To prepare India’s future workforce for the specialised demands of the job market, our policymakers have to lay more emphasis on vocational training and career-oriented courses, writes Divya Jain.
When it comes to the practical application of skills in the real world, many people still find themselves asking, “Why didn’t they teach us this in school and college?” Education in India has gone through several reforms in the past few years. The curriculum and courses are re-designed every couple of years with the aim to bring out the best and most efficient teaching and learning methods but there is still room for improvement. Vocational Education Training (VET)requires special attention for its career-oriented courses that are geared towards improving a country’s economy and society. The government has taken steps to improve this year on year, but certain aspects still need work to be on a par with not only the education standards across the globe, but also to keep up with changing trends in the professional realm.
As with all things these days, the curriculum and structure of teaching need to be updated. This process of updating needs to draw from what current professional industries demand. It is fine to have foundational learning, but practical applicability needs more emphasis. Germany is one of the first countries in the world to make vocational education a big part of its system. It has had a dual-track VET system in place for decades. The VET spans two to four years, and involves classroom study as well as real work experience in companies or public sector institutions. These cover both theoretical as well as practical knowledge in the ratio of 40:60 respectively. According to a report by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, around 51% of Germany’s skilled workers are trained under its dual VET system.
India needs more vocational and technical degrees of high quality along with vocational universities. A centralised system where courses are consolidated will help ensure efficient tracking, grading and teaching processes. Recently, New Zealand’s Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced plans to establish the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology, which will bring together all existing government-run institutes under one national system of vocational education and training.
Reach to remote areas
Even with certain structures in place, there has been a lack of resources in rural areas in India. The Department of School Education and Literacy in 2017, under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, proposed certain reforms for rural education, with the scheme of Vocationalisation of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (VS&HSE). According to the proposal a provision of Rs 14.50 lakhs has been made to get professionals such as trainers, guest faculty and coordinators on board with schools. Additionally, it made provisions to impart hands-on training to students in industrial and commercial establishments.
What is needed further in rural areas is to extend the reach of vocational education through e-learning, and internet simulation packages. This will enable not just students, but rural women and men to access and learn even when they are away from the industry practice to equip themselves. Essential technology needs to be standardised in public school systems. There is also a need for state-sponsored training centres equipped with the right facilities to match current demands and levels of efficiency.
Upskilling and reskilling
The demands of the professional environment are constantly changing. Skills are becoming irrelevant at an extremely fast pace. Being at the brink of the fourth Industrial Revolution, it is essential for manpower to have the skill sets that meet the requirements of the job market they intend to enter. In addition to learning newer, more relevant skills, existing skills need to be improved as well. Hence, this requires not only upskilling but reskilling employees. With vocational education beginning from school level, there is scope for people to be equipped with the basic level of skills. The National Skills Policy 2015 proposed to introduce skill development in at least one school out of four from class IX onwards by 2020, for the seamless integration of vocational training in
Today, functions that are the mostly automated, experience the largest skill mismatches. The adoption of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will mark a huge skill shift; it will give rise to the demand of technological, social and emotional skill sets. Vocational training being incorporated into formal education will help students from before they enter the job market, and help employees’ skills get on a par with industry standards.
Training for the future
Technological advancement is a major factor that has made it necessary to reinvent teaching and learning systems. Communication and creative skills will set new heights in the service sector, something that vocational training can help with. There is an abundance of information available online, but it is difficult for people to separate what is relevant and what is not. Vocational education needs to incorporate formal virtual learning environments for effective absorption among learners, such as websites with digital resources and peer-to-peer learning. Another method is to use simulators, which are an effective way to practice as well as conduct practical exams. According to a report by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), the University of Brighton has a simulated court environment where a bench of actual magistrates take students through the proceedings as in a real court. Students studying law, journalism, media and the foundation degree for police use this environment as part of their courses.
With the advent of blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT), people will be required to adapt to several new technologies at the workplace, and familiarising students and employees with these before the time comes will be an advantage. Vocational education institutes need to be equipped with the right facilities to make way for these advancements, in order to keep up. Classes need to be made more interactive with full industry participation. This includes industry and government professionals getting involved with these courses, to teach as guest lecturers and help introduce students to real-world experiences in work environments.
The author is CEO and co-founder, Safeducate, a logistics training provider in India