The effects of COVID-19 have stifled every social avenue, be it schools, universities, offices, courts, public transport etc. This has necessitated a significant push towards the reshaping of human life in tandem with the pandemic. Just as businesses embrace digitization and remote working, education and academia are also graduating towards online pedagogy and other digital modes of learning. Welcome to the pandemic-induced rise of the Edutech 2.0.

It is not beyond our power to create a world in which all children have access to a good education. – Nelson Mandela 

Besides being engraved in our national consciousness as the year that brought forth the pandemic, 2020 would also be remembered for the historic moment when the Government of India unfurled the first draft of the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020. This much-awaited and long-delayed bill which the government passed, endeavours to outline the vision of India’s novel educational framework. The extant Indian education system, which primarily focuses on theory and rote learning, was formally instituted by the British in 1835.

In a bid to break away from the 150 years-old outmoded and obsolete pedagogical model, the much-awaited NEP was formed to outline the vision of India’s brand new educational framework. The various education stakeholders, such as teachers, parents, and most importantly, students, have welcomed the NEP with open arms. The newly-drafted bill advocates for an essential change in the education is dispensed around the country. They are hoping to turn the existing flawed model on its heels; the NEP 2020 credits online education as an accepted channel for the mainstream transmission of learning across the national expanse.

One of the critical tenets implied in the NEP is to raise the poor Gross Enrolment ratio (GER) of the country. A statistical measure used in the education sector, formerly by the UN in its Education Index, to determine the number of students enrolled in school at several different grade levels (like elementary, middle school and high school). And use it to showcase the ratio of the number of students who live in that country to those who qualify for the particular grade level. Presently, India has a GER of 26.3%, which means that only 26.3 % of people within the age group 18-23 are pursuing higher education in our country. Thanks to the long-sustained effects of the 19th-century education model, the Indian GER is abysmally low compared to other developing economies such as China that sports a GER of 49% or Brazil with 51.3%, and Indonesia at 36.4%.

However, all this is set to change. The Universal Grant Commission (UGC) recently granted authorization to the top 100 NIRF ranked institutes to extend 100% online degrees to students according to the social restrictions mandated in the wake of the pandemic. After empowering the leading academic centres of learning in the country, this ordinance will be slowly rolled out to envelope the vast number of remaining higher education institutes under the canopy of the New-age edutech revolution and online learning. Such a landmark shift will directly translate into a significant upward impact on the quality of learning alongside the accessibility and affordability of higher education across the country. Even in the remotest terrains, students everywhere will have the opportunity to access premium learning institutes and the finest faculties from their home towns, hamlets, and villages.

On the whole, this will prove to be a two-pronged gain for the entire nation. One will directly contribute to increasing India’s current GER score. More and more students will now have a veritable chance to pursue higher education that is accessible and affordable. Second, it will reduce the frantic pressure associated with migrating to another state, town, or city for want of better educational prospects as students can now learn directly from the vicinity of their native places. All that is needed is a smartphone and an internet connection both of which have managed to penetrate and reach the interior most hinterlands of the country, thanks to the Digital India movement. 

The NEP 2020 has more to offer than just the 100% online degrees. Eminent Universities can now regulate regular on-campus degrees to provide up to 40% of the course curriculum via online mediums. This will directly enable and empower over 3.4Cr students enrolled in the country’s higher education system to access quality faculty from across the country and the globe. They will also have a chance to learn from leading experts and practitioners and benefit from a student participated and collaborative learning pedagogy.

They can now easily imbibe the most advanced and complex courses from the comfort of their personal spaces on any non-working day without having to compromise their present jobs. A recent business report revealed that approximately about 70% of the current Indian workforce is in dire need of upskilling or reskilling, especially in futuristic skillsets such as design, AI, data sciences, Machine Learning, RPA, fintech, health tech, etcetera. To remain pertinent and at par with the rapidly evolving business landscape.

As per the Global skill gap report, 82% of Indian professionals faced a skill gap in the required jobs. This skill gap has substantially increased the attrition rate at organizations. 94% agrees that there is a constant need for training and upskilling culture in the organization. As per a study by Deloitte, the skill gap may leave 2.4mn jobs unfilled by 2028. The emergence of online degrees will also foster novel opportunities for countless working professionals who aspire to pursue higher studies, advanced proficiencies or upskill themselves to improve their professional worth. Moreover, it will help reduce the attrition rate and fill the job opportunities available in the market.

In a nutshell, even the 73.6 % of the eligible student population currently absent from the formal higher education system in the country will now have the means to access a hitherto-denied good-quality and affordable higher education. Therefore, such a pivotal surge in the percentage of students completing their higher education will naturally result in better job outcomes and a more significant employment generation in the country. After all, Agar Padhega India tabhi toh Badhega India!

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