Feb 17 2016
Vidyasaarathi- Unlocking Potential in the Education Sector
India is on the path to becoming one of the youngest nations in the world by 2030. This is the population that carries the weight of productivity of the nation. And the population that needs to be employable, with productive skill sets and opportunities. Higher education is what can give them the edge to raise their income-level, pulling up the nation’s GDP alongside.
However, a study by Ernst & Young indicates that the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of youth enrolled in higher studies was only 17.9 % in 2012 as against the world average of 27%, with wide disparity in terms of urban and rural, gender and community etc. The reasons are many, but prominent among them is the lack of funding. Though government, both at the Centre and the State-level is spending close to INR 1000 crores every year on scholarships for deserving students and the private sector too has taken individual initiatives in a small way to fund higher education, this is only a drop in the ocean.
With government making it mandatory for corporates to place 2% towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) endeavours in 2014, the opportunity to encourage the corporate sector to help bridge this gap presented itself. A digital platform to enable unlocking the potential of the youngsters, poised at the brink of their careers is what we envision. Compared to other nations such as the UK where education loan is utilised by about 85% of students pursuing higher studies and the US where the percentage of students using education finance is 77%, India has only 3% of students availing education loans. This means, India has the possibility of doubling and more, the amount of education funding available for students enrolled in higher education in the near future.
A student in need of education finance could log onto a digital platform and register herself to access a one-stop shop or single online platform to gather information on scholarships available, potential fund providers, courses offered, seats available across various educational institutes to students, etc. The student being the centre of the digital solution, along with providing vital information on scholarships and provisioning end-to-end scholarship application process, every registered student will have a dashboard that displays a summary of their activity.
The seamless, secure, instant, and cashless fund management and disbursement system, would thus serve to fulfil the fund requirements of students. Development of a robust electronic training system with process simulations for each user type, along with an online evaluation mechanism would further enable utilisation of the platform by the intended target.
In a unique initiative, the platform would allow scholarships to be tailored to the use they are intended. This means that students would get a debit card or a mobile app connect to a pocket server which will have pre-defined pockets for each expense category such as tuition fee, hostel fee, books etc. which could be used only at registered merchants, within a specified limit for each category. Fund providers can then rest assured that the money being provided is being exactly used for the express purpose it was given for.
The other important stakeholder in this process is the education scholarship fund provider. This category would cover education trusts, education institutes, corporate entities, alumni associations, individual contributors etc. With the inclusion of mandatory CSR initiatives in the new Companies Act, 2013, corporate entities are expected to be the major contributors to fund creation for educational needs. The digital platform will provide specialized systems to fund providers to manage and control the process of scholarship approval and disbursement. Once the fund provider designs and defines the scholarship criteria, the platform will channel applications submitted by students that match these criteria. Funds would be disbursed to beneficiary accounts when fund provider awards scholarships.
With Vidyasaarathi in place, there will be hope for higher education for students who are currently excluded and the platform will enable corporates to fulfil their obligations to society too.