It is unfortunate that the Indian higher education system, by and large, has been stagnant for a while. Over the years, we have seen that there is more focus on attracting talented students and retaining good faculty, rather than driving research and publications.
We are all aware that ‘education’ is a key enabler for socioeconomic growth, whilst nurturing the youth who could reshape the future of our country. With more than 20 million students enrolled every year, the Indian higher education system is the third largest, after the US and China, in terms of sheer numbers. According to a recent EY report, this number is expected to rise to 140 million by 2030, which could easily make it the largest pool in the world. Today, higher education forms nearly 60% of the sector, and is poised for an average growth of 18% CAGR until 2021. However, the gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education is around 20%, with only 24 million students enrolled in higher education, of the potential 120 million, way below the global average of 26% GER. To meet the rising demand, there are more than 33,000 colleges and 600 universities in the country. But is this enough?
The main challenges that plague our higher education system include access, parity and merit. Meeting these challenges is possible with the help of technology. While infrastructural constraints and delivery issues prevail, the dependence on technology for imparting education will continue to grow, thereby attracting increased investments in the sector. There have been several advancements in this area (including the MOOCs) that have disrupted the way education is delivered, creating a new gold-class industry sector called Educational Technology or Ed-tech.
Technology-enabled learning provides several advantages. These could be in the form of integrated approach of learning in universities or simply as standalone knowledge modules to enhance or substitute the learning that happens in higher educational institutes. The uniqueness lies in providing the learner an opportunity to access study material anytime, anywhere, on any connected device or platform. Online platforms provide access to quality education from top educators to millions of deserving students in the remotest of regions. Ed-tech is instrumental in addressing the demand-supply gap for quality education.
Interestingly, the gradual transformation of the industry from the conventional brick-and-mortar model to digital education has led to significant changes. Although online learning in India stands at less than $1 billion, it is growing at a healthy CAGR of 40%. Further, the emphasis on Digital India has given impetus to Ed-tech and is expected to have a positive impact on the education sector, creating a platform for aspiring students to pursue their education and enhance their career prospects. Functioning as a support system to higher education in the country, e-learning offers an array of unique benefits, such as cost-convenience, customized pace of progress, anytime-anywhere access, benchmarked quality of course material, unrestricted access to faculty, availability of online mentors, among others.
While low-cost, flexibility and quality education are major motivations for many students, others cite the ability to pursue and imbibe specific skills online as an advantage. In this digital era, with educational applications and websites available to us at the click of a button, the growth of higher education through technology is a promising one, having a positive impact on the academic and career dreams of students from any part of the country.