India’s education system needs to build a hierarchy of industry-led, job-ready skills to leverage its huge demographic dividend.
By Sunil Dahiya
In the 21st century while India continues to make strides in economic development towards becoming one of the fastest-growing economies there are concerns whether we can we keep pace with the fuelling of the economy. One of the substantial challenges for any growing economy is having ample skilled human resources, and this is where we lack right now.
Vocationalization of Education
The solution lies in scaling the skilling framework by introducing vocational education right at the school level. We are a young nation with 50% of its population under the age of 25 and 65% under the age of 35 years. While we boast about India’s demographic dividend, the challenge is to move the needle of employable and skilled students from current 20% to 80%. The way-forward is application of the right vocational skills at the right time. As per ‘Counterview’ stats in 2018, 90% of all employment opportunities require vocational skills, but our educational ecosystem still treats vocational education as a side stream. The much needed mainstreaming approach is lacking. The New Education Policy (NEP) released by the Govt. this year has rightly laid emphasis on vocational training and skilling to start early at the school level.
Integration of Vocational Education and Industry-led Training
Mainstreaming of vocational training will require the inclusion of skilling as part of the standard curriculum in schools by all states and Central Boards of education both as an aspirational element as well as employability of soft skills element. Students will be introduced to early skilling programs in schools and exposed to industry work alongside academics. Vocational education at school level will help students not only to learn concepts but also to apply them while still in school. The NEP proposes skilling students from grade 6 onwards right till grade 12. From a learner’s standpoint, this gives him/her the opportunity to apply knowledge on the shop-floor and allows the student to self-discover the potential and interests. From the industry point of view, it helps identify the right talent early.
Dual System of Vocational Education and Training
The replication of Germany’s success with its iconic dual system of vocational education and training in India along with the emergence of applied skill universities and mandating internships is the need of the hour in India. However, bringing this transformational change in our educational system is a huge challenge. Massive infrastructure will be required. Govt. has a massive part to play in this, first by formulating a friendly, pragmatic policy and also in facilitating the setting up of right infrastructure. Schools will need to have vocational labs of different domains for in-house training. For example, students interested in the healthcare domain will require infrastructure to learn the basics of healthcare in the school’s vocational labs before moving to get hands-on training in hospitals. Schools and colleges will require to come forward to build curricula to map industry needs, embrace shop-floor learning, recognize student skills and showcase their talent.
Private Sector can Accelerate Holistic Skill Development
Private sector participation too will be required on a large-scale. The industry will need to contribute to talent building initiatives and promote high school students to join aspirational domains and showcase their potential. Applied Skill universities are still in its nascent stage in India. The new National Rail and Transport University and Petroleum Universities which started a few years back are steps in the right direction. We need many more such applied skill universities.
Innovation is the New Normal
The effect of COVID-19 pandemic on the education ecosystem is likely to last for the next few years. Social distancing norms will discourage students from attending regular schools. In these circumstances, innovative teaching methods are evolving. Digital delivery mechanisms for smooth and easy communication between students and trainers will play an important role in the future. Innovation around content, delivery methodology, assessment and seamless use of artificial intelligence will play a big role in the coming years.
Source: Business World