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A vocational headstart

Skilling programmes and integrating apprenticeship/internships in schools could help align India’s education with industry needs

India is a young nation with 50% of its population being below the age of 25, and more than 65% below 35 years. While we boast about India’s demographic dividend, the question is: what should we be doing to shift the needle of employable students from the current 20% towards the goal of 80%? The answer lies in applying the right vocational skills at the right time. On the one hand, over 90% of all employment opportunities require vocational skills; on the other, our education ecosystem still treats vocational education as a side stream. The much-needed mainstream approach is missing.

Vocational education can help prepare the learner not only to learn concepts but also apply them while still in school and university. What matters is giving them an opportunity to apply and learn, not the failure or success rate. In fact, failures make students learn even better. From a learner’s standpoint, it gives him/her the opportunity to apply knowledge on the shop-floor and allows him/her to discover his/her capabilities and interests. From an industry standpoint, it helps identify talent early. How can skill training be incorporated into the school and higher education systems?

Early exposure to skilling

Mainstreaming of vocational training will require inclusion of training in the curriculum by all state as well as central boards, both as an aspirational element and as the employability or soft skills component. Students should be introduced early to skilling programmes in schools and exposed to industry work alongside academics. Introduction of applied skill universities, dual system of training and mandating apprenticeship/internships could be a great way to start.

This means the industry needs to contribute to talent-building initiatives and promote high school students to join aspirational domains and showcase their growth. Schools and colleges must come forward to revise curricula to map industry needs, embrace shop floor learning, recognise students’ skills and showcase their overall success.

The effect of the 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 will need to be evolved. Digital delivery mechanisms and the need to improve infrastructure will be another big task. Innovations around content, delivery methodology, assessments and seamless use of artificial intelligence can show the way.

Source: The Hindu

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