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Here’s why schooling and skilling must go together

Unless we prepare the youth for 21st century employability skills, the prevailing skills gap will continue to impact every sphere of the Indian economy.

By Sunil Dahiya

In the rapidly changing job market requirements, there is now an overpowering need for a skilled workforce. India has the world’s largest youth population with more than 50 percent below the age of 25. While this could be touted as a case for India’s demographic dividend, the worrisome factor is that 1.3 million are entering into the workforce every month!

The question arises that if we cannot skill them to enhance their employability, then the alternate scenario could be that of a demographic disaster.

Definition of ‘Skill’

The definition of ‘skill’ has also changed over the years. But the dire need of academia producing according to industry needs was never as paramount as it is today. It’s a fact that 90 percent of all employment opportunities require vocational skills. While 20 percent of our graduates get employed, the rest are unable to get suitable employment due to the lack of professional skills. Hence, it is imperative that Indian school education is radically reformed with public investment, a new genre of vocational teachers for specific trades and skills, and state-of-the-art facilities so as to become a machine that produces an industry-ready, job-ready workforce.

School system

The school system while on one hand is evolving from text books to hybrid solutions, teacher-centric to learner-centric methods, the role of teacher to facilitator, blackboard to projector mode of delivery, on the other hand, it still seems to be side-stepping skilling and not mainstreaming it which can be the beginning of a solution towards building a skilled lot who love what they do.

  • The learner is exposed today to various modes of learning due to information overload.
  • Mobile devices are making inroads into every student and therein lies the opportunity to initiate skill development right at the school level.

A paradigm shift in our education system is the need of the hour. We must start skilling our children at an early age and for this to happen there must be options available in the form of skill development courses at both the primary and secondary levels.

For example, students at the primary level i.e. at the age of six can begin with training on personality development, communication skills, teamwork, and interpersonal skills.

Vocational subjects can be added at the secondary school level. For example, a child showing an inclination for automobiles can begin with motor repair and later graduate to be trained as an automobile engineer. Ideally, skill development should begin at the age of 12 right after primary school. Hence the integration of skill development and formal education is essential for skilling to take wings. In other words, skilling and academics will need to go hand-in-hand.

Indian education system

Currently, the Indian education system is only academic in nature with hardly any specialization right till college level. There is no mechanism to judge a child’s interest in a particular field. Then there are also students who are not able to cope with formal education due to lack of monetary support or poor performance. There are no options available to such students to lead a dignified life without being vulnerable. Introducing skilling at a young age will go a long way in directing these students to opportunities that will have a larger impact on the socio-economic fabric of the nation.

How to make changes in Indian education system?

To bring about changes in the education system, we need to first address two major hurdles- (1) Lack of skilled faculty (2) Creation of facilities for skilling. Skilled trainers from the industry will be required to guide and train the students. The faculty will need to be familiar with the industry. Similarly, the students need to have access to all the facilities in their chosen field. For this to happen the schools need to be connected with the industry in a formal, structured manner with regular sessions by industry experts and facilities for hands-on training.

We should also adopt some of the best practices prevalent in other countries. An example is Germany where the student initially spends his time in the 80:20 ratio of classroom: industry and in the final year this ratio is reversed. This invariably results in a job at 18 with high wages and with the option of pursuing technical education later.

By Sunil Dahiya – Executive Vice President Wadhwani Opportunity at Wadhwani Foundation

Source: India Today

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