Covid 19 : Macro-level impact on Indian Higher Education

The consequences of the lockdown due to COVID-19 have been contemplated to prove devastating on the global education system. As per UNESCO- 80% of the world’s students which comprises a towering figure of 1,379,344,914 across the world are to be affected due to this closure. One can’t escape the fact that the past 2 months were not facile on the education system, and the remaining year 2020 doesn’t seem easy either, perceiving the current scenarioThe step which was taken as a precautionary measure earlier has turned out to be the only known fix of the prevailing moiling plight. Most of the institutions in India are not equipped with the required aids, adding to this we also lack the penetration of technology and resources and that makes the situation even further crucial. Online/Virtual learning cannot run parallel to the face-to-face or physical classroom set-up until the government and private institutions work towards adopting global standards. This transition cannot be done with a short-term perspective, as the digital shift is comparatively new in India. To come at par with the European nations, India has to grapple with these limitations and needs to come up with plans and programs designed explicitly to penetrate the masses. These programs should be further introduced in stages with a perspective to impart training to the industry’s working personnel as well as the students. This has to be done strategically to impose the maximum impact, there are several factors which are affecting higher education during this grilling time. Political, economic, social, environmental, demographical, technological, legal are just to name the few. Here, to cover the maximum relevant context we have tried to categorize the entire gist into five separate segments: –

1.)   Impact on Education Funding 

The Indian government has allocated 99,300 crores to the Education sector, which includes 3,000 crores for Skill Development under the Union Budget,2020. Infrastructure, funds-deficit, scarcity of efficient workforce, limited resources, and low penetration of technology have always been a tight-spot for India.

Funding can be attained in 4 different ways: –

a.) Government Funding

b.) Private Funding

c.) Funding through different foundations

d.) Funding through Professional Organizations

By 2030 India claims to have the largest population of working-age, which is quite staggering, India as a nation should boost its formulated strategies targeting this sector, or else, we will be left far behind. Here, funds crunch can be considered as the most prodigious ailment- the sector is lacking grants and aids from the government leaving the sector highly unstructured when it comes to the money deposition. The private sector is struggling due to the cut-throat competition, limited sponsors, and aids whereas the government institution has its circumspection. This pandemic has delayed the money generation and flow already, and India can expect a testing time ahead. Apart from being conventional, our education system can be considered as expensive as well, for example- institute like IIM Ahmedabad charges 23 lacs for a 2 year MBA program, which anyways is quite heavy on the pocket for an average Indian, and the current situation has already restricted the incomes of the parents, and has derailed the up-coming placements as well. The infrastructure of the education sector has improved a lot in the past decade but still, there is a lot to improvise- as infrastructure is crucial to attracting the students from across the countries, to have the best of faculties, and to stand parallel to the world-class education. As the scenario is changing institutions have started focusing a lot more on the commissioning and maintenance of their base and premises. Institutions which are having plans to invest, improve, or establish the infrastructure may be compelled to reconsider their plans and decisions. Foreign/ domestic investments, grants, aids, scholarships everything will be under the radar and only calculative scrutiny can help the institutions to come up with the most favourable outcomes. 

Few Recommendations to overcome the immediate funding related issues

 a.) More agencies/proposals should be introduced to back-up and support the educational institutions, in their capital expenditure and infrastructure development,

b.) More support should be extended to increase the investment in the Education sector, and thus improvising the global rankings.

c.) Research and R&D programs should be encouraged and promoted to convoke with global standards.

d.) Due to the COVID pandemic, there will be a shift in the contribution of the companies to the CSR activities. The education sector should come up with new ideas and theories as a whole and work towards channelizing the contribution tactfully   

e.) Scholarships and relaxation on taxes needs to be re-considered

2.)     Technological Impact on Higher Education 

We can have at least the basics of human survival going because of the technology and access to the knowledge/information we are having in today’s time. No information and technique are distant in this era of internationalization, the pandemic is certainly going to affect the entire education system in the long run and who knows if the new techniques of learning will become the soul of the education system in the future. Technology is the sole resource that has made the virtual mode of education possible in this pandemic. Online education is not new in India but certainly is less penetrated due to the lack of access to technology by the major portion of the population. The pandemic has compelled the world to reinvent the years’ old education system. Technology plays a vital role in the modern education system, India has always been conventional, rigidly structured, and process-driven with its education system, it also lacks practicality and exposure to what European and western education offers.

However, things are changing at a great pace. Technology in education has evolved to a great extent in the last 20 years thanks to globalization and privatization, it has turnaround more in these years than it has in the entire century. I-pad, tablets, smartphones, desktops, laptops, speakers, microphones, in-built cameras, etc. have made the entire process impactful and interactive. Audio-visual medium, power-point presentations, animation software has made the process seamless to a great extent. As per a report by KPMG- the Indian online education industry will register a 6X growth in 2021. From 1.6 million users in 2016, it will grow to 9.6 million users by 2021 with a worth of $1.96 billion. India has come a long way and the entire education system has seen a turnaround era of advancement and development. Be it Higher education, scientific researches, technological advancements, up-gradation in technology, advancement in space science, nuclear power, healthcare advancements India has consistently proven itself across the areas. Setting out from the micro level to the macro level, research, and development in the field of technology has created an ideal niche for the overall growth of the economic condition of the country.

Areas that need attention: –

a.) The wide gap in technology penetration

b.) Accessibility of technology is a challenge

c.) Lack of awareness and over-all literacy

d.) Education system’s rigid approach, makes innovations usage difficult

e.) Imparting practical knowledge and exposure should be encouraged

 3.) Impact of Internationalization 

 Globalization has bought a rapid rift in the Indian economy and it is growing like never before, this has proven India to be the most promising and emerging market in the entire world. India is the hub of a maximum number of intuitions across the globe, the number itself makes the entire sector huge and complex. COVID-19 has bought the entire world to a stand-still situation and has imposed a lockdown almost across the globe. In such a situation, technology has been proving to be a blessing for mankind. It’s only because we have various mediums to interact, we can see around, stay connected, and know, what is happening where? Since. So much is happening in the technology and education sector, there has arrived the need to re-evaluate and re-address the basics of the education sector. The process, the curriculum, and syllabus which was structured years ago can’t be considered enough for the current alpha generation. Change is the need of the hour, and there won’t be any surprise if this current situation will change things forever. The pandemic has forged a situation that has contrived us to realize that there still exists certain mien that humans can’t take a hold on. We need to revise and rethink the pattern used for imparting education. Apparently, the alpha generation has been abreast of the technology and is much more confident with the global changes. Interestingly as per a study done by Dell Technologies report, 85% of the jobs by 2030 that generation Alpha will enter into, have not been invented yet. And according to a World Economic Forum report, 65% of primary school children today will be working in job types that do not exist as yet. The impact of internationalization can be divided into four broad categories- academic, economic, political, and cultural. The majority of academic institutions in India are not equipped to host a significant number of foreign students, due to the outdated curriculum with little focus on global trends. The absence of adequate accommodation for international students and staff, infrastructure, and other imperious resources has made the area grey. 

 Findings & Struggles to the Education sector-

 Indian higher education system can be broadly categorized into the Government and Private sector and mostly both of them run on different tangents. The idea of globalization and internationalization is different for private and government institutions also, there exists a vast gap in the quality as well. Be it infrastructure, faculty, standard admission processes, campus life, or any other facet for that matter. Except for the IIMs, IITs, and the few other institutions that held the prime importance to the nation, most of the other institutions are neglected and are not facilitated with the best of the industry. While most of the government sector institutions fail to take major notice and are left ignored, the private sector has come-up with manicured infrastructure with all the possible commercial ways of growing its finances with no promised and assured quality. Since the sector is huge, complex and un-organized to a great extent, India needs to come up with a plan where both the private and government sector can work hand-in-hand and thus contrive the overall status of the Indian Education System, with an ultimate goal of bringing it at par with the global standards. Also, as there is expected to be a dip in the number of students going abroad, obviously the prospects will look around domestically for the courses of their interest. This may create a boom in the sector and there will be a rise in the demand, and thus new institutions will appear in the coming years. Those who are existing already may consider increasing their number of seats or come up with expansion in the potential-departments/courses/location or the research areas. This will raise the market share and will create a competitive environment that will lead to the need for marketing to position and stand out.

4.) Impact on Employability

The World Bank expressed in a report, on the impact of COVID-19 on migration and remittances-

“In India, remittances are projected to fall by about 23 percent in 2020, to USD 64 billion – a striking contrast with the growth of 5.5 percent and receipts of USD 83 billion seen in 2019.”

COVID-19 has led the world towards the global recession, almost all the countries in the world are suffering and contemplating the ways to cope up with the peril. Employment has always been a problem area for the Indian economy. We are the nation with the 2nd largest population and also, have the 2nd largest workable age population in the whole wide world. India has been struggling with its employment generation rates since forever, close to 90% of the working population in India is engaged in the informal sector. It’s an irony to the nation that a country that owns the burden of one of the highest numbers of child-labor scuffles to make the jobs available for the age-appropriate. COVID pandemic has made the situation even more shoddy. There is a large segment of the unorganized informal sector in India that includes laborers, construction workers, factories-mill workers, vendors, house-helpers which will suffer the most and are at greater risk.

Our economy is expected to lose over 32,000 crores every single day during the first phase of the lock-down and has affected almost 53% of overall businesses significantly. Derailed services of supply chain and logistics have greatly affected the farmers who majorly grow perishables. Hotels, tourism, aviation, young start-ups are the segments bearing the dip extensively and the situation doesn’t seem to revive for some time even after the lockdown is over. Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) have been affected partially as they have shifted their operation majorly towards the essentials during the phase.

The lockdown is undoubtedly proven to be the need of the hour, but it’s consequences are going to be catastrophic and desolating. The economy will need quiet some months if not years, with a range of strategically designed plan-of-actions to subsist this whirl. Former RBI Chief Raghuram Rajan has said that the- “Coronavirus pandemic in India may appear to be the greatest emergency since the Independence”. The novel threat has slacked the chances of new jobs into the market, those who already have jobs in hand are facing the offer-revoke, the existing employees are witnessing salary slash or are fearing the layoffs/terminations and the freshers are in a plain dilemma of where to start. This pandemic has not affected one particular sector, industry, or area of the economy rather it has bought the nation-wide or better to say global turbulence. It has been said that the world is never going to be the same again. Whatever may be the situation, sooner or later things will be settled and the world will find the way out. Maybe the world may need to change its approach and its working mechanism forever. But certainly, this crisis will take the employability to a different dimension, what is existing may seem to be obsolete and non-existing could take the front seat. Research, pharma & healthcare, skilled-experts from the industries, R&D, Big data, machine learning, robotics, and AI-related jobs may see a boom in the future. There may come numerous areas of jobs which are unknown and unrevealed to mankind at present.

 5.) Impact on Enrollment

 India is conventional in its approach when it comes to education and since higher education nowadays is an expensive experience; it involves a lot of concerns and variables which a student and the family consider, before calling it a final decision. The process may seem to have a couple of areas that are already in practice during the enrolment processes. However, we can’t deny the fact that we are still skeptical in this era of digitalization, we still hesitate to rely completely on the virtual experiences and if the experience is costing us the money, time, and the way our career will take the shape, we become furthermore susceptible. Anticipating completely on anything which is intangible and not concrete is difficult for us.

But the time is changing, COVID-19 has paced the speed of this change. And we have to compete with this make-over to survive and to retain ourselves from becoming obsolete. Enrolment has changed to a great extent in the past couple of decades, thanks to technology. The current enrolment process in India is a blend of online and in-person collaboration however, we are in the time where we have to come out with these inhibitions and accept and implement the current trends. The rise of this need is not just to cope-up with the existing parallel world, rather it should be considered more as the need of the hour. We have compiled the few findings with the context of this COVID pandemic impact on enrollment across the nation.

Potential impacts that may be triggered due to the pandemic crisis: –

 a.) Cancellation of major competitive exams to study abroad like TOFEL, IELTS, SAT, ACT, GMAT may reduce the access to standardize tests/exams

b.) There may be further suspension and delay in various exams and admission processes

c.) Trans-national and Trans-continental enrolment may face a steep dip d. Study abroad programs and cultural-exchange programs may lose its charm

e.) Institutions may find it hard to pocket and manage their wealth

f.) The pandemic will have a demographic, geographic, cultural, political, and geopolitical impact on the overall enrolment process

g.) The proximity of the institutions/universities will be of prime concern to the students and families

h.) The way an institution will reposition itself with the fast-changing scenario due to the virus will play a decisive role

i.) Intuitions that broadly rely on foreign students, maybe shambled acutely

j.) Several students enrolling abroad will plunge and vice-versa. This will push the domestic institutes to increase their number of seats for the enrolment- and this will further increase the competition

k.) Campus visits and tours may seem a long-lost affair, virtual visits will be the encouraged trend

l.) Social media will become the stage to showcase and represent

  1. The teaching workforce will also expand their reach and horizon

n.) Virtual classes with a blend of students from places (different countries) would be the future

o.) Funding and sponsorships for the institutions and students will change its dimension.