Education not a challenge but an opportunity: Smriti Irani

November 5, 2014

Smriti Zubin Irani, Minister of Human Resource Development, said Wednesday that education is not a challenge, but an opportunity.

Irani was speaking at a session on "Which Comes First: Employment or Employability?" at the India Economic Summit organized by the World Economic Forum and the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi on Wednesday.

She stated there is a need to rejuvenate the teaching profession and bring back the respect that this profession once enjoyed. She stated that the Prime Minister's initiative to reach out to students on Teachers Day was a step in that direction. It was hoped that this initiative would help encourage more young people to turn to the teaching profession as a career.

She further added that currently the Indian education system does not have a system of credit transfers between institutions. This was a major issue for students who have been forced to take a break in their education due to unforeseen circumstances. It is for this reason that the Government of India is now announcing a scheme for credit transfer on November 11. The scheme is expected to cover students from Class 9 Post Graduation. Depending on the feedback received, it may also be extended to PhD courses as well.

The minister also announced that the government was encouraging Universities to set up placement cells so as to encourage dialogue between students and employers on the skills sets required. She mentioned that the Government was experimenting with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to reach out to a larger number of students in the country.

Addressing the session, Mr. Uday Kotak, Executive Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Kotak Mahindra Bank highlighted the need to bring back the respect and dignity to the teaching profession in India. He observed that previously, education policies focused on the creation of education hardware (school buildings etc.). He was of the view that there now needs to be an equal emphasis on the creation of education software (teachers, teaching tools / methods etc.).

Ms. Shobana Bhartia, Chairperson and Editorial Director, HT Media and Co-Chair of the India Economic Summit stated that there was a talent conundrum in the country with jobs without people and people without jobs. To address this issue there is a need to adopt disruptive innovation such as online teaching models. Highlighting the experience of the Bridge University which her company has set up, she stated that they had adopted a hybrid model where a large part of the teaching is done online and some part of it is classroom interaction.

Ms. Arundhuti Gupta, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mentor Together India stated that career choices in India are left to chance. She was of the view that instead of finding people unsuitable for employment just as they are entering the workforce, there is a need to mentor them over the long term, preferably from adolescence onwards.

Prof. Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor, University of California, Berkeley pointed out that the US and India share the same set of challenges in terms of its education system. He pointed out that the economic crisis of 2008 had led to a sharp squeeze on the funds available to educational institutions. This had led them to look at adopting public-private partnerships to raise the adequate finances for growth. He was of the view that the US had set up a successful University and college system and felt that India and the US could collaborate in this field.

Earlier in his welcome address, Mr. Gary Coleman, Managing Director, Global Industries, Delloitte, USA stated that India had a large workforce of 500 million and over 10 million people were being added to that workforce every year. However, businesses were finding it very difficult to find adequately skilled manpower for their needs. This issue, in his view, needed to be addressed urgently.

Source: DNA

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