the middle-income bracket in 2010, according to a report by Ernst & Young. This figure is projected to rise to 475 Mn in 2030. A visible sign of this rapidly advancing middle class is the increasing urbanisation and shifting consumer patterns of India’s Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.
These cities are fast emerging as alternatives to the saturated markets of India’s traditional metros. Rising technological adoption has further fuelled the global aspirations of the young Indians living in these cities.
Quality education is essential to fulfil these rising aspirations. However, the increasing demand for a good education in the country continues to be unmet by adequate supply. Emerging trends in edtech have made this the opportune time to hone the skills of the youth of the ‘Real Bharat’ to make them a part of the global workforce and prepare them to meet the challenges of Industry 4.0.
Roadblocks Facing Indian Higher Education
Good higher education is critical to build and maintain a skilled workforce so that India’s dream of becoming a $5 Tn economy can materialise. However, we face the enormous challenge of generating 10 million jobs every year until 2030 to keep up with the growth of our working-age population. Indian higher education currently lacks the capacity to achieve the optimum enrollment ratio needed for this.
While metropolitan cities enjoy strong educational infrastructure, this is not the case for Tier-II and Tier-III cities. The high cut-offs in many premier institutions in Tier-I cities present another roadblock for countless students from outside who seek admission in these colleges.
Further, access to greater qualifications does not guarantee employment prospects. A 2017 study conducted by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) illustrates this well. It found that over 60 per cent of the 8,00,000 students graduating from engineering colleges across the country every year remain unemployed.
These factors have spurred thousands of Indian students every year to pursue their higher education abroad. Between 1998 and 2018, the number of Indian students seeking foreign degrees had grown almost five times. According to data provided by the Ministry of External Affairs, there were over 750,000 Indian students spread over 90 countries in 2018. Today, India is the second-largest source of international students across the world.
Many believe that a degree from an international university boosts their chances of better employment. As the Indian middle class continues to expand, so, too, does its ability to finance an international education. Today, more Indians have access to higher education abroad than ever before. Foreign universities, too, are ever keen to attract more international students to build diversity.
Preparing For The Future
One of the biggest challenges faced by Tier-II and Tier-III students is the lack of adequate information needed to choose the right course while applying to foreign universities. Short-term courses can provide an effective solution and can be the perfect testing ground for potential careers before students invest in full-time courses abroad.
India’s rapid digital adoption provides a thriving market for such courses. Many of these are increasingly video-driven, and this works particularly well in a market where YouTube is used as much as a search engine as Google. Video not only enables easy retention of information but also aids those who are inadequately literate.
Globally-recognised short courses also give students a taste of international education and provide a sense of what it means to live and work abroad. It also enables them to build a global network.
Over the next decade, the market for short-term courses is set for an explosion. By 2022, over half of India’s workers will need reskilling to meet the challenges of Industry 4.0. Never before has lifelong learning been this crucial. Aside from allowing students to test potential skills, short courses can provide an effective platform to build new skills after graduation. Experiential learning will empower students with skills to tackle daily life challenges, and immersive learning will provide them with exposure to fields outside their own.
Today, Indian talent plays a vital role in global industries such as technology, hospitality and medicine. In 2019, the United Nations reported that the Indian diaspora was the largest in the world. Since we have the youngest demographic in the world, it is incumbent on us to provide young, emerging professionals with skills to make them truly global in potential, not just Indian.
Nations across North America and Europe, as well as China and Japan, skill their workforce with such a global approach. It would benefit not just India but also the rest of the world if we follow suit. A rising middle class, changing consumption patterns and increasing technological adoption provide educators with the right tools to empower students from Tier II and Tier III cities to become a part of the global talent pool. How they do this will effectively shape the workforce of the future.