Let's Make Our Students Employable
The continued focus on primary and secondary education which is mostly dominated by classroom education is critical but the government should also stress on ‘employability’.
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The purpose of education is that it should lead to a healthy, productive and meaningful life. In India, Right to education was enacted in 2009 to provide free and compulsory education to children between 6 – 14 years. Since then the number of children enrolled to school have doubled (11 million in 2004-5 to 22 million in 2014-15). In fact, the net enrolment in education has greatly outpaced industrial countries. US took 40 years (1870 – 1910) to increase girls’ enrolment from 57 % to 88%, Morocco achieved a similar increase in just 11 years. Number of years of schooling completed by an average adult in developing world more than tripled from 1950 to 201 from 2 to 7.2 years. These are indeed great achievements.
Similarly closer home, capital New Delhi, where private schools are preferred over Government schools, has seen a transformation in education system over last 2-3 years. The reforms in the functioning and monitoring the progress of State government run schools have resulted in positive outcomes both in terms of enrollment and outcome. Not only the quality of infrastructure has changed and improved, parents are being involved along with teachers in ensuring progress of their children, students are being motivated through appreciation, focus is on additional activities for holistic development leading to better performance of the students in academics and better results for Government schools as compared to their private counterparts (in year 2016, Govt schools had 2% better result than private schools and in 2017 it was 9%).
While the above given example may be an exemption, many a reports suggests that significant portion of youth (14 – 18 years) who have completed eight years of schooling lacked foundational skills like reading and math. 25% of this age group cannot read basic text fluently in their own language. Little complex applications of foundational skills in daily activities becomes challenging like calculations, measurement, understanding instructions, interpretations, etc. Learning deficits in elementary schools in previous years carry forward as people grow to adults. World Bank report on impact of education has stated similar statistics which are alarming. In rural India, little less than 75% of students of grade III could not solve two digit subtraction, and by class V still couldn’t do so. As the children grow the understanding of basic concepts becomes further weak making it difficult for them to progress in life.
The continued focus on primary and secondary education which is mostly dominated by classroom education is critical but the government should also stress on ‘employability’. As per a recent report, India will have 245 million surplus workers by 2030. However, around 80% of the talent who have completed higher of them lack the required skills that would help them get a formal job calling for a re-look at the way education strategies are developed and executed.
Firstly for India to take the advantage of its human resources, we would need to create a competitive advantage of the surplus workers by focusing on employability through vocational education. 30% of it should be made compulsory from class 8th onwards. Like the United Kingdom, the system of ‘Further Education’ should be introduced. It acts as a mezzanine layer before higher education and introduce ‘foundation degree’ programs giving exposure to vocational courses like beauty & wellness, retail, healthcare, hospitality, web technologies, etc.
Credits should be awarded to students who complete their foundation degrees and should be given lateral entry to degree programs. This could address the employability issues of the students and also create skilled people to address the needs of the industry for today and tomorrow.
Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence are the technologies to stress upon as these would be the key drivers for industrial growth. Irrespective, whether students choses vocational or higher education, schools should start exposing students and prepare them with these technologies right now.
Apprenticeships should be made a part of the curriculum to gives hands on exposure to the students for their holistic development. Learning by doing is the best form of acquiring capabilities, helps in applications of the knowledge in dealing with daily activities.
Another crucial aspect that requires attention is the way education is delivered. A combination of physical, online and apprenticeship should be the way forward. It will help in overcoming the learning crisis. It will improve enrolments as they become sustainable as it allows students to earn and learn while undergoing education.
Learning crisis is not just an individual issue, if delivered well it has the potential to cure a host of social ills. From an individual perspective it promotes employment, opportunity to get gainful employment health and reduces poverty. For society at large it spurs innovation, strengthens institutions and foster social harmony.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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