According to a report by UNICEF India will have 31 crore graduates by 2030, of which 16 crore will lack skills to be employed. This links to the way learning is delivered in Indian classrooms, whether it be in schools or colleges. Indian classrooms have traditionally been very teacher driven, where learners are almost completely dependent on the teacher.
Asking questions, exploring their areas of interest or working collaboratively, which are essential skills in the workplace, are not nurtured in most learners in schools. Instead, learners are supposed to be passive recipients, of knowledge being imparted. This approach has serious implications for job prospects in a constantly changing world.
The world is constantly changing and so is the future of work. What learners learn in schools and colleges now will not fully prepare them for the workplace of the future. Further, it will be expected of them to adapt and pick up new skills constantly. In such a scenario, only those with an ability to self-learn will survive in the job market. Self-learning builds 21st century skills, viz. self awareness, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.
Such skills are important for learners, to find agency to communicate the needs, aspirations and ideas. This approach to learning creates a community of learners, defying the socially-conditioned hierarchies. It is a way forward from the traditional learning setup where the learner passively ‘receives’ knowledge from the educator.
In today’s job market, individuals who have the ability to self-learn are constantly upgrading their skills through online courses, workshops and webinars. Unfortunately, the ability to explicitly identify one’s learning needs, spaces and opportunities to fulfill those learning needs, is heavily skewed in favour of those from privileged backgrounds. For instance, if one looks at data of the HarvardX courses (free online courses from Harvard University), odds of those with a college-educated parent completing the course are twice as much as those whose parents did not go to college.
This need not be the case.
If we are able to promote self-learning environments in classrooms early on, every learner can be a self-learner. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 stresses the importance of critical thinking skills. It offers an opportunity to rethink the way education is delivered in classrooms today. As we begin implementation of the NEP, it would be crucial to keep self-learning at the centre of pedagogical reforms to ensure that every child in India gets access to a self-learning environment, and picks up the ability to learn independently. This will ensure that learners passing out of school not just have the skills to get placed in the job market but to thrive, by constantly learning and adapting to the changing requirements of the workplace.
To know more about how the approach to learning can be shifted, and what this means in the Indian context, read our working paper — Self-Learning: Concepts, Principles and Strategies. We interviewed educators, learners, and practitioners, compiled our learnings from the last few years, and published this paper with support from Bank of America and Fossil Foundation.
Advocacy Manager, Quest Alliance