Is there a huge missing piece in the India’s pathway to being the Super Power?

While introducing the history of Indian economic policies, India after independence followed the non-aligned movement and the policies of the USSR. Thereby the planning commission was set up to have a central yet federal planning structure. Many economists blamed this for the so-called “Hindu rate of growth”. It was in 1990’s the government helmed by P V Narasimharao and Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister liberalized the Indian economic system.

The Prime Minister during the UPA-I, Manmohan Singh along with Montek Singh Aluwhalia as the Planning Commission chief made an attempt to liberalize the economy further through FDI (in various sectors), which was earlier stalled and many of them now being ratified of sorts by the NDA. A major initiative not heard of in the media as often, was the National Knowledge Commission, set up under Sam Pitroda, to advice the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the areas of technology, research, education and innovation. The education sector in India is facing a bottleneck and may become one of the greatest obstructions to India reaching the above average growth trajectory.

Let us take a quick factual and objective glance at the education system. The number of universities in Indian has increased from 20 to 774(574 public and 200 private) over 60 years. The number of colleges has seen a 71 fold rise from 500 in 1950 to 35539 in 2013. The enrollment has seen a near 100 fold rise from 2.5 lakh to 2.3 crores in the same period. The numbers seems promising, because the portrait above is incomplete.

The access to education in the US stands at 89%, Russia 76%, Malaysia 40% and India 19.7%. The ratio of student enrolled in government vis-à-vis private institutions is about 71:29. Now let us look at the main challenges facing the education sector. The higher education sector firstly is restricted to a fraction of the Indian population thus handicapping a fraction of the largest working pool in the world. The education system that exists is buried in red tape and regulation monetary and otherwise. While the government at large sets the fees, and institutions find it difficult to meet the costs of providing quality education. Which in turn reduces the remuneration to faculty, leading to a demotivated environment. The resulting consequence being an under skilled working population, lower productivity and under served economy. It is a cycle being repeated year after year, decade after decade.

This observation can be clearly seen by contrasting statistics generated from the official government offices. The number of PHD’s granted in the USA in stood at about 48100 compared to 20100 in India, while the key is that the population of India is more than thrice that of the USA. The Patents filed in the USA in 2013 stood at 609052 and 287831 among them were domestic. The patents filed in India in 2013 were 43674 a meager 23% among them were domestic. The largest tech patents filed in India were by TCS with 162, Google filed about 1150 in 2012 and Apple Inc. 1236 in 2011 with the USPTO. The largely selective IIT’s collectively filed about 205 patents contrasted to 387 by MIT alone.

The creation, holding and commercialization of patents play a vital role in large-scale and long term economic growth. The growth of the US economy during its peak was majorly through the means of innovation and research.

One of the key reforms may be to cut down on the regulation in the education space so as to allow educational institutions to concentrate on quality. The second reform may be to allow for-profit education alongside a parallel public sector education. This will have two major benefits to the age-old education system, one of improving quality of education by motivated educational players and promoting high paid talented faculty. The other problem it will likely solve is that of giving a platform for a fair market to function (demand and supply) while removing any financial dirt from the education system. Education that feeds the needs of the community and business, meaning placement focused education may be the arms needed to power 1/6th of the world’s population to fight many a societal ills. This may indeed be the greatest tribute the government will pay to Dr.Sarvepalli Radha krishnan, whom the present government and the nation as a whole unequivocally hold in great regard.

Innovation, outcome and placement driven education system is the force needed to place India on the high growth trajectory, while education also cures many ills in society like poverty and discrimination. This possibly can stop the NITI Aayog being deemed as a newly packaged Planning Commission. As the saying goes indeed “The dashe of a Pen, is more greevous than the counterbuse of a Launce”.

We are all proud to come from the land where medicine and surgery ware first practiced and the world’s first university (Nalanda, in present day Bihar) was established. The Indian contribution to world in the spheres of science by Aryabhatta, Ramanujan and years before them are of great heritage. However it is time to move away from the modern day version of the so-called “Hindu rate of growth” and to improvise the education system to achieve the growth rates that sparked the innovation hub of the prosperous and a land centuries ahead of its time – ‘The Indus valley’.