Education Ecosystem for the 4th Industrial Revolution

What is the issue?

  • The government is putting in place an education ecosystem to boost advanced learning in new-age technologies.
  • With the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR) in the making, it is essential that India’s higher education sector capitalise on this.

What is the 4th IR about?

  • The Third Industrial Revolution was of personal computers and internet.
  • The next wave of global progress and growth is being driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • This involves the emerging technologies that merge together to change the dynamics of how industries operate.
  • These include artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, biotechnology and 5G.

What is the challenge before India?

  • India has the world’s largest population of young people.
  • In any case, India needs more jobs for its 50-crore youth that will be in the labour market by 2030.
  • To capitalise on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, India has to align the higher education sector with the demands of the new age.
  • But India already faces structural and regulatory challenges in the higher education sector.
  • So the path to create a market for higher education in emerging technologies has multiple limitations ahead.
  • Some of the biggest obstacles include the inadequacy of curriculum and trained faculty since the technology itself is evolving rapidly.
  • So, the only way for students to gain knowledge in emerging technologies is to learn directly from an industry practitioner or join online resources.
  • The groundwork to gravitate the youth towards a career in such technologies has already been laid by the government.

What are the government initiatives in this regard?

  • There are three pillars that have been created for the needed structural change.
  • Autonomy – The Graded Autonomy status was granted by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
  • This has given the freedom to higher education institutions to launch new courses, off-campus centres, skill development courses, and foster other academic collaborations with industry.
  • So new-age courses in emerging technologies can be easily launched by universities without being delayed by the regulator’s approval.
  • Ranking – India’s academic institutes largely lack a performance-based public ranking system.
  • The gap is set to be filled after the Human Resource Development Ministry launched the Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation and Achievements (ARIIA).
  • Under this, by April 2019, over 800 higher education institutes will be ranked on parameters related to innovation and entrepreneurship development.
  • E.g. universities facilitating students to launch market-ready products, launch start-ups etc., through new courses, will be highly rewarded under the rankings
  • Technical education – The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has reduced the minimum credits needed for a degree from 180 to 160.
  • This effectively reduces a full semester of academic load for students and faculty.
  • The AICTE also formulated the National Student Start-up Policy.
  • This enables bright students to take up courses in emerging technologies.
  • They can learn practical engineering skills by working on prototypes and gain a “minor degree”.
  • If the student continues to build the prototype into a start-up, the knowledge and experience acquired by the entrepreneur will be recognised as an MBA in Entrepreneurship Programme.
  • This is possible under the new AICTE guidelines.

What do these initiatives imply?

  • The interlinking of these there pillars will let the institutes adopt new technology courses (elective and minor) with industry partnerships.
  • The potential students will gravitate towards these institutions, which have higher flexibility and a modern outlook to the industry.
  • These students will acquire better skills and drive up new job openings in emerging technologies.
  • They could build up a new generation of products and start-ups from India.

What lies before India?

  • The advent of the fourth industrial revolution is already being seen as transforming skill-based sectors in developed countries.
  • It is facilitating increased investments in Research and Development (R&D) measures in countries like US, China and Japan.
  • In such a scenario, India needs to catch up with the anticipated changes in its own labour market.
  • The need of the hour is a plan of action to create a model for higher education that addresses these shifts.

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