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India needs to drastically reform higher education in rapidly digitising world

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As India gets ready to celebrating its 71st Independence Day, concerns over honing its human capital come to the fore. These mus be addressed if the nation is to seize the opportunity offered by a demographic dividend for sustainable and inclusive digital growth.

The growing working population, which is expected to increase by 1.3 million every month between now and 2025 (World Bank, 2018) demands a focus on higher education and skilling to create a pool of human capital in the ongoing digital revolution and take India on a higher growth trajectory. While India already lags behind its peers in terms of employment generation owing to various socio-economic reasons, growing digitalisation can further accentuate the frictions in the job market if the country doesn’t align the skills of its rapidly growing workforce to the demands of the new digital economy.

It is, thus, essential to adapt to the new technology to tap the full potential of digital disruption and reduce inequality in the society.

This could be achieved in part by transforming the higher education system in India in a way that it enables students to prepare for the challenges of future jobs. This, however, requires an understanding of the way innovations are going to impact the country’s labour market. There seems to be a likely increase in the demand for the high skilled workers who use non-routine cognitive and ICT skills and the low skilled workers who use non-routine manual skills, while the mid-level skilled workers who are in their routine occupations are more likely to experience a decline in demand for their skills because of the automation of the repetitive tasks.

A 2017 OECD study, “Future of Works and Skills”, points out that employment in high skilled occupations in India experienced a 6.3 percentage point increase over 2002- 2014, while employment in medium skilled routine occupations declined 5.3 percentage points over this period.

Sectoral analysis of the Indian economy reveals that the manufacturing sector has a high potential for automation, with an estimate of 69 percent of the tasks that could be automated in organised manufacturing in India (World Bank Group Foresight Report, 2016).

The automobile sector is expected to buy 60 per cent of all industrial robots sold in India (ET Auto, 2015), which could be used for doing a large number of routine tasks such as welding, polishing and painting in the manufacturing plants, leading to a consequent decline in such jobs.

Further, looking at the services sector, e-commerce provides an example of India’s industry where technology-enabled innovations, such as digital payments, hyper-local logistics, analytics driven customer engagements and digital advertisements are expected to support the growth of the sector. While the sector is set to grow from $38.5 billion in 2017 to $200 billion by 2026 and, consequently, expected to generate employment in e-commerce and the allied industries such as logistics, transport and warehousing, there is a greater likelihood of displacement of small to medium retail enterprises and shop floor salespersons they have, because of the increasing demand for the automation skills in the industry.

The IT sector has been undergoing a huge technology transformation and has seen tremendous growth over the last 20 years. Its contribution to India’s GDP rose to approximately 9.5 percent in 2015 from 1.2 percent in 1998. However, the sector is expected to experience a 14 percent decline in its workforce by 2021 on account of application of machine learning and Cloud computing technologies which will automate the routine and backend tasks.

Thus, IT sector workers need to upskill themselves on the SMAC (Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud) technologies to overcome the labour market frictions arising out of the digital transformation. The SMAC market is expected to grow to $225 billion by 2020 and create employment opportunities in related capabilities.

The impact of automation technologies has also been felt in the financial sector, where there is already an extensive use of chatbots and internet banking at the customer services end. While there will be some job displacements for the digital transactions which are non-risky in nature, there will always be a requirement for human intervention when it comes to risky transactions and investing money. In fact, digital finance is expected to create 21 million new jobs by 2025.

A review of the future of work in India across various sectors on account of the ongoing digital revolution necessitates the need for transforming its system of higher learning to deliver a workforce which is industry ready. This could be achieved by learning from the success stories of countries such as Russia, Singapore and Switzerland, which have developed special industry-specific programmes to prepare their people for future jobs, and also analysed the in-demand future skills to provide appropriate skill-based training to young people.

Further, encouraging more private sector participation in setting up higher education institutes catering to the needs of industry can bridge the skill gap experienced by the Indian economy.

However, the government needs to ease the regulatory requirements for setting up universities to encourage greater private investments. In addition, emphasis should be laid on outcome-based indicators, such as the number of students who get employment after graduating from the university, instead of input-based measures, such as the gross enrollment ratio for a university. Moreover, online courses from platforms such as Coursera, edX and Udacity, which have emerged as the online solution to the demand supply skill gap, should be awarded credits in the undergraduate/graduate studies, to encourage greater student participation.

At this juncture in the global economic scenario, India must make significant revisions to its higher education system to make their future workforce industry ready. While change is difficult, it is also inevitable.

(Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected] and tweets @kautiliya. Deepti Mathur, senior researcher at large, with the Institute has contributed to the article)

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BS-IV vehicles needed for public utility services & purchased up to March 31 be registered: SC

The issue of pollution from vehicles had cropped up before the apex court which is hearing a matter related to air pollution in the Delhi-national capital region (NCR).

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New Delhi, Sep 18 : The Supreme Court Friday said BS-IV vehicles, which were purchased on or before March 31 this year and are necessary for municipal corporation in Delhi to carry out essential public utility services, should be registered.

The apex court had in October 2018 said that no BS-IV compliant vehicle would be sold or registered in India from April 1, 2020.

In 2016, the Centre had also announced that India would skip the BS-V norms and adopt BS-VI by 2020.

BS emission norms are standards instituted by the government to regulate output of air pollutants from motor vehicles.

The matter came up for hearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde which dealt with applications related to registration of three types of vehicles — CNG , BS-IV and BS-VI compliant — for being used for essential public utility services.

“Insofar as CNG vehicles are concerned, there cannot be any valid rejection to the vehicles, as the emission from these vehicles is within the limits. Therefore, we direct that these vehicles may be registered,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

It noted that BS-VI norms came into force on April 1, 2020 and vehicles purchased up to March 31 this year were BS-IV compliant.

“Admittedly the emission from BS-VI compliant vehicles is within the norms and hence the vehicles purchased on or after April 1, 2020 and which are BS-VI compliant, should also liable to be registered,” it said.

The top court noted in its order that BS-IV compliant vehicles purchased up to March 31 this year must have been registered with the E-Vahan portal of the government before the cut-off date to establish the date of purchase.

“If the purchase had been made on or before March 31, 2020 and these vehicles are BS-IV compliant, such vehicles necessary for the municipal corporation to carry essential public utility services should also be registered. But such cases shall be scrutinized by the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA),” the bench said.

The bench said to avoid repeated applications being filed before the court just for the purpose of getting registration, “we direct that the EPCA shall scrutiny the pending cases and submit a report to this court so that a common order could be passed without the necessity for several interlocutory applications.”

The issue of pollution from vehicles had cropped up before the apex court which is hearing a matter related to air pollution in the Delhi-national capital region (NCR).

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Coronavirus: Karnataka’s Covid tally crosses 5 lakh

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Coronavirus in India

Bengaluru, Sep 19 : With 8,626 fresh cases across the state on Friday, Karnataka’s Covid-19 tally crossed the 5 lakh mark, while 10,949 people were discharged after treatment in the last 24 hours.

“The number of positive cases across the state is 5,02,982, including 1,01,129 active cases, while 3,94,026 cases were discharged since March 8,” said the health bulletin.

With 179 patients succumbing to the infection during the day, the state’s toll has gone up to 7,808.

Bengaluru, which is the epicentre of the disease in the state, registered 3,623 cases during the day, taking its tally to 1,87,705, including 41,914 active cases, while 1,43,198 patients were discharged till date, with 2,725 in the last 24 hours.

With 37 deaths during the day, the city’s toll has increased to 2,592.

“The number of patients in the intensive care units (ICU) across the state is 814, including 271 in Bengaluru Urban district, Dharwad 74, Ballari 67 and Hassan 62,” the bulletin said.

Mysuru saw 600 new cases, Udupi 493, Dakshina Kannada 456, Ballari 296, Shivamogga 257 and Belagavi 221.

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Anil Dhasmana is new chief of NTRO, spy agency that keeps an eye from the sky

Anil Dhasmana is the former chief of India’s external spy agency, R&AW

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Anil Dhasmana with Amit Shah

Former Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) chief Anil Dhasmana has been appointed as National Technical Research Organisation, India’s technical body that is responsible for geospatial intelligence and satellite imagery.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cleared the appointment and the decision was formally conveyed to the retired Indian Police Service officer on Friday.

Dhasmana succeeds former Intelligence Bureau officer Satish Jha who demitted office on Thursday.

Dhasmana, a 1981 batch Indian Police Service officer, is a Pakistan expert and was the lead planner of the Balakot air strikes in February 2019 after Pakistan-backed terrorists killed 40 CRPF soldiers in the Pulwama car bombing.

Dhasmana had stepped down a few months later when his extended term due to the general elections ended in June 2019.

The top police officer returns to the center of action 14 months later at a time the NTRO is playing a crucial role, tracking movements of the China’s People’s Liberation Army near the many friction points along the Line of Actual Control that have seen heavy deployment of soldiers and support elements from both sides. The two countries have been speaking to each other at military and diplomatic levels to resolve the stand-off but there are some indications that the stand-off would continue for some time.

Dhasmana had joined R&AW, India’s external spy agency in 1993 from his parent cadre Madhya Pradesh and had worked extensively with the agency’s Pakistan desk.

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