The need for reforms in the education sector


  • When we think about the future of work—and all the jobs that will have to be created for India’s expanding youth population—we should hold one thought above all in mind: most children who are currently in primary school will be earning their living in employment that don’t yet exist.

A work sector that did not exist:

  • today India is home to 4 million app developers—a work sector that did not exist less than three decades ago.
  • In the same space of time, the word “Amazon” has gone from meaning a mighty river in South America to one of the largest online retailers in the world. These transformations in society are the result of technological progress.

Digital technologies are changing the shape of work:

  • Digital technologies are changing the shape of work before our eyes. Yes, they are enabling firms to automate and this will reduce employment in some old, typically low- and medium-skill sectors. But they also help firms to increase productivity, to innovate, and subsequently to create new products and sectors.
  • Emerging markets like India stand to gain—but they need to have the right skills at the ready.

The demand for certain skills is going up:

  • complex problem-solving and analysis, and social skills such as teamwork and relationship management. Reasoning and self-efficacy are also increasingly important, particularly as they improve adaptability.
  • Building these skills requires strong human capital foundations—and building these foundations is especially important in early childhood development
  • Most of these traits are learnt by infants up to the age of 5-6
  • If children miss out during this period in life, it is hard to catch up
  • These foundations can be established through effective early childhood development programmes and basic education
  • Investments in nutrition, health and stimulation in the first thousand days of life build stronger brains

Need for education sector reform

  • India needs to focus even more strongly on the quality of education it offers to its greatest asset—its citizens- its human capital
  • For most children, skill foundations are formed through primary and secondary education
  • Yet, the acquisition of foundational skills that one would expect to happen in schools is not occurring

Impact of investments in human capital

  • Through investments in foundational human capital—India can prepare its people for the coming shifts in jobs, skills and market structures
  • Lack of investments, instead, will leave future generations—especially the poorest—at a severe disadvantage, amplifying inequalities that already exist
  • In the worst-case scenario, this might create instability when rising aspirations are met with frustration instead of an opportunity

India’s efforts at building human capital

  1. A lot of investments in human capital have already begun in India and are likely to have a positive impact in the coming years
  2. The shift in the education sector towards more competitive federalism and results-based financing is expected to improve accountability and learning outcomes
  3. India’s agreement to participate in PISA is a major step forward in its policy landscape that will help rank India with global peers based on education outcomes
  4. PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) is a survey conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to test education systems by comparing the test performance of 15-year-old pupils
  5. The two-hour test not only evaluates the cognitive skills of students in science, math, and reading but also assesses their ability to solve problems in new and unfamiliar conditions

Reforms required in the tertiary education sector

  • India’s tertiary education system is the second largest in the world, after China
  • It is home to more than 35 million students and over 50,000 institutions\\
  • The most prestigious institutions within this system have global standing and are responsible for making India a world leader in the high-tech sector

For this success to be taken to the next level, India’s tertiary education system needs three sets of reforms

  • It requires more flexibility between the general and technical tracks
  • More focus on building the skills
  • Ensuring that specific universities become effective innovation clusters

Way forward

  • Investing in human capital now and over the long term is an investment with profound implications for people’s future prosperity and for national economic growth.


Leave a Reply