Today skill-based education is not a choice but a need in India. The irreconcilable difference in our country is that while the demand for skilled professionals is quite high, the desire to get skilled is considerably low. Pure academic subjects are always more popular with learners, parents and society as socially acceptable qualifications. Most youth in the country still incorrectly believe that skill based education leads to low paid jobs and it is perceived to be meant for only academically weak students.
India’s education system is also characterized by a high ’school dropout rate’, with as many as 56.8 per cent students leaving school before reaching the qualifying examination of 10th standard. There is a definite need for skill development to be brought to the forefront to enable this section of society to become employable.
If we look at the graduate segment, according to one particular study, only 25 per cent are considered “employable” by employers. The biggest challenge is the lack of employability skills. As a result, the individual’s ability in the work environment in terms of communication, presentation, interpersonal skills, teamwork, etc. does not meet the desired expectations. Inculcating employability skills requires huge efforts on the part of our education system to bring in the transition in the role from a “student” to worker and prepare the candidates for the modern working world.
While these issues persisted, successive governments at the Centre worked towards creating multiple agencies to address the challenge of skilling India. Challenges still remain in aligning the ambition of youth with the industry requirements. There are few lessons that India can learn from countries who have championed skilling strategy. Leading the pack is Germany, with its dual model of VET, adopted and customized by various countries. While no model can be replicated as is, the German model still has lot to offer at policy level along with industry participation and ongoing support from ground level. Our close neighbor China too follows the TVET system, which takes into account the requirements of local industry and the state bears more than 70% of the cost. In Turkey, vocational training students undergo hands-on practice in specially designed work areas – much like our ITI’s that are housed in close vicinity of industrial belts. This hands-on practice results in reduction of time spent on OJTs’ as well as enhances the shop floor skills of the candidates, thereby making them work ready as soon as they are certified.
Imparting technical skills is something most training institutes do well. Many ITIs today harness technologies like smart classrooms, blended learning and MOOC as mechanisms to share resources and course elements like practicals that cannot be easily replicated. TheNational Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), is no longer just about disseminating engineering courses of the IITs. The programme has assembled more than 950 courses comprising 30,000+ video hours, many of which are being usefully harnessed as a massively online open course resource by technical training institutes. Even at the school level, the Ministry of Human Resources (MoRD) has rolled out Centrally sponsored Scheme (CSS) of implementing Vocationalisation of Higher Secondary Education (VHSE). This is similar to the German system of dual TVT.
Affirmative steps have been taken to vocationalize schools. With ‘Catch them young’ mantra, VHSE Scheme has mandated to add vocational education as a subject from class IX onwards till XIIth. The job roles comply with National Skills Qualifications Framework. Skilling is imparted by a professional trainer and Centum Learning is playing a pivotal role in the implementation of vocational education in more than 1150 schools across 15 states, where it has successfully trained more than 85,000 students. The novel training intervention includes face-to-face classes by professional trainers, practical classes, field visits/ industry visits, guest lectures, preparation of models/ charts/ projects, preparation of student portfolios and role-plays. Skilling students at UG level, the novel approach to introduce B.Voc Bachelors in Vocational Degree, is largely targeted towards youth who want to enhance their employability by mastering their field of work. Centum has become a key implementation partner, working with Government of Himachal Pradesh to conduct work-integrated B.Voc courses for students who have completed their XIIth standard or equivalent.
According to the India Employment Report 2016 issued by the Institute for Human Development (IHD), India will need to create at least 1.6 crore jobs over the next 15 years to come close to a point where there is neither surplus labour nor unemployment. Skilling needs an active education-industry partnership. Industry can play a very important role by quickly adopting schemes like apprenticeship or setting aside some CSR budgets for skilling for youth. India can grow only if India is Skilled. For a skilled India, all the stakeholders need to work closely to make this dream come true.