Sustaining the Indian higher education system

By Siddharth Banerjee, MD – India and Asia, Pearson

With around 1,000 universities and 40,000 colleges nationwide, India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world. However, affordable access to higher education remains a pressing challenge for our country. In 2020, the National Statistical Organization (NSO) released a report based on a survey conducted across India in 2017-2018, revealing that only 10.6% of India’s population over the age of 15 had earned a graduate degree. This proportion drops to 5.7% in rural India and 8.3% among women. Digital education has long been seen as a way to boost enrollment and graduation rates in the country.

Interventions in the field of “digital education” have been taking place since the early 2000s

Most higher education institutions had started experimenting with digital teaching since the early 2000s and when the pandemic hit, this trend exploded. IIM Bangalore has become the first management school in India to partner with edtech provider, edX to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) to students, while Ashoka University has expanded education four walls of a classroom to remotely reach learners aged 18-70+. old.


While the pandemic has necessitated a shift to online education at a faster pace, it has also brought into sharp focus the need to bridge the digital divide. With barely 4% of our population in rural areas having access to computers, compared to 23% in urban areas (source: ONS education report), building India’s higher education system of tomorrow must be complemented by infrastructure reforms, government support and training, collaboration between industry and academia, etc.

The ABCD of the Future of Indian Higher Education System

  • The A of the Indian HED in the test of time

A stands for alliances and partnerships. In an effort to create a multidisciplinary education system focused on new age skills and professional training, universities should increasingly see the value in becoming collaborators rather than remaining competitors. This will allow fair and balanced growth of the sector as a whole.

  • The B of the Indian HED’s sustainability

B stands for blended learning model, which simply means that we have gone beyond face-to-face learning to usher in an era of hybrid or multimedia formats. The classroom experience has become so much richer with access to digital tools by faculty and students. In fact, Pearson’s recently launched eLibrary 2.0 solution is such a tool that allows students to access their course books at their convenience, from anywhere, on any device for a seamless learning experience. . It is a real democratization of education, as envisaged by the government’s new National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020.

  • The C of the sustainability of the Indian HED

C stands for context – both in terms of the NEP 2020 regulatory framework and consumer behavior change. The NEP 2020 plans to infuse the Indian education system with innovative content, delivery and pedagogy that will enable the institutes to prepare for the future, making them more international and globally competitive. Likewise, as learners seek an increasingly personalized and versatile curriculum, educational service providers will need to rise to the challenge.

  • The D of the digital education spine

D stands for digital, the backbone of the future education system that will allow us to reinvent the way learning can be delivered at scale. Here, it is important to remember that digital will never replace the traditional classroom. Just as the printed book opened new avenues of exploration for the student when away from the teacher, digital will expand education like never before. Now, that’s a future worth considering.

Disclaimer: Content Produced by ET Edge