There are some very strange things happening in our country. One can’t think of a single Indian company that, since 60+ years of independence, has made a global impact in thought or innovation leadership. Most Indian HR managers candidly share how they struggle to find capable people, and once selected, many employees turn out to be less than ideal.
Many children and adults share how their classroom and homework experience was, more often than not, boring. Most things learnt at school are seldom applied in the real world.Education is perhaps the only business that operates at much less than 25% efficiency, in fact, if one compares this industry to say, a restaurant or a hotel operating at such low customer satisfaction levels, they would shut down very fast.
Let’s explore some of the reasons for this mess.
In India, both private and government schools (and colleges) are based on the British model of rote learning, defined as memorising content and its regurgitation. One way classroom lectures simply don’t provide skills that nation building requires. Government schools (and colleges) were initially created by our British rulers to control us.
The British systematically dismantled our thriving and decentralised school system and replaced it with one of their own. The idea was to create a mechanism that would help them to control our destiny. With the passage of time, our educational institutions evolved to provide skills needed to become government servants, engineers, lawyers and doctors. This practice continues, even though many of today’s jobs and the majority of tomorrow’s jobs would require fundamentally very different sets of skills.
Most private schools and colleges require high capital investment and face draconian regulatory barriers. Therefore, it’s not surprising that they are owned by politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists, real estate developers i.e. people with access to power and money. For these reasons, historically it has been next to impossible for a well-intentioned first time entrepreneur or educator to start a high-quality school or college.
The landscape is changing very fast. Education related start-ups are mushrooming, be it in the realm of technology, publishing, curriculum design or training. An entrepreneur with a great idea could get funded and mentored by a variety of incubation and VC Cfunds.
While this is an excellent start, all these ventures will operate at fringes. For a long time to come, a large part of our education would continue to be provided by mainstream schools and colleges.
For this reason, India urgently requires a new breed of edu-preneurs who could potentially transform these institutions. Edu-preneurs who are highly knowledgeable and capable, who are willing to take risks and to build world-class institutions, all based on principles of expertise and excellence. Progressive minds that will create schools that instead of content, shall focus on depth and application of knowledge. Smart schools that develop smart children with the ability to innovate and change. Schools that deploy a teaching methodology known as ‘project-based learning’.
This technique is transforming schools around the world and can be applied to rural and urban, low and high fee-charging schools. Strands of this technique were in existence at our ancient gurukuls, however, were replaced by the ‘one size fits all’ model left behind by our colonial masters. To fix its service sector, India needs game-changing entrepreneurs who will collaborate with HR managers to create innovative colleges. Colleges that develop the Anchor entire range of modern day skills and qualities employers are looking for in people they wish to hire. To fix its manufacturing sector, India needs to jettison the British model of liberal education and instead focus on the German-Japanese technical education model.
The Chinese cost of production has doubled, and by acting now, India can take full advantage of this opportunity. The time is ripe for edu-preneurs to jump in and create a variety of technical education centres, aimed at developing skills required in export-related manufacturing. Ideally, these should be located within our existing export based manufacturing hubs.
India’s high growth rate, rising domestic consumption, favourable demographics, increasing FDI levels, rising infrastructure spending and booming stock markets have created a massive wave of opportunity for edu-preneurs to step in and make hay!
All the government has to do is to drastically cut regulation and to make capital (not always contingent on collateral) accessible and available. To create real and equal opportunity for those with ability, integrity and fire in the belly.
We Indians, in many ways, are superior to people of other countries. India is one of the rare countries that has historically embraced multiculturalism. A condition that makes us both adaptable and tolerant.
India lacks structure, which in turn, makes us resilient – a condition that makes it easier for us to deal with uncertainty. There is informality in our relationships leading to higher levels of interconnectedness (the equivalent Hindi wordis ‘apnapan’), this could potentially make us collaborate at far deeper levels.
Historically we have been a less self-centred and a more family oriented race - qualities that makeus inherently more empathetic. India lacks resources, a weakness that (given the right kind of education), could become a strength and create a fertile ground for innovation.
All these are qualities that the best companies (and countries) in the world aspire for. Now is the time for edu-preneurs to seize this opportunity. An opportunity to create theworld’s greatest institutions that will create great citizens. Citizens who will, once again, make India truly great.