Ruchir Arora, Co-Founder and CEO, CollegeDekho

Ruchir is the Co-Founder and CEO of CollegeDekho which is one of India’s fastest growing Ed-Tech startups. CollegeDekho is connecting students to colleges and universities from across geographies with the latest information on admissions, entrance tests, infrastructure, courses and careers. The startup aims at institutionalizing students counselling in India and thus far has counselled over four million students in just six years of its inception. Ruchir has 20 + years of experience in internet start-ups, technology and media domains. Ruchir did his Mechanical Engineering from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology in 2001 and went to the Indian School of Business for PGP in Information Technology and Finance. He has worked with TechM as a Manager and led Sales Operations for Shine.com, India’s premier job portal, managing 200+ sales executives across 10 locations. Ruchir founded HTCampus.com in 2010 targeting the education advertising and admissions services market.

 

The Indian education market is expected to grow 2X to $225 billion by FY25 at 14 per cent CAGR over FY20-25 as per an IVC and PGA Labs report titled ‘The Great Un-Lockdown: Indian EdTech’. In fact, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has estimated that India’s EdTech expenditure would reach $10 trillion by 2030.

With such high stakes, the Indian education ecosystem is actually one of the world’s largest democratic educational eco systems! While the government is investing in the creation of numerous HEI’s, the gap in the ratio of seats in good HEI’s compared to the ratio of students seeking admission is high.

So, where is the problem? Is India’s primary education behind the fact that most students do not make the cut or is it the huge discrepancy in our education system to which the students are the ultimate victims?

Every year, nearly 10 million students graduate class 12th across central and state boards. The unrealistic cutoffs and high competition makes it a tough call for students to secure admission in the highly acclaimed government-backed institutions like Delhi University, Mumbai University, IITs, NITs, IIITs, NLUs, AIIMS, IHMs, etc., that have only 0.17 million (1.7 lakh) seats on offer. As a result of that, only a few meritorious students are able to grab seats in the courses of their choice, while the majority is left to fend for themselves. Where do they go?

Well, a lot of them look at other public and state universities or standalone institutions where they can find affordable education coupled with highly qualified faculty but may have to compromise on the infrastructural facilities and limited modes of learning available for them.

And it is here that the private education sector has taken over. And this can be validated by the fact in the growth of private educational institutes across India who have catered to the ultimate need of making higher education accessible to the masses. Many private colleges and universities in India, through their industrial collaborations and efforts to meet global standards, are continuously providing students with the necessary exposure through practical learning methods with an aim to produce global leaders. Private setups like BITS Pilani, VIT University have even featured in the top 1200 in QS Rankings 2022 that were released recently.

But on the flip side, there also exists private set-ups offering education that are either bogus or expensive as compared to the government institutes. So students seeking admission need to be extra-cautious while choosing the right college. With so many options available to students, it is but natural to be confused on the right college to choose. Given the lack of any central guidance system, the new-age ed-tech platforms are making use of this (in)opportunity to help students in their higher education journey.

Besides the shift in college options, students are no longer limited to opt for traditional courses like MBBS, engineering or sciences. In current times, non-conventional courses like Physiotherapy, Optometry, Hotel Management, Graphic Designing, Digital Marketing, VFX & Animation, etc. are emerging as hot alternative career options. And that’s not the only shift; students have varied electives to choose from as per their interest and likeability nowadays irrespective of their main course of study.

Secondly, access to the internet for the young generation has increased manifold that has now resulted in a great mobile penetration in the country. Education and learning is now available at a click, mostly in an audio-visual or interactive format. Students are not only engrossed in their regular course curriculum, but they are also taking keen interest in taking up additional online courses that they can access anytime and anywhere with a purpose of honing their skills in a particular field of interest.

Thirdly, both government and private colleges and universities are continuously diversifying their portfolios and brand image by signing up MoUs with industries as well as other leading educational organisations in India as well as abroad to foster relationships and network alliances. Students are encouraged to enroll in exchange programs to make them globally aware and more employable.

The use of Artificial Intelligence and other upcoming technologies is also helping institutions in shifting gears to a fresh and easy to use form of student assessment that encompasses a more student-specific feedback, evaluation and grading tools, proctored online examinations, etc.

Covid-19 has changed the education framework of the world and has adapted to a more experiential learning methodology. While most have adjusted to the new education formula, India, with its massive geographical proportions is still facing uninterrupted education due to unavailability of the basic infrastructure. Moreover, with vernacular education prevalent in Tier 2 & Tier 3 cities, the gap seems to be increasing.

The sudden shift has not been easy on the teachers either. With traditional teaching suddenly being replaced by online classes, has made the teacher’s job harder. In addition to preparing course material, they are required to keep pace with the emerging digital tools and methodology and adapt to them.

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is set to bring about more changes in the education system of India in the next 5-7 years. The introduction of the Academic Bank of Credit will enable students to look at multiple entry and exit options within stipulated time periods at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Additionally, MHRD will also create a special unit that will focus on developing infrastructure and digital content to promote e-education. Multiple measures will also be taken to introduce more online courses and digital repositories, recognise MOOCs on the basis of credits in order to ensure quality of imparting knowledge is maintained.

With major changes expected in the next few years, we are yet to see how the gala plan of empowering students with higher education will pan out, but one thing is certain; if India is able to pull off & implement the NEP policies with getting tangled in the web of bureaucracy, India can surely stand tall with the USA, UK or Canada etc. with its quality of education and increasing employability of students.

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