Exploring the Divide Between Academia and Industry

Exploring the Divide Between Academia and Industry

Much has been spoken about the gap between academia and industries in the Indian educational landscape. Lack of employability skills in Indian graduates has been a raising concern among the industry leaders, academicians and students alike.

While many efforts are underway on several levels to close this gap, very little investigation has been made to understand the possible causes. How will the solutions yield results when we haven’t made comprehensive attempts at understanding the deep-rooted sources of the problem?

This article is our stab at exploring one of these causes that’s rarely thought about. Let’s begin with some data to gauge what exactly the gap between academic delivery and corporate wants looks like.

Indian Institutes on Global Employability Scale

In the 2022 QS Graduate Employability Rankings, not even a single Indian higher education institute appears in the top 100 best institutes on the employability scale. India’s premiere institutes — IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi and IIT Madras make their appearance only in the top 200 ranking list. That means, out of India’s 55000 HEIs including more than 1000 universities, only 3 institutes produce graduates with employability quotient that’s comparable on a global level.

In a country with such a huge number of HEIs, this is indeed an alarming stat, especially considering our demographic dividend. India being one of the youngest populations in the world, it’s critical for us to tap into the potential of our youth, which is expected to drive our nation’s economic growth in the coming years.

According to the India Skills Report 2022, the unemployability rate among Indian youth is at an astonishing 54.1%. That means, out of 100 graduates in India, 54 are unemployable. While this article focuses on Indian stat, we must admit that gap between academia and industry is a global issue affecting a large number of countries.

To explore and understand one of the potential causes of this gap, let’s shift our attention to the fundamental structure on which our education system is built.

The Design of Our Education System

As soon as a child enters the educational ecosystem, they are expected to deliver the best performance. Not just their best performance, but the best performance in class. Every parent wants their child to do better than other kids. Children are made to compete against one another, and only those that emerge at the top are considered worthy of appreciation.

We conveniently forget that every child is gifted in unique ways, and that it’s the job of educational institutes to explore and nurture this gift. Instead, we rely on standardised tests to evaluate every student in the same manner and then we assign them scores based on their performance in these tests.

Based on their scores, we prematurely predict that the students with higher scores have a bright future ahead of them and those that don’t would stay mediocre in life.

A very popular and befitting quote from Albert Einstein summarizes the conundrum and tragedy in the foundational design of our education system.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

Neither are these tests comprehensive nor are they conclusive, and it’s because of them that unhealthy competition thrives in our educational institutes.

From a very young age, a child begins of think of their peers as their competitors. Someone they should win over to prove their merit. In our education system, there’s only one place at the top and every child is pushed to achieve that place.

Learning, unlike sports, doesn’t have to be competitive. Learning is not a race. There shouldn’t be winners or losers in learning.

What Are We Losing?

When we evaluate every child based on standard exams that are biased towards the academically gifted students, we incur heavy losses.

It’s a personal loss. Because a child with an average or below-average performance in academics starts to lose confidence in themselves and believe that they are no good. And that they don’t have a place in this world. A child with above average performance also suffers as they are under constant pressure to keep up their scores. Also, students who perform well academically find themselves looking at their future with a tunnel-vision as they are coerced to pursue careers that align with their “high intelligence”. Very often high performing students are dissuaded from chasing creative and artistic career paths as they are told that their talent would be wasted in those professions.

It’s a social loss. When we make our children compete against each other academically, we miss out on the incredible synergy and team skills that could be born and nurtured in them.

Now, why is this important?

When our children step out of this competition-driven educational world and enter the professional ecosystem, they are expected to be good team players. They are required to support and help their colleagues, and collaborate with each other as they now share common goals with their team and organization that they are a part of.

This transition is what challenges majority of young professionals. They find it difficult to work in a team setting where they have to prioritize the team’s achievements over their own.

There are other skills too that we miss developing in our children as we pressure them to get good grades.

The India Skills Report that we mentioned above conducted studies that show that students with better scores in Learning Agility, Business Communication and Emotional Intelligence grew in their careers to managerial positions twice as fast as those who had better scores in domain knowledge and possessed average soft skills. From this, it can be concluded that lack of soft skills is one of the key reasons why employability level of the Indian youth is low.

What’s the Plan?

Various initiatives are being taken by several educational bodies and agencies, both government and private, to bridge this gap. The Skill India initiative of the current Indian government, undertaken by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) is responsible for all skill development efforts in the country — eliminating the gaps between supply and demand of skilled talent, building training frameworks, skill upgradation and more. The ministry is supported in these efforts by a host of national agencies including National Skill Training Institutes (NSTIs), Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and registered training partners.

The National Education Policy 2020 proposes initiatives and plans to combat this problem as well. Through its multiple entry-exit systems, a student will be able to exit courses or programmes and pursue other courses that may be more aligned with their interests. Such students would still be awarded the certificate for the duration of the courses that were completed by them. Inclusion of apprenticeship and nurturing entrepreneurial spirit of students are some other factors that contribute towards building employability skills.

These are certainly not an exhaustive list of action points taken in the direction to improve the employability quotient. In addition to these, myriad efforts are underway across multiple levels to eliminate the academic-industry gap.

To tackle the inefficiencies of existing examination systems, the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) has launched a nation-wide student learning assessment project called PARAKH. The mission of this project is to assess the technical knowledge, creativity and cognitive skills of undergraduate and post graduate students of across 167 technical institutes of India. With the insights gained from this project, enhancement methods will be prescribed which will help Indian students acquire all-round professional and personal growth and lead them towards better opportunities.

Let’s Initiate Change, Together

Yes, the Indian education system has a thousand miles to go before we can call it one of the best in the world. And even after arriving at that stage, there will be another thousand ways to improve. However, is it enough for us to sit on the side and wait for people within the system to initiate change?

It’s the collective responsibility of the entire nation to action this change — as a student, teacher, parent, educational leader and as a citizen of this country who believes in the future of India.

We at Deetya strongly believe this and therefore everything we do is driven by the mission to be instrumental in the educational transformation.

Our learning platform places learners at the heart of learning. Our system is not built for only top performers or students that are academically bright, but for every kind of learner and teacher. Our platform is designed to leverage technology to enable collaborative and cooperative learning. We don’t believe learning is a zero-sum game where there’s only one winner. That’s why with Deetya, students can communicate, discuss and argue on lessons, concepts and more. They can learn across geographies and cultures, promoting a strong collaborative and team spirit among students.

We believe every child is different with their unique styles of learning.
Another way in which Deetya helps is through its comprehensive evaluation system. It tracks student behaviour and recommends the best learning path for every student that plays to their natural strengths.

A conducive learning environment should have no place for insecurity or unhealthy competition. Impactful learning occurs in environments where peers are supportive and friendly. Where students are not scared of judgement and tests, but happily take part in evaluations that gauge their potential and encourage them to polish their inherent skills. We urge all readers to play an instrumental role in bringing this paradigm shift in the realm of learning.

Deetya is a light and intuitive learning platform that enables educators, students, parents and institutes work together to achieve powerful learning outcomes and maximise learning impact. If you are interested in knowing more about how Deetya is transforming education, click here.

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