The clings and clangs of the crockery and cutlery usually overpowers the vocal output in ‘conclaves’ or ‘summits’ or similar gatherings. Things settle for follow-up action and before it happens, arrives the next year’s cycle of cutlery, crockery, cling and clang with a big bang. However, some events are closely watched and one such is the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos. Also widely read and circulated was the China cover story in one of The Economist despatches of January 2019.
A fortnight back, at the Swiss ski resort of Davos, the global elites from corporates, media, public policy, politics, etc, discussed the state of the world. Tonnes of newsprint and terabytes of space were consumed to cover this. Many issues occupied centre stage: Oxfam’s global inequality report, industry 4.0, environment, economy, trade tensions, etc. Though all of them had global impact, my eyes rolled into future issues on areas of my immediate concern: economy, markets and skills; and all the three had an Indian story which I want to finish with a Chinese flavour.
A WEF report puts India as one of the fastest growing economies with its annual rate of 7.5 percent sustainable over a decade. It also estimates a significant jump in consumer spend which will be predominantly driven by increased income levels, digital penetration and rich demographic dividend. The third most important trigger for excitement is the consumer archetype comprising seven broad types—sophisticated rich, conservative rich, connected aspirants, middle India, young and savvy, poor dreamers and poor rural.
Here is an interesting statistic on this consumer archetype—40 percent among the sophisticated rich, 65 percent among the connected aspirants and 50 percent among the young and savvy have education attainment levels up to Class X only. However, their access to smartphone and connected devices is 95 percent, 95 percent and 65 percent respectively. The rate at which the urban-rural divide is getting bridged through the Digital India throws open a large opportunity to scale India’s next decade of educational growth.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty at the recent WEF annual meet called for an educational model that prepares learners with skills of a new collar worker, neither blue nor white. The Economist in its January 2019 cover story titled ‘Red Moon Rising’ traced the evolution of China as a leading scientific power in the world. Preceding this great scientific experiment was China’s leaping stride to massify its university education. With a little over 1,000 universities in the early 2000, China today boasts of 2,600-plus universities with a mammoth enrolment of over 20 million students. The growth has also been significant in the number of international students.
The Indian story has a promising future with India’s competitive advantage in its English proficiency that can give it an edge over China as it did in the Industry 3.0. Industry 4.0 is a bundle of hope for digital and online education in India. The enriching opportunity gives the feeling that we have only scratched the surface.
Vice-Chancellor, SASTRA Deemed University