Singularity Hub – After 20 years of economic reforms, India is emerging into a new prosperity thanks to progressive polices and globalization, which has reduced poverty and helped its middle class thrive. But now, the country faces a seemingly insurmountable task: educate a generation of workers over the next decade to compete in a global workforce. So how big is the problem? Try 100 million young people entering the workforce between now and 2020. In a country with about 600 million citizens under the age of 25, India has a golden opportunity to live up to the projections of becoming the next China. But its current educational infrastructure cannot support this volume of learners, and the government has stated it needs 1,000 universities and 50,000 colleges to meet the pressing demand.
Currently, India has almost 9,500 institutions and indeed reform is underway, but it is mired by bureaucracy and regulations. At the same time, new schools are on the rise with nearly 1,000 applications for new institutions submitted just last year, according to the All India Council for Technical Education. To reach the 50,000 school goal, however, India will have to move into high gear to produce millions of graduates properly prepared for the workplace.
To reach the 50,000 school goal, however, India will have to move into high gear to produce millions of graduates properly prepared for the workplace. The way forward is being aided by two old school approaches. First, schools are allying with reputable universities from the U.S. and other countries to form long-term partnerships. This strategy involves not only mirroring what the parent institution is providing, but forming stronger faculty connections, such as training and mentoring, along with work-abroad programs. Second, institutions simply go “off grid” by bypassing the burdensome accreditation process altogether, something that experts are increasingly calling upon U.S. institutions to do.
Beyond the logistics, the scale of the 50,000-college goal is so mind blowing because of the ever present and unforgiving reality of rising costs. While India looks initially to build brick-and-mortar schools, whether one-room schoolhouses or large campuses, the reality is new schools will increasingly be virtual. It’s hard to argue against online education with all the success that free educational innovations like the Khan Academy, ShowMe and MIT OpenCourseWare are demonstrating. In a way, these sites are making the necessity for having teachers a much lower priority, which significantly reduces cost. Furthermore, these resources serve as examples for entrepeneurs to replicate. In fact, India is in a prime position to become leaders in producing online educational content as top publishing companies have outsourced textbook production there for years.