Schools Must Start Looking At Solving The Employability Issue In India

Any competitive advantage that India and Indians love to boast about, “Demographic Dividend” does not exist, instead, it has the potential to become a “Demographic Disaster”

For long, the NASSCOM has been reporting that about 80% of the graduates coming out of our colleges are unemployable.  The recent report issued by NITI Ayog, “INDIA 3 YEAR ACTION AGENDA, 2017-18 TO 2019-20”, mentions that out of an assessment of 1,50,000 engineering graduates, only 18% were found to be employable in the software sector.  The statistics are somewhat similar in the field of commerce and humanities & arts.

We must take this issue very seriously and question it. The fact is that our education system is producing 80% unemployable workforce. This would imply that any competitive advantage that India and Indians love to boast about, “Demographic Dividend” does not exist, instead, it has the potential to become a “Demographic Disaster”. If we continue on this path, we will put tens of millions of educated people on the streets with no job, that will not be a pleasant situation.

Let’s trace the education of our unemployable graduate.   We know that these kids have studied either in the CBSE, ICSE or the state education board, after which they enrolled in some college, following either the curriculum of the affiliated university or their own approved curriculum, in the case of being a UGC approved private university. These kids are unemployable even after 14 years of schooling and another 4 years of college. Something’s amiss.  It’s the lives of tens of millions of our youth. It needs us to stand up and pay attention.

The curriculum of our school education boards has always focused on attainment of marks, on our ability to retain and reproduce information. The school curriculum does not focus on creating skills or creating knowledge, neither does it motivate our kids to focus on sports, or on their physical development, which is critical for their lifelong health issues. Our school system is geared towards exam preparation, either the school boards or the entrance exams. We have totally sacrificed on confidence building, innovation, creativity, handling and managing failure, managing conflict, and chaos, ability to be different and survive and thrive. Although we all fail, we don’t accept failure, we classify it as the end of the world, and that’s why some kids commit suicide, when they fail, or can’t cope up.  Is our School system failing us?

After school, we encourage our kids to enroll in a good college, (which is a rare commodity in India), for which they actually start preparing while in school.  We all know that the students go through a very tough time preparing for these competitive exams. The question to ask is why do our colleges fail our students?  Why do these colleges create 80% unemployable candidates? Again, it may point to the curriculum being taught in our colleges, which is archaic and outdated, not commensurate with the current demands of the market.

A number of students take on to the add-on courses offered outside the colleges, by training institutes, to try to build some employable skills, in a short time.  It’s an expensive approach with a slim chance of employment.

By this time, our unemployable youth is about 22 years, with nowhere to go and not much to look forward to.

The world is changing at the speed of light. Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, space science, etc. Education will have to radically change across the nations, not only in India.  A paradigm shift is required when we think about education. We must also keep in mind, that the three IT global leaders, Bill Gates (Microsoft), Michael Dell (Dell Corporation) and Steve Jobs (Apple) were all college dropouts, and they all went to some of the good colleges.

Education being imparted in India is merely limited to information, and reproduction of this information in examinations, with an objective to attain high marks and prepare for the competitive examinations. Better would be if these kids had some marketable “Skills”, or “Skills in demand”, which would have made them employable.  Better even, would be, if these kids were to become “knowledge creators”, where they innovate or discover new things that positively impact our lives.

Schools should now think about how they can shift their roles as “information dispensers and assessors” to “skills developers” and “knowledge creators”.

Our Schools are highly regulated, where they are restricted and constricted by the many unnecessary rules set by the center and the state, such as defining who can teach, what age should they be, what to teach, how to teach, what to assess, how to assess, what to do with the failures, our system has defined what a failure is and is designed to reject the failures. This remains true till the time the school is in session, say till 1:30 PM every day, but, as soon as our child comes out of the school, they come into the “free world”, they are able to breathe freely and are able to learn any content, in any language, from anyone, anytime – at their will, without the fear of beginning assessed and classified as a failure. These two worlds exist in parallel today, and in the near future the “free world” will survive, and the restrictions will cease to exist, or become irrelevant, the schools will be able to deliver, and not fail our children.

Schools must begin trying to innovate and reinvent themselves, for the sake of our children.  They must try to solve the employment issues that we face.  Focusing on skills, at a very early age, would be one such innovation. Schools can create “dedicated skill centers” within their campus, in partnership with the industry and the sector skills councils, and deliver the curriculum over the years that the student is enrolled in the school, such that at the time of graduation the students are well equipped with the necessary skills as demanded by the industry and can be gainfully employed at the age of 18 years.

Education is all about experimentation and innovation. This innovation can get an early start for our children, save a few years of their life, and a lot of money for their parents, save them from the stress of trying to find a college for their children, (most students do not get into their colleges of choice, most students compromise) and more importantly, create a skilled, productive human resource.

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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schools academic institutions education reforms

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