Congress MP and former Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor has said that with its burgeoning young population, India could become work horse of the world given it focuses on education and skill development training. While highlighting the demographic opportunity that India can avail, Tharoor also warned that if the country does not get it right, it could face disaster.
“We are the youngest country in the world we have 560 million people under the age of 25. If you just take high school and school going children from 10- to 19, we have 225 million of them, It mean that for the next 30 or 40 years, India should have a productive dynamic working age population at a time when rest of the world is ageing.” Tharoor said.
Underling the need to focus on education and skill development training, he also cautioned that if this ‘demographic opportunity’ is not handled in a right manner, it could become a ‘national security problem’. “If 26% of 1.2 billion people don’t know how to read and write then we have the world’s largest population of illiterate people as well,” he said.
The Congress MP also emphasised on the role of state in spreading awareness about literacy. “Earlier, if a kid was not in school it was parent’s fault, now it’s a state’s fault,”
The 61-year-old also said that getting into IITs is more difficult than getting into Harvard.
He narrated how Infosys founder Narayan Murthy told a US News channel that his son will get into Harvad if he fails to get admission in IITs.
“When Infosys founder who was asked by the television channel that ahat his son was going to do and where he had applied. And he said, my son has applied for the IITs but I am not sure he will get in.”
” What do you think he will do if he doesn’t get into IIT. His safety is Harvard, he will go to Harvard, this created some astonishment in America but the footnote to the story is that a few months after the interviewer his son did not make it to IIT but got a full fellowship in Harvard. Harvard takes about 10-11 % of all applications while IITs take 0.01% after one of the most rigorous test imaginable in the country, ” he added.
He drew the pont that there is quality in the country and yet it is rare. “There are a few institutions that produce the quality of level of IITs,” he said.
Stressing on the need of an education system where students have more options than just IITs or engineering colleges, he said, “We must have education system that can employ people. It doesn’t mean only IITs or engineering colleges, It means that those who are not able capable, interested in going into those institutions should have a worthwhile alternative and that alternative must lie in vocational training.”
He further noted that India’s education is more concentrated on filling the children’s heads with facts in order to be able to prepare for and pass examination, adding that measure of child’s talent is seen as the marks he or she gets in an examination.