The recent report tabled in Parliament that more than 100,000 schools in India have just one teacher is an alarming wake-up call for the government and all stakeholders. However, it also offers a genuine opportunity to transform India's archaic education landscape now that a new policy is under discussion.
Four significant challenges confront the education system: a rapidly globalizing environment driven largely by the internet revolution; a serious supply-demand constraint both in terms of larger numbers of potential students and a sharp decline in the availability of teachers; the emergence of changing technologies; and an evolving marketplace that is constantly placing new demands. The government is tasked not only with the right to education of its citizens but, more importantly, the right to quality education. To navigate this terrain requires a dramatic shift in mindsets and the introduction of substantive policy interventions that are innovative, disruptive and immediate.
Unless the population is employable, the demographic dividend can rapidly degenerate into a demographic liability.
For around a decade, Indians celebrated the fact that we are a young nation. As per current statistics, around 600 million Indians are under 25 years of age. At a time when countries like China, Japan, Australia, Germany and many others are facing the uncertainty that accompanies a rapidly aging population, India seemed to hold the key as the growth driver through its increasing reservoir of a young population. We call this the demographic dividend.