Soft Skills Are The Key To India’s 21st Century Growth

India is emerging as the country of opportunity – but its young people will increasingly need to balance technical and soft skills to help the country realize its potential in the years ahead.

The country’s economic growth continues apace: India will overtake the UK as the world’s fifth largest economy this year while its leaders are targeting a 70% increase GDP ‒ from today’s $2.9 trillion to $5 trillion by 2025. But India’s economy needs skilled people and new jobs on a near-unprecedented scale to underpin this expansion. To compete with the key economies of US and China, India’s unique talent pool – one billion people of working age by 2027 ‒ will need top-notch skills to match.

Despite the country’s stunning growth, many Indian bosses fear that young people lack the balance of academic grades and soft skills such as critical thinking and creativity needed to fulfill emerging job opportunities. Accenture’s Fueling India’s Skill Revolution report highlighted concerns from the IT industry in particular that most of the technical graduates they see are not work-ready. Politicians are grasping the importance of soft skills with government-inspired learning innovations including a pilot Entrepreneurship course in state schools later this year.

This life skills gap isn’t confined to India. Gaps in new workers’ soft skills gaps are holding back business and academic research everywhere. A McKinsey study found that 60% of employers worldwide think that graduates are not suitably skilled for the workplace. In the USA, Bloomberg researchers found that one in three bosses ‒ and nearly half of academic institutions ‒ believe that new entrants don’t have the soft skills needed to perform at a high level.

Soft skills were once seen as intangible subjects that were difficult to teach, but policymakers and parents now recognize their importance in a fast paced, digital economy. Research by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows that jobs are continually being automated away while new ones are being created by workforce with highly developed technical and soft skills.

Policymakers, teachers and parents have grasped that academic subjects and soft skills teaching must be interwoven to ensure a more enriching school experience while ensuring that students are creative, adaptable and resilient in their future studies and work. When the WEF analysed academic results from across the world, it found that children that had been taught social and emotional skills outperformed their peers that hadn’t received such instruction ‒ by an average of 11%.

How can soft skills teaching initiatives help schools and colleges in India to meet the emerging challenge of creating future-ready students?

EtonX is an example of a learning innovator helping schools rethink their skills teaching options. It offers secondary schools and colleges live online soft skills courses such as Making An Impact, Verbal Communications and Interview Skills, based on interactive content and unique insights from a renowned Eton education, delivered through a bespoke virtual classroom. This sympathetic learning environment allows friendly class interactions guided by expert online tutors. Such courses enable students to debate a topic or practice a challenging real-world skill, such as giving a speech or learning new behaviors through role-plays, that might otherwise seem daunting in a physical classroom setting.

Students benefit from these future skills courses in a variety of ways, from confidence building and communicating better to preparing effectively for university and workplace environments. In a recent case, an overseas student aspiring to a UK university place found that EtonX’s flexible courses challenged her learning experiences and helped prepare her for more active participation in her full-time studies. While at school she had been used to receiving information in lessons, rather than interacting with teachers, she is now no longer stressed about activities expected on a university course, such as making presentations, giving her views in tutorials and collaborating with other students on group projects.

In today’s fast-changing world of work, good school or university grades no longer mean a guaranteed job or career. However, with edtech innovators giving teachers more practical ways to foster ‘difficult’ soft skills such communication and collaboration, India’s students will have greater confidence in taking up university or work opportunities and help fulfill the country’s remarkable potential.

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