Current trends in the education sector

The education sector has seen some fairly interesting trends emerge over the last year. These trends are the beginning and not the end of changes which are vitally important to the industry developing into something that can truly delivery quality education in a sustainable way to a large volume of aspirant students.
Possibly the largest emerging trend is to do with student choices of which programme or course to study. For so long India has been characterized as an economy where undergraduates are focused on becoming Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants and Engineers, and though this is by and large still true, there has been a subtle shift away from these courses and careers due to a broadening of the spectrum when it comes to programmes offered.

Today there are lakhs of students looking to pursue more skill and vocational oriented courses like Filmmaking, Design, Fashion, Advertising, PR and Communications as well as more niche areas like Retail, Hospitality, Catering and Food Management and many others. Previously these are all courses that students would have to apply outside of India for, but more and more of these courses are now emerging within the country to take advantage of the demand. And many programmes are doing them very well. Whistling Woods International, for instance, is now amongst the top film schools in the world and is making a name for itself in an industry previously thought of as outside of the education purview.

Another definite trend that is emerging is the move toward virtual learning. More and more programmes and institutions are placing a strong emphasis on the kind of learning that can be supplemented with the help of virtual environments. Khan Academy has led the way in this but doesnt have the brick and mortar set up of an institution and platforms like Apples iTunes and even Googles You Tube and Play Store have tied up with existing Universities to offer lots of courses using the reach of the internet. India also is seeing this move, with a lot of distance learning education moving online to reach more and more aspiring students. Obviously there is a quality issue here to get over, but this is something which given the rise in availability of faster mobile networks coming across the country soon, will surely rise. Riding on the technological revolution in the Education sector, Whistling Woods has set up a Virtual Academy which takes our entire filmmaking foundation course online and has detailed learning and feedback sessions built into the programme. Its a fledgling initiative but one which holds great promise.

Even in schools, more and more teachers are using iPads and connected devices for students to learn with. Applications are being developed to take the standard textbook learning online and make it more vivid with pictures and videos to capture students imagination and make even the most mundane of topics come to life. More and more of the secondary boards of education in India are turning to applications on tablets to aid learning and many schools in the larger cities are mandating students bring a connected device with them to school everyday from class 5 or 6. This is changing the dynamics of how a subject is taught as well as the kind of content that can be thought of for this education.

Gamification is arising in learning environments as well. It has long been held that students respond better to an environment where they can play games and learn side by side. Therefore, the idea of turning learning objectives away from tried methods like course work and assignments into points awarded for practical elements of education. Perhaps writing a blog, making a video or demonstrating a theory. These points final total up to a final grade. This makes the course individualfor students as well as unleashes a certain competitive nature within students which even the most inert pupil has and making it work to the teachers advantage.

In macro terms there has been a lot of talk about new regulations for institutions and changes to the slightly out-dated curricula that a lot of our higher education programmes follow. Sadly, these have not really been implemented as yet but the will still remains which is a reason for hope. The set up of the National Skill Development Council, which is looking at more skilled based education across sectors is also a good initiative but yet lacks the proper guidance in some crucial areas. I think there will be a filter down process but this initiative will mean large gaps in education will be identified and hopefully courses will be created to bridge those lacunas. The need for industry to get involved with education at the higher learning level is vital and its good to see the government try to push this forward in a timely manner.

Largely though Indias education system remains memory based. There is a small shift from this kind of learning and its obvious outcome in terms of examinations to a more applied or skill based learning where the outcomes are based more on practical experiences. This shift though is slow and can be largely unregulated in many cases. These are the major challenges which the education sector must address as we head to 2020 when India will have the most young people in schools and colleges anywhere in the world.

The author is Rahul Puri, Head of Academics at Whistling Woods International

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