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Is vocational education in India witnessing high response rate

Vocational training needs to be taken seriously in the process of building a robust self sustainable national model

By Uttara.J. MalhotraFeature writer

The 5th BRICS meeting of education ministers from India, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, unanimously agreed upon ‘the need of the hour is to strengthen cooperation in the field of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)’. Therefore, these nations were prepared to bring to the table shared ideas and experiences in the development of vocational educators, and develop projects that are of common interests to BRICS Member States.

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recent report stresses on ‘acquiring skills’ as a vital component for reducing poverty, recovery of an economic and sustainable development in a developing nation. As a consequence, policy attention to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) automatically increases.

The UNESCO debate led to a global rethinking of TVET ‘to enhance its role in developing more equitable and sustainable societies’. For this, they believe that ‘building skills for work and life’ is of utmost importance.

India’s roadmap
Industry experts across sectors believe that there is a growing importance of skill development through vocational training in India. According to the recent figures of National Sample Survey, in 2007 itself, merely two percent of the entire workforce of 400 million workers in India had received vocational training. This low figure brings to surface an evident lack of seriousness in the dissemination of vocational training.

In the last decade, however, government policies have shifted focus, leading to greater emphasis on skill development and technical and vocational education and training (TVET). Definitely, TVET needs to be taken seriously. This thought resonated in the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012) where a separate chapter on skill development (something that was missing in the previous 10 plans) was added. Because vocational education is to benefit specific industry needs, it makes more sense for funding to come from employers driven. Surprisingly, barring India, as many as 62 countries worldwide have respective industries making a sizable contribution to the skill sector fund used towards specialized training. This isn’t to say that government funds shouldn’t be utilized- in fact they will be better utilized in the unorganised sector and ensuring equity.

Bridging the gap
India’s need for skilled development has been heavy on government run or aided institutions for vocational training. Look at the real picture here- quality of vocational training should be determined by length of training, quality of trainers and whether industry is providing internship and experience during the training. Most of these conditions are not met.

Unfortunately, trainers in India are poorly trained themselves with little or minimal industry experience. As a result, the quality of vocational skill training is average or below average. The training duration of most courses is anywhere between one and four months- this is very less. To add to this, is a challenge of providing requisite industry training. So private ITIs funded by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) are in a desperate need of good trainers. Another reason for a major gap between industry needs and actually what youth are learning at various government run vocational skill development programmes is the non involvement of industry in the skill development process.

Unfortunately, all government funded ITIs, IITs and IIMs are not abreast with changing needs of the various industries. In East Asia or Europe for example, TVET is employer driven and industry-funded. Therefore, skilling has become demand-driven and quality and relevance are ensured.

There is an urgent need for industry experts to participate in the nation building process. Skilled manpower is not only the responsibility of educational institutions, but will need support from think tanks in the private and public sector alike.

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