The fatal flaw the surgeons committed was in
forgetting all about education.
In all successful countries Germany, the UK, Japan or
even China skills and education remain closely knitted.
We somehow missed the bus in 1977 when 10+2 was
introduced by D S Kothari, the then UGC chairman, with vocational education
as the central objective in accordance with the recommendations of the
Education Commission Report (1964-66).
Unfortunately, there were few takers for vocational
education, primarily due to deep-rooted social prejudices against working
with one’s hands as it is considered lowly and demeaning.
As a result, over the years, the budgetary provisions
for skills in schools dried up and today it exists in a silo as a scheme of
the Ministry of Skills and Entrepreneur Development (MSDE).
The dream of streaming 50 per cent students into the
vocational side never materialised. The challenge now is how to make a
U-turn and kick-start it all over again.
An attempt was made in 2010-13 when the two major
stakeholders the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and Ministry
of Labour and Employment (MoLE).
NSQF is a framework under which skills are
mainstreamed into the education system at the national level.
There are several advantages to NSQF, over the modular
courses offered by the MSDE.
It streams students according to their aptitude and
capacity into the general or vocational line from Class IX itself.
Whereas the certificates and diplomas granted by the
MSDE and others are terminal in nature, NSQF can lead a student to a
bachelor’s degree in vocational education (B.Voc).
It seamlessly provides pathways between education,
skills and the job market, thereby de-stigmatising vocational education by
making it part-and-parcel of the school and university system.
General education subjects such as reading, writing,
arithmetic and basic science provide the necessary glue.
NSQF also recognises prior learning, through which an
estimated 20 million school dropouts can get a second chance.
At present, with the chase to meet targets, the space
has been taken over by fly-by-night operators raising serious ethical
The Apprenticeship Act, which has enormous potential,
has also failed to enthuse industry.
There are no figures available on actual placements
but some estimates indicate figures as low as 5 to 10 per cent.
The MSDE is finding it extremely difficult to tackle
the mind-boggling target of skilling 400 million (though officially, the
claim is 250 million till end 2017).
If skills had remained a part of education as
envisaged in 1977, it could have ridden piggyback on the wave of
massification of higher education that is taking place in the country.
The target of achieving 30 per cent GER by 2022, which
seemed impossible in 2008 (it was 11 per cent then), is now well on its
course to being achieved.
The present target would have been less daunting with
the MHRD’s capital and human resources of more than 900 universities, 6,000
technical institutions, 3,200 polytechnics, 36,000 colleges and 1.55 million
schools, compared to the MSDE’s 10,000 ITIs.
Having identified the “monster in the mist”, we now
need to be bold and implement 10+2 in its original spirit, along with NSQF,
and not fall into the trap of the petty turf games which ministries and
bureaucrats are so prone to playing.