In 1948, when the Government of India appointed university education commission under the Chairmanship of Dr. Radhakrishnan, the commission made several recommendations considering various aspects of the higher education need among Indians and published a report in August 1949. Some of the main recommendations suggested in the report included – consolidation and expansion of Institution, development of autonomous colleges and related departments, course designing, training of teachers, strengthening of research and establishment of open universities and availability of distance learning programmes for aspirants.
Since the 1980s, higher education has drastically evolved in India pertaining to number of universities, colleges, and centres for open learning. There are over 700 universities and 34000 colleges that have sprawled up in India over the past few years, which include duly recognized and well-performing private universities. Additionally, the gender gap or the gender parity index (GPI) has shown significant improvement wherein, women students have been able to perform exceptionally well in academics. Immense growth in the overall structure and method of teaching can be found in globally-acclaimed Indian institutions like IIMs, IITs and B-Schools, imparting competitive higher education to millions of college pass-outs each year. The influx of foreign students has also been evidential with highest number of students applying for admission from neighbouring countries like Nepal, Afghanistan, and Bhutan.
On the other hand, with an ever-changing education scenario influenced by the global economic developments, focus on enforcing higher standard of vocational and doctoral education, professionalization of the education sector and reprioritization of educational goals – is the need of the hour and will lead to noteworthy radical reforms in the sector for the overall benefit of the society.
Into the future
As per a study published by E&Y, India is reported to have 140 million young college goers before 2030. And thus, the country should pursue massive structural and systemic changes to produce better results in the field of higher education and distance learning, specifically. Apart from having best-in-class post-secondary education system, by 2030, India will have the largest population in the world resulting in increased bracket of students eligible for higher learning and educational courses.
Coupled by spreading urbanization and rising income levels, the demand for higher education is likely to touch new pinnacles of growth. Concurrently, Indian economy will also surge economy at a rapid pace while factors such as need for rapid industrialization would require a workforce of 250 million by 2030. Therefore, with a well-structured and sufficiently reformed higher education system in place, India can emerge as a global supplier of skilled manpower. And, higher education will have a significant role in shaping up the future socio-economic structure of the country, amid a crucial part will be played by the private sector in India. Evidently, the growth in the number of private institutions has been notable with 7.5% year on year, with private players.
Steps such as operational autonomy, flexibility in norms for setting up of private institutions, modifying and implementations of education bill, and access to global curriculum design framework will not encourage the private players but also promote the cause of higher education in India to a whole new level.
The education sector around the world and more so in India has seen and is still undergoing the biggest shift ever. The year 2020 has been like no other in history. Although the education system has been gradually evolving and responding to triggers such as the changing learner needs and emerging technologies the pace of change has accelerated with the unforeseen situation created by the pandemic and the approval of the NEP. Student needs are continuously evolving, this can be attributed to the new student majority of non-traditional students, who juggle their studies with work or care-giving responsibilities. The new learner yearns for personal and adaptive learning paths based on competency levels. The current situation of higher education across the world is similar. The pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes and transformed the face of education in 2020. It has accelerated the trends, notably the transition to a digital economy. It has acted as a test bed for Education 4.0 by transforming concepts of personalized learning and integration of technology to reality. NEP 2020 proposes the revision and revamping of all aspects of the education structure, including its regulation and governance, to create a new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of 21st century education, while remaining consistent with India’s traditions and value systems.
The online learning environment has undergone a change both in India and globally. In India, many online learning companies and global universities are now innovating to develop online learning programs, associated pedagogies and content that deliver on unique student experience.
E-learning technologies that have great potential to spread learning however, the benefits of these technologies have to reach the Rural masses of India, otherwise they will be one of the causes of the Digital Divide.