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65 per cent of future jobs don’t exist today
Speaking on the gathering storm in education the new head of Tata Sons, N Chandrasekaran said that there is a shortage of 500,000 doctors; there is need for three times the present number of judges and for a million teachers.

It was N Chandrasekaran’s (Chandra) first address in Chennai within days of taking charge  as chairman of Tata Sons. His three predecessors – Cyrus Mistry, Ratan Tata and JRD Tata – rarely spoke to Chennai gatherings. There was an added interest to hear the chief of India’s largest conglomerate which controls assets worth Rs. 700,000 crore, a sum which is over four times Tamil Nadu’s revenues! 

Chandra was in conversation with Dr S Vaidhyasubramaniam, Dean - Sastra University on pushing the frontiers on Indian education, at the ThinkEdu  Conclave organised by the New Indian Express.

The Tata Sons chairman spoke on the need for providing quality education to the 250 mn children presently served by 1.5 mn schools. He described the major issues as quality and access, shortage of teachers and the changing in requirements. 


Need for a phygital (physical plus digital) movement

“Sixty-five per cent of future jobs don’t exist today,” he said. He pointed to the humungous shortage of 500,000 doctors, the need for three times the present number of judges and the requirement of a million teachers. “Conventional systems cannot fill these gaps,” he added and stressed that disruptive techniques are needed to achieve quantum growth. He said that a ‘phygital’ (physical plus digital) movement is imperative to dramatically change the system, ensure affordability and create jobs. 


Data analytics can help...

Chandra pointed to students having different aptitudes and learning abilities. Data Analytics will assist in personalising education in tandem with the individual’s skills. It was interesting to hear from this IT wizard the possibility of using data infrastructure through Aadhar for creating a programme for each student, to enhance his/her  skill endowment aptitude, and prepare him/her  for the appropriate job. 


Demystify specialisation....

Chandra also emphasised on the need to demystify specialised professions by breaking down the different parts of the value chain and leaving them to the non-specialists. He spoke of the present focus on super-specialisation in the medical profession, (most of which is not required to meet the health care requirements of the masses). He suggested branching off students at the 8th, 10th or 12th grades and imparting skills necessary for a range of paramedical qualifications. 

Dr T K Parthasarathy of Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Hospitals, implemented such a concept.  He introduced a slew of courses for paramedics that substantially reduced the load on the nurses, eg attending to routine telephone calls, to cleanliness... In the US, highly qualified nurses are permitted to offer a range of regular healthcare facilities which do not require the services of  specialist doctors. 

Over 80 per cent of school education is provided by the government or municipalities and corporations, but the quality is pathetic.  There are private run schools which are expensive and unaffordable for most.  Herein lies India’s crisis. 


Jamsetji focused on science education 120 years ago

I raised the issue of the corporate sector’s lack of involvement in this vital area of education. More than 120 years ago, Jamsetji Tata conceived of a world-class science institute. He traveled all over India, zeroed in on Bengaluru and, in collaboration with the princely state of Mysore, set up the Tata Institute of Science. Over the next 100 years, this evolved into the premier institute for high-end science, accounting for the largest number of patents and research publications and is rated the best in the country. Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) are other such shining examples. 

With Chandrasekaran describing education as a priority concern and with TCS’s humungous capabilities, there is scope for corporates to work towards improving the access,  quantity and quality of education at all levels. But first, the government should open up the private-public participation mode.     


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