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CII Education Summit 2023: ‘We are at a cusp where lifelong learning is going to be the future, says Mr DP Singh of Amazon Web Services, India

At the CII Education Summit 2023, Mr Aditya Berlia Past Chairman of Delhi State, Confederation of Indian Industry and Co-promoter Apeejay Stya and Svran Group and Co-Founder and Pro-Chancellor of Apeejay Stya University convened the session on ‘Global Movement Towards Education Transformation-Taking Education to the Next Billion’

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The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) recently organised Delhi Education Summit-2023 with the theme: Transforming Education to Transform the World – Building a Strong Foundation for Youth’. Honourable Deputy Chief Minister and Education Minister of Delhi Mr Manish Sisodia graced the event as the Chief Guest. The inaugural session was also attended by Madhav Singhania, Chairman, CII Delhi state.

Mr Aditya Berlia Past Chairman of Delhi State, was the convenor of the session on ‘Global Movement Towards Education Transformation-Taking Education to the Next Billion’.

The panelists included Professor Rihan Khan Suri, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Delhi Skill and Entrepreneurship University, Mr DP Singh, Employability Consultant, AWS India, and Ms Divya Taneja, HR Professional and OD Consultant and leadership and behavioural trainer.

Welcoming everyone, Mr Berlia said he was excited about the Global Movement Towards Education Transformation-Taking Education to the Next Billion session, the three panelists and going a little more into depth beyond the macro challenges.

“A large part of what we want to focus on is how we can change things on the ground. The honourable Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi had mentioned the problem with the sky is the limit versus the bottom line. This is what we have to work on. India’s population has now reached 1.4 billion officially. Our research centre says that only around 35-40 million Indians have received the type of education opportunities that can truly make a difference. How do we take this one, five, and 10 per cent to the next billion people? This is the biggest challenge that we have,” Mr Berlia said.

Excerpts from the panel discussion.

Mr Berlia: What do you think are the major challenges or opportunities in trying to scale excellent education?

Mr DP Singh: It is a tough question to answer. Many studies talk about digitisation – digital skills – becoming foundational. And Math and literacy get enabled if you have digital skills. If we can make sure that by leveraging digital, we can get across what we want to teach in a standardised way and in a way with which a student can learn in a personalised way at his/her pace, in this case, the scale is possible. However, we do have several challenges before us.

Mr Berlia: How do we structurally address the fact that while almost everyone has the Internet, they are not using it to learn?

Mr DP Singh: If we look at the World Economic Reform report from last year, even broadcasting is not reaching across the globe and we are talking about the E9 countries like India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, and Mexico. There is a huge potential to get the education to the last mile but it is not happening. When education is not personalised, not offered interestingly, people don’t come forward. The most important thing to address is how to make this possible. It is not about taking a class on Zoom it is about making what has to be taught interestingly and we have the means to do so.

Mr Berlia: So is there a need to make education content first in an interesting way?

Mr DP Singh: In terms of infrastructure, the schools too need to have the facilities that are needed. The Annual Status of Education Report that was released recently mentioned: Now usable toilets for girls have gone up to 68.4 per cent in 2022 from 66.4 per cent in 2018. There are several things on paper but what we need is a transformational mindset within our bureaucracy and critical leaders with the ability to drive this.

Mr Berlia: One of the practical aspects of skilling is practice. How do we scale this?

Professor Rihan: We need to first understand what Delhi Skill and Entrepreneurship University (DSEU) which was established in 2020 is about. A year later, we were able to introduce 12 UG programmes; in March 2022, the Delhi Government has merged all polytechnics with DSUE. Suddenly we became big and faced the challenge of skilling the youth of today. People are talking about schools and universities but nobody is talking about our polytechnics.

The problem with students of polytechnics was that most of them were joining after class X. Unfortunately, nobody is considering them as ITIs or hiring them as associates or even BTech. Second, none of the polytechnics some of the best when they were established, had been updated in the last few years. With no labs, the students were left at sea. This is when IIT-Delhi came to our rescue and 3,300 students managed to complete their lab work there. This is a small example of effort, intent, and collaboration.

Our biggest problem is to cater to our huge population especially since the Government has said that we need to skill a lakh youth every year. Where we lack in good faculty; I invite industry leaders to step in here. We need 1,500 computers and are struggling to arrange for the same. Technology gets updated at a fast pace; we needed the latest computers. The solution? We called the industry and launched 12 programmes with them in collaboration. We concentrated on the industry integration and not the industry interface. The industry partners didn’t disappoint and several labs were set up for several programmes. We invite industry experts to join us and work in collaboration with us.

Mr Berlia: A big issue we face is that training has to be done in small groups. How do we scale this to the masses?

Divya Taneja: I would like to take off from what Mr Singh said ‘personalisation of content’, in this case, training. One size doesn’t fit all. Every person is different and the same training can’t be given en masse. One can give training in batches but in case we want to scale it, the motivation to get trained has to come from within the person; one can only learn if one is willing.

To overcome this challenge, we are trying to coach people in a manner that is personalised but is also a part of what is being done within the organisation. Also, the overall intent of the organisation has to be in developing and investing in their leadership (people). While companies may be willing to invest in technology, infrastructure, and expansion, not everyone is investing in people which is the biggest asset of any organisation.

Many organisations have started investing in their workforce and recognising the need and appreciating the people that they have. Still, there is a long way to go. We have become comfortable with what we are doing and taking up something new will affect our comfort level. It is also important to put certain expectations at the student level.

Mr Berlia: How do we convert the behavioural mindset of the billion population including those who have a great vision to take control of their learning?

Mr DP Singh: I have two responses. At Amazon Web Services, we are doing work with four states on digital education. With the national credit framework that is coming up, the polytechnics will get their due attention. Second is the Gallup study, this is positive news. The report released this year, across 19 countries, focused on people employed in the digital space. The report asked a question: How many wanted to get reskilling in this space? Almost 77 per cent of the employees wanted to take these classes and India topped the list.

The next question asked was: Why do you want to skill yourself? There were a few things that came up — first, everyone got something in return; second greater job security.

Mr Berlia: How do we motivate people intrinsically?

Mr DP Singh: Technology now needs to run horizontally. This is because it cuts across all sectors. Interestingly, if you want to process huge data sets, there is a need for high-performing computing. There is a need to know how to leverage technology to get very fast data and not to work on them for years. We are at a cusp where lifelong learning will get embedded in the next three to five years. Gen Alpha will focus on lifelong learning. There is going to be a growing trend where a lot more certifications will be required along with basic degree education. At the end of the panel discussion, Mr Berlia requested everyone present at the Summit to pick up at least one course and complete it in the next six months or one year. “Everybody, who is present at the Summit, can act as a peer leader and push people to take up at least one course, in any field. This will lead to an organisational mental pattern of reaching that continuous life learning and life journey. It is only when we do a cultural change beginning with us and within groups can we ask the rest of the country to do the same,” Mr Berlia said in conclusion.

Shalini is an Executive Editor with Apeejay Newsroom. With a PG Diploma in Business Management and Industrial Administration and an MA in Mass Communication, she was a former Associate Editor with News9live. She has worked on varied topics - from news-based to feature articles.

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