India is the second most populous country in the world with 1.3 billion people and 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. This is quite evident that while the whole world is aging, we have a significant percentage of young population. Whether it is a situation to celebrate or lament, it depends upon our actions that how we harness this demographic dividend. According to the findings of ‘State of the Urban Youth, India 2012: Employment, Livelihoods, Skills,’ a report published by IRIS Knowledge Foundation in collaboration with UN-HABITAT, that problem is not urbanization per se but the inequalities that it seems to accentuate. While India is undergoing a demographic transition, regional disparities, lack of emphasis on education and unequal access to opportunities remains a persistent problem. The report finds that a person in an urban area has 93 per cent greater chances of acquiring training than someone in a rural area.
Here, the question arise why there exist huge disparities in the quality of education between rural and urban India (aka Bharat and India). Why expanding education sector is unable to deliver quality higher education and needed skill sets acquisition in rural India? Here, I will try to shed some light on major reasons behind above mentioned problems. Our education system is information based rather than knowledge based as it promotes rat race and does not build persona of a child.
There are three fundamental areas where youth, specifically rural youths, are lagging behind i.e., effective English communication skills, lack of awareness and guidance for available career opportunities and last, but not the least soft skills and personality development. Due to tough nature of entrance examinations of reputed higher educational institutions most of the youth from rural background get eliminated at the primary level even if some succeed they could not cope up with the fellow students (from urban and metros) who have a good academic background and command over English language, as English is the medium of instruction in all reputed higher educational institutions. This situation develops a kind of inferiority complex among students from rural or semi-urban background and despite working hard this low self-esteem, unfortunately, leads them to depression and stress and sometimes make them commit suicide. As stated by latest census of India, of the 121 crore Indians, 83.3 crore live in rural areas while 37.7 crore stay in urban areas, i.e nearly 70 per cent of the country’s population lives in rural areas still there are hardly any significant efforts by Government agencies to resolve these issues for such a vast section of the society.
How we can stop India’s demographic dividend to become demographic disaster through PARAS?
The focal point of Startups is to resolve the cardinal problems of society mostly through ICT. As our economic growth is increasing, more skilled and trained persons are required in industries and service sector, as agriculture sector (18 per cent of GDP) does not play a major role in economic growth but with available government resources and policies it is not possible to train such a large number of youth with needed skills. Therefore, PARAS is a solution to fill this gap. Paras, a startup which works on trickle-down-theory to get top level knowledge to bottom level of the society which is only possible by using some advanced academic techniques and ICT. The goal of PARAS is to make education inclusive, so as every child must get a just and fair share in knowledge. Team PARAS is working hard towards transforming youth in rural areas, from ignorant to informed citizen of India, by enabling them to acquire English speaking skills and imparting soft skills and introducing them to various available career opportunities. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to work on the grassroots, only then we can achieve inclusive growth. As Ghandhi Ji said, “The future of India lies in its villages”.