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Time to Welcome Skill Education in Schools


By Roli S

This again is the season when all the board exam results come out. Schools and parents celebrate the ninety-five, ninety-six or even hundred percent marks that students secure in these examinations. If we collect the data from all the schools of the students that have secured ninety percent and above marks, then the number of such students would be in large numbers. Many of the students, irrespective of the percentage of marks they have secured, will go on to receive Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees later in their education journey, but the question is: Are there enough jobs available for all these degree holders in our country? Is there any other way that they should have charted out their education journey?

A survey carried out in 2019 reveals that only 2.5 lakh of around 15 lakh engineering graduates that pass out every year are employable. This speaks volumes about the quality of our education system, which consists of eighty percent theory with little exposure to real-life situations and hands-on experience. In our system, focus is more on issuing degrees or diplomas and less on skill development. When people are questioned on the issue, almost all of them emphasise the need to impart skills suitable for industry to the students through measures like internships, intense practical training, skill education, etc. Also, because a recent finding suggested that 23 lakh candidates (including 2.22 lakh engineers and 255 PhD holders) applied for the 368 vacant posts of peon in one of the states of our country.  Are you surprised at the figure? I am not. Because we collect our degrees after years of school and college education, but most of us find ourselves jobless! Why are so many of India’s youth population unemployed if many of them are degree holders? After all the main aim to attain a degree is to become employable, isn’t it?

We are facing a serious skill development crunch in the entire education process as the Indian education system focuses on an instructor-based approach and rote learning. Insecure parents want to rely on the education system taking an easy and safe approach in the hope of landing jobs for their children. In the past, when the Indian economy opened to the outside world through liberalisation and globalisation, it created a great demand for graduates with skills across vital industries, which led to a huge race to secure more marks and more degrees, but after the Internet and mobile revolution, job-seekers in the formal sector saw new opportunities and wanted to learn necessary skills from the Internet and through internships prior to a full time job. Due to this, reliance on formal degrees to obtain job-ready skills saw a slow decline all over the world. Have you heard that, recently, a teenager from India entered an online web development competition at the international level, was praised for his thought process and skill also, and offered a highly paid job in a company abroad? The offer was cancelled only after his age was revealed.

The current pandemic has led to the enhanced use of local products and has helped people recognise the importance of a skill-driven society. Being a young nation with seventy-five percent of the population in the working age, employment becomes a major worry. With the help of schemes such as Recognition of Prior Learning, students can receive both security and benefit, as it helps in equally approving both informal and formal learning. Students are the human capital of the country, and it is essential to empower them for the development of the economy.

When the evolution of job markets skills and energy became more of a demand, people who didn’t have skills just got left behind, shunted to the side. Education didn’t keep up with its promise. Education didn’t prepare them for this new world. Jobs went overseas. Don’t we know this scenario very well? Don’t we know how skilled Indian IT personnel became so much in demand overnight all over the world? If we will not make our own population skilled enough very soon, we will be looking for help in the area of design, photography, sports, food technology, agriculture, tourism, etc., from overseas, because the country is heading towards rapid change and so is the area of economic development.

In India, skill-based education is considered to be a vocational skill that is obtained only through short-term training or courses not part of the formal education sector. Vocational skills are believed to provide employment only in the informal sector. Such skills are also a part of the government’s Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna, which aims to promote recognition and standardisation. However, expertise is needed to be developed in the formal learning system as well.

In such a scenario, despite some initiatives taken by the government towards enhancing skill development, there still exists a large gap between supply and demand, with students expressing their frustration by way of limited job opportunities and corporations looking for quality talent.

The present leadership of the country has made it amply clear that skill development makes the youth competent and by skill development only will we be able to end unemployment. The National Education Policy is also formulated with the vision to tackle this problem to a large extent, but the success of the policy depends on the actions that would be taken by all the stake holders, which includes, schools, parents and students and also the prospective employers.  I keep learning from the education fraternity and also from parents that a step in the direction taken by CBSE is skill-based module offered to schools and students. This skill-based module is introduced to strengthen and enrich the existing curriculum which was heavily leaning towards the knowledge-based approach.

On further finding out, I have gathered the fact that the top 20 percent of ITI graduates or diploma holders will get more salaries than the bottom 20 percent of engineers or degree holders. Skilling is not the end-of-the-pipe training but something which needs to be integrated into our school and college education and the education policy is trying to do just that.

Taking a clue from the above argument, I wonder if skills based modules offered by CBSE to schools at the secondary and senior secondary levels  like retail, web application, financial markets management, tourism, beauty and wellness, food production, banking, marketing, healthcare, sports, horticulture, geospatial technology, healthcare, insurance, electric/electronic technology, mass media, multimedia, taxation, design, medical diagnostic, yoga, taxation, agriculture, data science, artificial intelligence and many more should make the parents and students excited about their future. Will they understand and change their approach and thinking towards skill-based education, which is the need of today’s ever-evolving job market to get employed?

The truth is there is so much of value attached to a ‘degree’ that even a ‘diploma’ holder is looked down upon in the job market. ‘Degrees’ have not only become a symbol of intellectual authority but have also become status symbols. That is the reason why they scamper for degrees even if they is no guarantee of employment.

The education policy seems to be opening the door wider for various talents and aptitudes to enter the job markets of India, while proudly claiming their degrees, diplomas, certificates, and above all ‘their skills’; by discovering themselves and becoming employable by owning their talents and skills and joining the mainstream of the economy of the country.

After all, India has a large youth population; lakhs of young people join the labour force every year. The education system needs to act firmly, quickly, and boldly because it faces the impossible task of climbing the steep mountain scaling the difficult peaks of high cost, quality and size. The education system needs a number of independent and different solutions. A degree and good marks alone should not be a means to get a job in a company or firm.

It is time for the schools, parents and students and also the job market to realise that winners are those who recognise their God-given talents, work their tails off to develop them into skills, and use these skills to accomplish their goals because happiness comes when we utilise our skills for some meaningful purpose.

(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Mumbai.)