Monday 9 September 2013

6th FICCI Global Skills Summit - Delhi 2013: Observations, Opinions and Comments - Part II

Continuing from part I of this series, this section deals with the challenges in the Vocational education and training sector in India. It also draws comparisons with differences in the Indian and global contexts at a time when more and more international stakeholders are entering the Indian market and their domestic counterparts and other stakeholders look westward to replicate the seemingly successful international model. India over the years have shown fascination and inclination towards countries such as the UK, Germany, Australia, S. Korea, Switzerland, USA, Canada, New Zealand, etc.

Motion or progress

At the 6th FICCI Global Skills Summit, many presented and deliberated on the opportunities and challenges in skills development and vocational education in the Indian Context. It was really disheartening to see that the same challenges and elicitations were being repeated that were relevant 10 years ago, only with more exasperation, especially with regard to the following points
  1. Lack of aspiration in relation to vocational careers
  2. Lack of qualified teachers, trainers and assessors
  3. Poor wages at entry level positions that deter young people to accept employment
  4. The predominance of the unorganised sector (over 90%) in employment terms
  5. The lack of a robust model to deliver skills development initiatives in this unorganised sector
  6. The poor basic key skills and generic work skills amongst the larger population that undermines efforts for employment and formal training
  7. Lack of focus on defining progressive career paths and ongoing support for learning and development to move along those paths with embedded choice and free volition
While there has been great amount of activity in creating new structures and announcement of schemes over the last few years, there was palpable despondency amongst most Indian practitioners especially those who had taken on accountability for results and change. There was hardly any success that was visible as a result of these efforts. In fact there was clear frustration from the end of last mile delivery stakeholders who were worried about the multiplicity of schemes with no accountability for credible and meaningful certification and jobs for the intended beneficiaries. One of the speakers, actually highlighted the fact that it was the ambition of the government to skill 500 mn beneficiaries by 2022, whereas in the past 5 years we have not been able to cross even 2 mn.

It was also amusing to hear of the ongoing emergence of qualification frameworks, which involved the NVEQF (national vocational education qualification framework) by the MHRD, NVQF (National Vocational Qualification Framework) by MoLE (Ministry of Labour and Employment) and is now being called the NSQF (National Skills Qualification Framework) by the NSDA (National Skills Development Authority). The NSDA subsumed what was earlier Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development (PMNCSD) and the National Skill Development Coordination Board (NSDCB).

Comparisons with the Global Scenario

It was really interesting to hear all the visiting professionals from down-under who spoke mostly of conditions prevailing in their respective countries, but the difference in contexts made it quite clear that we are operating in a much more complex environment with many challenges and variables that the developed countries don’t usually have to deal with. The key differences in context are
  1. Most vocational education in almost all developed countries is funded by the government.
  2. Most vocational education is aimed at candidates who have completed schooling and have education attainment levels beyond that in India. The quality of basic and key skills as a result of that education is significantly higher than that of the average Indian counterpart.
  3. Most developed countries have some form of social security, housing and healthcare that takes care of basic needs of their citizenship.
  4. Most developed countries don’t have to cope with the distances and diversity that exists within the vastness of India
  5. Unlike in India there is greater industry presence and employment opportunities spread across most parts of their country, therefore migration and the need to travel/relocate isn’t as big an issue.
Other differences which prevail and can provide good insight are
  1. Industry – academia interface in the space of vocational education is very well developed and contributes significantly to enhance quality of education. Most countries use the dual approach where the practical work is carried out within Industry in real workplace conditions and the Polytechnic/college provides theoretical inputs in classrooms. This is especially useful as a number of machines and equipment that is very expensive, is not affordable for a number of vocational education and training institutes, whereas these are available and being used by Industry. Students are paid stipends for the work that they deliver as part of their training which contributes to the employer’s operation and output.
  2. Vocational teachers and trainers have good amount of Industry experience and are valued for it. At the same time to qualify as a teacher/trainer one is tested rigorously and has to measure up to high standards set.
  3. Vocational training institutions are involved in producing and delivering goods and services to clients or the market place and students are involved in the same. The quality of output is therefore market tested and students get an opportunity to develop real work skills. 
Part III to follow, Part I

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