In the absence of a responsive state-managed education system and despite a relatively rigid regulatory environment, private education in India is thriving since it addresses the aspirations of middle-class Indians and offers services that resonate with them.
The education sector faces many problems. These include low enrolments across the education eco-system, shortage of schools and colleges, outdated curriculum and teaching methodologies, shortage of trained teachers, a restrictive and non-transparent regulatory regime, low technology penetration and, above all, a pre-condition that mandates that all educational institutions be run on ‘not-for-profit’ basis.
India has among the highest per capita spend on education and this trend is growing. The potential of the education market can be gauged from the fact that India has over 550 million people below the age of 25 years. According to census figures, over 32 per cent of India’s population is between the age group 0-14 years.
This means that the number of people in India needing primary and secondary education alone exceeds the entire population of the US! Since these students will be seeking higher education in India over the next decade, it clearly illustrates the sheer size of the market and the urgent need to increase capacity and usher in quality standards.
India’s education sector is currently estimated at $40 billion with a potential 16 per cent CAGR over the next five years. This spans the kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) segment ($20 billion), private professional colleges ($7 billion) and tutoring ($5 billion), vocational training ($1.4 billion), test preparation ($1.7 billion), and preschools ($1 billion). New segments like e-learning and V-SAT training will also share the pie as it expands.
Information technology is now radically altering the world, impacting the way we live and particularly, learn and educate ourselves. Today, the learning environment has metamorphosed to what we call a ‘smart-class’, where computers and content, teacher and the taught integrate in a stimulating environment that not only challenges all knowledge delivery mechanisms of a decade ago but dramatically improves the outcome of education.
IT-enabled education has also led to tectonic shifts in the overall quality of educational content and its delivery. Digitization of content has allowed for instantaneous upgrading of content, quicker verification of data, comparative notes, references popping on the screens within nanoseconds, evaluations of answers by teachers in real time, instant feedback from mentors, and a transparent and verifiable means of calibrating students progress.
All this is impacting academic performance of students tremendously. It has also made teaching a more exact science, removed the drudgery of old-style teaching and converted it into a far more satisfying experience for teachers.
The overarching and parabolic impact of all this has been the democratization of education. Education can now come to where the student is. A teacher can teach likewise. The cost of such instruction has reduced dramatically and bulky expensive hard copies of books have literally been done away with. The entire world library, news or information on current affairs is now just a click away.
Overall, the new trends in education delivery in the last two decades have been transformational. Going forward, if policies are designed sensibly, there is every reason to believe that we can meet the targets of this exponential market in a manner that puts the Indian student on par with the best in the world.
The author is MD & CEO, Educomp Solutions Limited