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Is India’s 67th Rank In Coursera Global Skills Report Justified?

Recently, Coursera released its annual Global Skills Report 2021 to offer a sneak peek into the ‘state of skills’ in over 100 countries. India, as per the report, ranks 67th globally with 38% proficiency and 16th in Asia below Singapore and Japan. The country stood at 55th position in business and at 66th position in both technology and data science.

The report claims to benchmark skill proficiencies in business, technology, and data science across 77 million learners, 4,000 campuses, 2,000 businesses, and 100 governments using the Coursera platform.


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Let’s look at Coursera’s methodology and parameters to come up with this ranking.

Coursera has set four skill levels:

  • Cutting Edge — 76th percentile or above
  • Competitive — 51st-75th percentile
  • Emerging — 26th-50th percentile
  • Lagging — 25th percentile or below

In the field of data sciences, Coursera looked at the following subjects:

  • Data Analysis
  • Data Management
  • Data Visualisation 
  • Machine Learning
  • Mathematics
  • Probability & Statistics
  • Statistical Programming

The report found India as:

  • Lagging in Data Analysis and Statistical Programming
  • Emerging in Data Management, Data Visualization and Probability & Statistics
  • Competitive in Machine Learning and Mathematics

The rankings attributed to India in data sciences seems inaccurate and reflects a “one size fits all” methodology.

India: More than meets the eye

“The skill trends and proficiency analyses in this report represent a view of the world through the lens of Coursera,” the report said.

India has multiple online platforms–not just Coursera– and offline campuses to equip students and working professionals with digital skills. Colleges and universities, including IITs, IIMs, and NIIT are making Indian students future ready. Online programmes from AnalytixLabs, Ivy ProSchool, WileyNXT, Edvancer are also gaining traction. 

Mayank Kumar, Co-founder & MD, upGrad, said: At upGrad, we have the largest alumni base for Data Science learners in India, which includes over 22,000 individuals. Owing to evolving industry requirements, the domain has also caught the attention of women professionals. As per our Q4 2021 (Jan-Feb-Mar) data, we have 2/5th of women learners enrolled for courses like Data Science, Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence.”

“Talking from an industry standpoint, we also have a skilled workforce who are indulging in cutting-edge projects on a day-to-day basis and delivering quality outputs. This indeed is a reason why we are seeing global recruiters hire from India to be able to meet their growing demands. All these facts bear testimony to the quality work India is producing, and it wouldn’t be correct to say that we lag in data skills and are facing significant challenges across the Data Science domain,” he added.

In terms of the business, the technology and the data science skills, India (67) is positioned below Pakistan (65th), Bangladesh (64th), Nepal (62nd), and Sri Lanka (40th). It begs the question over the parameters considered to arrive at the rankings.

“Internet access is correlated with skill proficiency on Coursera,” said the report. Internet penetration in India stands at 34.4%, while that of Pakistan is 32.4% and Sri Lanka is 33.5%, as per a Statista report. Despite being the second most populated country, India’s internet connectivity is on par with their Asian counterparts. 

Coursera tapped into the data from the platform and research from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021 to come up with the report.

As per the Global Innovation Index report 2020, published in September 2020, India has risen to become the world’s third most innovative lower middle-income economy. India is in the top 15 in ICT (Information and Communication Technology), government online services, services exports, science and engineering graduates, and R&D-intensive global firms indexes. The huge knowledge capital, the thriving startup ecosystem, and the excellent work done by public and private research groups are all contributing to the index rankings’ steady development.

The global standing of the Indian Analytics market, the growth in salaries across almost all parameters, the maturing of the analytics market in terms of experienced hiring and salaries offered, the rising gender diversity in the Indian analytics function, and the $762 million investment in Indian AI and analytics startups are pointing to India’s burgeoning digital prowess. The Indian analytics function’s overall revenues have increased to $35.9 billion–19.5 percent year on year growth.

Though skill gaps are a reality, 67th rank seems unjustified. The report should have accounted for India’s young demographic, thriving talent pool, and the quality of the talents we produce. Inshort, the Coursera report is not exactly an ideal credentialing of a diverse country like India.

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kumar Gandharv
Kumar Gandharv, PGD in English Journalism (IIMC, Delhi), is setting out on a journey as a tech Journalist at AIM. A keen observer of National and IR-related news.

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