Time To Bring Disruption To Skill Imparting In India

Several industries in India and across the world have witnessed it; why leave education and skilling to natural processes when there is a dire need for acceleration

I am taking the risk of making the beginning of this article a bit boring by throwing out some numbers and data as food for thought. So, the results of the Consumer Pyramid household survey of Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) for Year 2021-22 is out. The employment rate for Indian youth as per the report stands at 10.4 per cent which as per critics is significantly lower than the World Bank report which incidentally stood at over 20 per cent in the year 2020. Trends have also shown falling employment rate amongst Indian youth which stood at 20.9 per cent in the year 2016-17 to 14.7 per cent in 2019-20 before nose-diving to just being able to maintain double-digit figures of 10 per cent plus when the Covid-19 pandemic dealt to India and to the world a cruel blow.

Also out are the results of the Indian Skills Report 2021 that show a decline in employability in the percentage of graduates from year 2019 to now. While the youth have got their graduate degrees, they just don’t seem to be professionally qualified to get employed in the jobs of today.

A third data point is from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where the progress that Indian sportspersons have made in their performance was being widely discussed across news and social media platforms. Data analysis has revealed that a large portion of the Indian Olympic participants have been nurtured from the interiors of India’s rural belt. Some of the medal winners, in disciplines such as wrestling, athletics and hockey, are all residents of small hamlets and villages in India who took the opportunity given to them and laboured diligently to make a name for themselves and for their country.

Let us now delve into the correlation between all these data points to stitch a connection that will eventually set the context to the subject line that almost emphatically states that it is time to bring a disruption to the whole process of livelihood creation in India. Livelihood is one of the 3 indices that sum up the Human Development Index or HDI in India, the other two being education and healthcare. Education Index is directly correlated to the Income Index, and research has shown that an increase of a year in the mean years of education is associated with a rise in per capital income by 3-6 per cent, which in turn accounts for a growth rate of one percentage point in the HDI. Income Index is linked to employment of skilled resources. India’s 2019 HDI ranking is 131 amongst 189 countries, and has actually slipped 2 spots from the previous year as per the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report 2020. Rural areas are those areas with a population of less than 49,000, which are otherwise also referred to as Tier-III & Tier IV cities. Rural India, interestingly, accounts for 70 per cent of India’s population and contributes to a large chunk of India’s GDP by way of agriculture, self-employment, services, construction, etc.

So where does all this lead to? The answer is DISRUPTION in education & skilling especially in the rural belt of India that covers more than 1.2 million schools and caters to more than 70 per cent of India’s population and which accounts for more than 60 per cent of the workforce in the country.

The above data-filled paragraphs, if read in tandem and in context with each other, will clearly bring out the need to drive much more seriousness in the areas of education and skilling in rural India, and emergency measures need to be adopted to beef up the execution process. Can this happen as a natural process? I doubt it and hence just as one has witnessed disruption in many industries in India and the world, so also it is now time to bring in the much-needed disruption in Indian education services and skilling services.

The limited space in this article may not do justice to the detailed solution that we may have to embark on as a nation and hence I shall veer towards the finale of this article with a few frameworks that could be used to trigger the change:

- The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has already laid down some pathbreaking guidelines around the enhanced use of technology, use of vernacular language for early childhood years, and commencing vocational education from Grade VI. The recommendation to include credits that are accumulated through skill learning in classroom to replace the academic marks needs to be implemented on a war footing.

- It is crucial to channelise and harness the untapped potential in rural parts of India and to ensure that we bridge the growing digital divide through easier and affordable access to digital devices and infrastructure. The content from NSQF should be widely publicised and easily downloadable for anyone who wishes to pick up these skills and the content itself should have more industry-relevant courses. Vocational education in schools must cover future-ready skills such as Digital Marketing, AI, Robotics, Data Science etc. Schemes like DDU GKY & PMKVY should be relooked for fostering innovative product and policy changes for encouraging more efficiency.

- Physical infrastructure through upgrade of ITIs and polytechnics in rural areas needs to be enabled in tandem with Point 2. If the ITIs fall short, hubs of excellence must be built preferably beyond a radius of 20 km from schools to meet the need for skill learning in specialised sectors suited to the state.

- PPP or Public Private Partnerships should be on the rise. The procedures for creating a joint policy document that meet the current requirement in and around infrastructure, digital interventions and content should be eased up and invitations to attract more private players to work alongside the government must be in place. The process of identifying potential ultra-micro entrepreneurs and hand-holding them through the journey of ‘business ideas to funding to business set-up to income generation to repayment' should be handled at an institutional level in association with certified professionals and not independent stand-alone agents or brokers.

- As of now, the Minister of Education also heads the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship at the Centre. This is a welcome move and allows for much better synergies and collaborative strategies to drive a singular chain of objectives, right from education of the child to skills development, finally culminating in livelihood for adults. To me, this is an important game-changer and I sincerely hope that in the days to come, these ministries continue to be headed by one Union Cabinet Minister who can then set a unified vision for the future generation of India.

India is at an inflection point and is at the tip of an emergence to be seen as a global influencer. The least we can afford at this time is a slide in the economic progress of its citizens and that can only be achieved through a singular objective to improve the livelihood of every Indian which in turn will be a function of a twin collaborative effort in bringing about a positive disruptive change in the way education and skilling services is delivered.

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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