India Needs a National Level AI Skill Development Programme ASAP

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
India Needs a National Level AI Skill Development Programme ASAP

Design by Nikhil Kumar

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My cousin who is in class twelfth, worriedly called me the other day, asking if he will get a job after he leaves school or college since AI is replacing all the jobs.. The same emotion is across the spectrum of students, from school going kids to engineering graduates, who are worried about future job prospects as these subjects (particulalry AI and analytics) are not taught in their curriculum – an entire generation is studying for jobs that won’t exist.

Unfortunately, the majority of these students and graduates – say my cousin and his friends – are likely to afford online courses to upskill themselves. What about the others who have no resources to do this?

Plus, there is a pool of fresh graduates, a large chunk of the population, which is skilled, but not enough to land a job. The situation is only getting worse with a lot of IT majors also freezing the hiring of freshers.

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If India needs to rise up in the AI world, it needs to plant an innovation seed in its population. Most importantly, that seed should be planted within the youths, which should start with teaching students the basics of the field, and getting them used to AI like a tool, not something that they should fear. 

It all should start with a national level AI skill development programme in India. 

The need is ASAP

Possibly, the government recognises the urgency of this. It needs to invest a lot more than it already is when it comes to the National Education Policy (NEP) in India. Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy has suggested that India should invest at least $1 billion annually for the next two decades. This would help accelerate the outcome of the NEP, he believes. 

Addressing the solution to the gap between research and production in India, Murthy advocated for enhancing research and education quality in higher learning institutions, attributing the NEP as a step in the right direction. 

To expedite NEP’s impact, he proposed the recruitment of 10,000 retired accomplished teachers in STEM fields from the developed world and India to establish 2,500 ‘Train the Teacher’ colleges nationwide. This year-long training program, costing $1 billion annually and $20 billion over 20 years, aims to produce a substantial number of skilled teachers who, in turn, become trainers.

Simultaneously, Murthy also appreciated PM Narendra Modi’s NEP, by calling it an “excellent idea”. He highlighted that the policy promotes innovation and deeper focus on invention in the Indian mindset. He believes that this should further extend beyond just employees, and focus on primary and secondary education.

This was after NEP recommending that teachers should be trained with AI and design thinking with subjects that are enabled through AI-enabled digital infrastructure which is called DIKSHA. The portal integrates AI solutions to facilitate learning and monitoring. 

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has already introduced AI as a subject in classes 9 and 11 for affiliated schools. The NISHTHA and Integrated Teacher Education (ITEP) program is teaching educators to fulfill this requirement within students. 

Are things getting any better?

Rajeev Kumar Singh, Associate Dean of Academic at Shiv Nadar University told AIM that he is optimistic about adopting AI tools in teaching methods, as it would be able to save time for transferring information, while teachers can focus on better things. At the same time, he is also optimistic for students to use and experiment with it. 

“We are not one of those universities. We actually thought that let us see how this (ChatGPT) evolves.” he said talking about universities and schools banning ChatGPT. “We are basically very neutral and we have left to the wisdom of both the students and the faculty to figure out the best way to deal with it.”

But this adoption of technology by teachers and students is just one step of removing the fear that students have about AI. For that, the only step is incorporating these tools within their curriculum to make them used to it. Because the tools are not going anywhere. And all of this starts with the government making changes to its policies. 

For this the Ministry of Education (MoE) is partnering with various companies to upskill students with AI. Recently, it partnered with Salesforce for upskilling 100K students in AI through their cloud platforms. It also announced its MoU with Adobe for training and certification to 20 million students and 5,00,000 teachers by 2027. 

IBM also partnered with MoE for co-creation of curriculum and enabling access to IBM SkillsBuild for teaching students about AI, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. MoE and CBSE collaborated with Intel for the AI for All initiative for making the technology available for everyone in India. 

The tech giants such as Microsoft, Google, Meta, and AWS, all have partnered with MoE for their initiatives for educating and upskilling school students in India.

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”

The schools were on a break for the longest time during the pandemic. Then when they started again, the AI race also began almost around the same time. Then during the holidays, the students were disconnected with education, and were bombarded with news headlines where AI was replacing jobs in the market. When they came back, the teachers were as ignorant of the technology as the students were, making the whole situation an AI chaos. 

To put in simple words, amidst all the fear of getting replaced by AI, the idea that tools such as ChatGPT and Bard should be assistants should be embedded within students ever since they start school. They should be allowed to experiment with these tools, and then understand the limitations of the technology, to be able to adapt to it, and build better in the future.

Mohit Pandey
Mohit dives deep into the AI world to bring out information in simple, explainable, and sometimes funny words. He also holds a keen interest in photography, filmmaking, and the gaming industry.

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