Geographies in Depth

India's superpower is education. Here's why it must build on this

Slum students study on their laptops inside an E-classroom at a government run school in Ahmedabad, India, July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Amit Dave - RC17EC5B6130

The online education industry in India is predicted to be worth $1.96 billion by 2021 Image: REUTERS/Amit Dave

Vijay T. S.
Managing director, Chegg India
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This article is part of: India Economic Summit

The modern student is no longer burdened with classes that only take place on-site or on campus. Across the globe, more students are seeking online education as a way to supplement or refocus traditional education routes. More and more education is available to any student from anywhere in the world. In India, the online education industry in India is predicted to be worth $1.96 billion by 2021.

These students are aware of the ever-changing landscape of requirements that employers need to meet, especially with the rise of automation which is expected to affect 14% of the global workforce – nearly 375 million workers. As the learning sector broadens and meets digitization, India is at the forefront of this dynamic, steadily becoming the greatest education hub in the world.

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India’s emergence as an education hub is the result of both economic changes and remarkable efforts. Employers require more technical skills that, even when learned, will need to be repeatedly relearned if employees wish to be successful and keep pace with developments. In a new report from IBM, an estimated 120 million workers worldwide will need to be retrained as a result of AI and automation within the next three years. Employers know there is a skill gap and students are seeking online education to ensure their employability. As such, it is of no surprise that reskilling and online certification courses currently account for a significant part of the online education market in India, having reached a 38% share in 2017.

Value of online education market across India in 2016, by category (in million U.S. dollars)
Value of online education market across India in 2016, by category Image: Statista

Additionally, by broadening access to higher education, we’ve continually empowered our nation. There has been a 34% increase in female students enrolled in college between 2011-2018. More women in India are seeking higher education than ever before, following the global trend – 56% of college students enrolled in the US this autumn were female and 90,000 more female students applied to college than male students in the UK. With more women earning degrees and entering the workforce, India has been able to intensify its breakthroughs, including the Chandrayaan-2 mission, which was the first space mission led by two female scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

These kinds of technological breakthroughs have invigorated India’s higher education sector. India has the third-largest higher education system in the world after the US and China. Additionally, with prolific institutions like Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Science (IISc), India produces nearly 15–20% of university faculty members worldwide. Despite this, the nation still struggles with internationalization: India and China send more students to the US than most other foreign countries and struggles to attract foreign students to India, despite its highly influential universities. Graduates from the IITs in India account for the majority of entrepreneurs in the past decade.


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As we consider how best to embolden our educational hub, we must consider scaling what currently works. Already, the government has stepped up to the problem of internationalization by implementing the National Education Policy which proposes to consolidate institutions into large, multidisciplinary universities as a way to polish and strengthen these schools. Additionally, the Indian government has launched a broader strategy that is specifically focused on increasing foreign students from 47,000 to 200,000 in the next five years. They plan to do this by targeting 30 countries across South Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the former Soviet republics. If all goes well, the long-term strategy is to attract a million foreign learners. The IITs are planning to hold entrance exams in San Francisco in the US by 2020.

By implementing tangible plans to consolidate and strengthen our universities, we can hope that India’s higher education sector continues to grow. This nation is producing people with degrees and technical skills at higher rates every year. By producing and investing in programmes that support women in higher education, technical skills and internationalization, India can become as much an educational hub as Silicon Valley is a tech one. We are learning, we are pivoting and we are growing in terms of education more than ever before. By scaling properly, we can hope to see even more Indian tech entrepreneurs taking the reins and building the world around us.

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Geographies in DepthEducation and Skills
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