Thursday 5 June 2014

Recommendations on Skills Development and Education in India

As the new government steps in and everyone has a wish list I have my ten points of recommendations on skills development and education in India. (This is extracted from an article that can be found at
  1. Invest in creating information systems that produce real and authentic data. At the moment all sorts of figures are floating around, particularly guilty are large consulting bodies who produce these with little concern that this would ever have to stand scrutiny. Even though a large number of industry voices dispute these, these are so quickly copied by others that soon the same numbers are being quoted from different sources, which seems to be an erroneous self-validating mechanism. A Labour Market Information System is said to be in the works, but there is little to inspire confidence in it at this stage. Not only should it have been forthcoming much earlier, but even now there is little clarity on how this is being developed.
  2. Create conducive conditions for small entrepreneurs to set-up training and education capacities – this will help as large companies see this business only in terms of numbers and another vertical that allows them to grow. For small entrepreneurs this is usually a matter of passion and survival, both generate immense commitment to the cause. Also for small entrepreneurs these are usually in cohabited locations, whereas for large companies there are relatively more overheads involved in setting up remote capacities.
  3. Take a realistic estimate of how much time and effort it takes to train people to develop meaningful competencies across various contexts and develop norms and guidelines for schemes which align to that. As of now unrealistic expectations seem to be the norm and everyone is using it as an excuse to deliver poor quality and escape accountability; it also thwarts those who want to put in a genuine effort.
  4. Tighten quality norms and create independent quality committees which assess work done by various service providers. It is important to have sufficient diversity in the committees to ensure that the scope for corruption and collusion is minimized. Unquestioned faith on the private sector is as dangerous as unquestioned faith in government monitoring.
  5. Hold employers accountable for providing workers with reasonable work environments and terms and conditions. This includes health, hygiene and safety, remuneration and leave, in-service professional and overall development of workers, conditions that allow workers access to career development avenues to upgrade their professional qualifications, above other things. Create campaigns and drive the agenda of continuing professional development across society.
  6. Support job creation, by encouraging entrepreneurship especially small and micro-entrepreneurs, help spread information about support services that they can avail. Make it easy for them to get support including but not just limited to credit access. Provide a scheme to encourage professionals with high quality work experience to access credit and support services based on the quality of their professional experiences and business plans rather than asset collateral. Expect and have a loss guarantee scheme in place to cover failure. Remember not all failure is bad.
  7. Create a flow of talent in the education system. For doing that invest in development of school and other educational leaders and teachers which are supported by adequate per diems, while overall funds seem huge, high quality providers often find it difficult to deliver quality in low per diems. Provide incentives to people from other professions to move into teaching; at the same time develop career paths and related development opportunities for school leaders, teachers and other education workers to transition to other careers. Recognize that it is as important to bring in talent as much as it is important to let people go out of the system.
  8. Focus on education that develops practical skills as much as there is focus on knowledge acquisition. For this the best thing would be for educational institutes at all levels to engage with the outside world and work in real contexts, rather than in an isolated and cocooned environment. Whether in the form of projects, community work, part-time jobs, commercial assignments, research, etc. get educational institutes to engage with the real world, real society and the market. This should also encourage cross contextual work where students get to experience other cultures and environments.
  9. Focus on multi-disciplinary learning and focus on improving co-scholastic areas including music and arts, physical education and other areas. This not only develops emotional and social competencies, but also has vocational value and inherent personal development benefits.
  10. Bring a focus back on quality, quality drives greater value creation, people pay more for quality and quality therefore creates a virtuous cycle. Create awareness and enablement for quality and bring together people on the table from different contexts and cultures to understand possibilities and get a more balanced view of quality. Let these not be lost in power struggles and bureaucratic, hierarchical decision making. Increase spending on quality education for all and at all levels. 

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