India It has the second highest population in the world, with a large youth population. Roughly, more than 50% of our population is under the age of 25. The lockdown caused by the pandemic has almost brought the world to a halt, and its impact on the education sector has been massive. India’s education system has focused on being online-centric, and has remained committed to staying the course. Now, as we move forward, universities will play a critical role in establishing a positive Total enrollment ratio (gear). To understand this, let’s first decode the overall enrollment ratio.

The concept of Gross Enrollment Rate provides a rough estimate of the percentage of the eligible population that is enrolled in a given level of literacy or education. For example, the number of students who are enrolled in primary school as a percentage of the population who are of primary school age is known as the primary school enrollment rate during a given school year.

India has witnessed an exceptional growth in the higher education sector over the past three decades. However, despite this significant growth in the number of higher education institutions, India’s gross enrollment rate is far below the global average and more developed countries. According to the IBEF reports, the enrollment rate in tertiary education in India reached 27.1% in FY21. Moreover, the report states that the Government of India aims to reach a gross enrollment rate of 50% by 2035 in higher education, but universities and educational institutes need to Work together to achieve this goal.

Reasons for low gross enrollment rate in India
For a country as dynamic and powerful as India, school enrollment of less than 30% in tertiary education is too low to be complacent. According to many media reports, the global average GER is very high. According to estimates, the United States has the highest school enrollment rate at around 88.2%, followed by Germany at 70.3%, France at 65.6%, the United Kingdom at 60.6%, Brazil at 51.3%, China at 49.1%, and Indonesia at 36.4%. South Africa (22.4%) and Pakistan (9.4%) are the two countries after India in terms of GER.

In India, the concentration of quality higher education institutes is in major cities and towns. Students from small towns cannot live there or travel every day. Then, for enrollment in higher education in India, successful completion of class XII at senior secondary school level is a prerequisite. However, a large portion of the population is not eligible to go to higher education which is responsible for the relatively low enrollment in higher education in India. Also, for the economically poorer section, if there is no guarantee of getting good jobs after higher education, then students have to take up some jobs for subsistence and cannot get into higher education.

Moreover, the gradual decline in the number of students in upper secondary grades may also be due to several other reasons, including gender, language of instruction, and socioeconomic pressures. There is a significant impact on access to education through the ease of access to higher education, its affordability, quality, and suitability for the labor market.

Get more students through scholarships
India’s education sector is expected to reach $225 billion by FY25, according to IBEF and a better GER will surely help achieve this. Government and universities must ensure that everyone has access to quality and affordable education. While the national education policy (nep2020 aims to increase enrollment in higher education, including vocational education, from 26.3% in 2018 to 50% by 2035, and it is also imperative for universities to support this vision through targeted initiatives. One such initiative that is bound to bring about scalable change, is scholarships.

Scholarships are not just rewards and recognition of academic success but also offer economic benefits that attract young minds. Scholarships are an important tool to help encourage and support young aspirants. Many universities, both private and public, offer scholarships to encourage students to pursue postgraduate studies or develop their skills on their own.

For example, the INSPIRE Scholarship for Higher Education (SHE) is a flagship program of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), under the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India. Students who have completed class XII and wish to enroll in an international BSc, BSc, MSc or MSc program at any accredited Indian college are eligible for this scholarship. Meritorious students from any Indian state or Central Board of Education who have scored aggregate marks in the top 1% of their class XII examinations are eligible for a scholarship of up to Rs 80,000 per annum for the duration of the course. Government of India also provides various scholarships to girls, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and economically weaker sections. Apart from the Government of India, institutions like IIM and IIT, updatesAmity University offers and more scholarships to ensure quality education and a best-in-class learning environment for capable students regardless of their gender, economic background, social class and creed.

But we should also keep in mind that while scholarships are a great way to boost access to higher education, there are other efforts that need to be made as well. Universities and educational institutes can also contribute by focusing on upgrading the skills of their teachers and staff. It is essential for teachers to evolve with technology. Quality higher education institutions should open study centers or distance education centers in small towns, and may be in cooperation with local higher education institutions. Universities should resort to a hybrid approach to delivery and the use of technology to offer online courses in small towns and villages and send teachers every two weeks. Industry should also support the creation of laboratories for practical lessons in small towns.

Hence, the focus on providing quality scholarships and encouraging students to complete higher secondary education should work in parallel.

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