Friday 31 August 2018

Skills Development Structures in India

Structural and fundamental mistakes, along with limited understanding of scope and principles, underpin the skills development reforms in India. Internationally advocated models and practices inspire the core structure of the endeavour, but neither the interpretation nor the implementation has been effective and well thought. It is though commendable for politician, bureaucrats, the private and development sector to recognise the need and articulate the pressing requirement unambiguously, as a critical agenda for development and progress. The fact that the agenda is now devolved onto states and other government and quasi-government bodies, also is a step forward. 
So while there has been considerable focus on this, the lack of fundamental understanding and the ever-present pressures of political compulsions have not only severely undermined efforts but have decisively led the movement towards disrepute and disservice. The situation has also been vitiated and hampered by the addling turf wars between the government and the private sector, each trying to ascertain control and maintain their autonomy to do things are per their own volition, resisting the need for honest effort and accountability.
As often is the case in India, plenty of funds and efforts have been dedicated to the field, only to find itself given to venality and misappropriation. While many clamour for stopping this massive squandering of resources, by halting in its tracks the new model and tearing down structures that have been created, it in my strongest opinion will be tantamount to throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
It is important that people stand up to demand change that is meaningful, monitored for integrity and held accountable by transparent decision making, information sharing, and scrutiny. Concomitantly, we need to create structures that lend itself to controls but are independent of political and bureaucratic manipulation and expediency. The effort was also derailed by the lack of competence by those given charge of this new reform, and scaling up too quickly,  amorphously also obfuscated the negative results, and before many could comprehend the impact and analyse the workings, the vehicle had become a juggernaut. 
While this is the underpinning, isolated and sporadic progress has been made on few counts, whether it is moving forward in instituting periodic skills competitions or redesigning of the apprenticeship programme. Albeit, it is still not only too little to show for the efforts, and these efforts are in themselves much in need of improved design, execution and quality assurance.
The challenge in our country which desperately requires some serious, fit-for-purpose Skills Development at all levels, is that there is very little by way of capacity building, especially at the level of decision-makers and gatekeepers, whose rulings impact the system, structures, and practices far more intensely than at the lower levels where most capacity building efforts are directed. Also, the selection of those to lead these efforts needs some serious rethink as most people in those positions of power have little understanding and competence in the areas in which they are expected to lead.  Along with this, may I also risk saying that even mostly the commitment is lacking and together this results in the total inability to make meaningful, well-informed, and responsible decisions related to these areas.
I am reminded of an International Career consultant with World Bank once calling me from another country to only state that in his life's experience any hope for governments and development agencies to solve the problem is seriously misplaced and will never materialise. That for me seriously puts the onus on individuals and benefit corporations to find ways to contribute to the resolution of obstacles in forwarding this agenda. At the same time, I know any form of achievement will be contingent upon coalescing of capable, complementing entities with the vision and desire to effect meaningful change and building a network that supports each other. It will require people within existing structures to take bold and informed decisions to work with capable people and agencies, casting aside their egos and insecurities, to move forward towards progress. 
India today, carries ignominious charges including having one of the highest rates of suicides across segments of vulnerable people such as students, farmers, and others. We are grappling with increasing statistics of road fatalities going opposite in direction against a target of shelving it by 50% by 2020 set by the UN. We are a nation which is being now considered unsafe for women, where crime rates are shooting up, where the quality of food and drink is becoming increasingly suspect. People today are questioning the ability and integrity of institutions of democracy. We have a capital city where even the day-to-day breathed air is considered poisonous and infrastructure in every metropolitan city is crumbling. Joblessness is already the order of the day and corruption seems to be the rule and not the exception in this nation.
Issues that are fanning terrorism, global warming and our demographic profile, which is low on patience and carries a high risk of immature responses to times of difficulty and pain, creates an even more complicated, challenging and unhelpful environment
The country is perhaps at the end of the tethered rope of time, that we have to construct structures and systems give us some semblance of hope for salvaging a livable, civilised future. If unable, it is not far-fetched to imagine the aggravating condition of society, peaking in the next decade or so where due to poor quality of skills and values across the board we will be staring at social and economic ruin of this country. This disintegration will be driven by a population that doesn't have jobs and finds their inspiration in the demagoguery of those with vested interests and ambition for power to be the oppressor instead of the oppressed. You have the potential to be on the right side of change, learn and come together to do it now.
#skills #skillindia #educationreform

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