Education in India is bound to take a massive leap forward. My study tour of Indian cities and villages support this belief and conviction.
1. Aspirations of an Indian Parent
I have met many parents who are MDs/IAS/CxO etc. Most of them have an inherent Indian desire for their children to leap forward (compared to themselves) in their careers. They are keen to put their kids in the best of schools with education standards matching best of the world. They are also quite happy to spend crores to get their kids a degree through a US/UK based university like MIT/Oxford etc. I also met a few parents who are class-3 employees in factories who want their kids to be engineers and doctors. A horse cart owner from Bijapur was proud to inform me that his eldest son is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering (BE) in Computer Science from a local engineering college. He expressed a strong desire to ensure higher education for his younger kids too. Irrespective of economic status, every Indian parent has a deep aspiration that their kids must do better than themselves in their careers. This is the most important factor that drives the demand for high quality education services in the country.
2. Systemic shift from Agricultural Economy to Industrial/Knowledge Economy
India is in the middle of shift from Agricultural economy to Industrial/Knowledge economy. I talked to some farmers
recently. One of them said that though he has 15 acres of land, he still cannot have a lifestyle even equivalent to a class-3 worker working in a factory. Hence he does not want his kids to do farming even though he has a large piece of land compared to all others in his village. He is determined to make his kids study in the best possible school at a nearby city even at the cost of selling a part of his land to pay the fees. I’ve also observed that many well-to-do families from villages shift to cities, rent a house and stay there for few years to ensure that their kids get the best possible education. This is a systemic shift. The per-person net income exponentially changes when you shift your profile from being a small farmer to a class-3 factory worker to a class-2 officer to jobs like engineer/doctor/IAS/entrepreneur. There are many such examples that people have seen during the last 20 years. Everyone has the aspiration to move on and make the quantum shift. This, in tis leading to a massive demand for high quality education and training.
3. Young Minds and Massive Consumer Base
We all know the demographic dividend is in India’s favour. We have the largest young population in the world. Human mind is the most productive asset to enable progress of a society. Machines, technologies and automations in vacuum (without significant consumer base) cannot create a sustained economic advantage; Japan is an example of that. Large young population acts like a massive consumer base, and also as a large human capital that can be used to develop goods and services to be in turn used by this large consumer base. This also requires massive scale education and training of all young minds at school level, college level and vocational level.
4. Cost Structure
Most of the good schools in large cities have annual fees in the range of Rs. 25000 – Rs. 50000 per annum. This is less than 1/10th of what you see in developed world either in terms of per capita cost in public schools or per capita fee in private schools. This makes high quality education affordable in India. This cost structure is certainly sustainable for the next few decades. We have teacher quality issues, but when we have millions of graduates and post- graduates unemployed, it is just an issue of addressing the teacher training problem. Last year, I was in a very
small town called Gokak in Karnataka, where 200 candidates walked-in for a primary school teacher job in a good private school. This indicates the pool of aspirants available for teaching jobs. This in turn will ensure that education cost does not inflate due to disproportionate increase in teacher’s salary costs. This cost structure has started driving students from other countries to come to India, and it will only accelerate further.
Technologies and tools like the internet, flight travel, and telephone have made human relocation easier. Indians do not mind leaving their hometown and settling in any part of the world. A large no of Indians would continue to relocate either within or outside the country to produce greater income for their families. This creates a larger demand for trained and educated human capital supply chain. In Kerala, you will hardly find a house where a member of the family is not in the middle-east. I keep visiting Andhra towns, and we all know of their deep urge to send their kids to the US. There are mini-Keralas and Andhras in almost every part of the country. The only way to meet that aspiration to go out is to get good education. And this is also driving the demand for education services, and will continue to do so for many decades to come. In economics, demand is the fundamental building block of progress, which has to be met by corresponding supply. Fulfilling demand for education services will create hundreds of large suppliers and entrepreneurs catering to various verticals and horizontals segments within the sector. Higher entrepreneurial activity leads to competition and innovation, which in long run creates a superpower status for the country in that sector. I am quite positive that we will see India becoming an education superpower in our lifetime.