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Education Programs Try to Close Gaps in Myanmar

Education, Higher Education, Vocational Training

09-03-2014

The New York Times

NYAUNG SHWE, MYANMAR — Across the marshes and open waters of Inle Lake, in Myanmar’s Shan State, motorboats and traditional canoes carry monks to temples and villagers to market, while fishermen with spherical wooden nets pull fish from the murky waters. Lately, another sight has also appeared — boatloads of tourists, cameras readied for the perfect shot of a rapidly disappearing traditional way of life.

Tourism in Myanmar, formerly Burma, is readying for takeoff, with new hotels, airports and restaurants under construction all over the country. Yet development in places like Inle Lake risks being held back by a major constraint: Decades of isolation and repression under the former military junta have left a shortfall in higher education and vocational training in essential skills, not least a working knowledge of foreign languages.

As a step toward filling the gap, a pilot program last summer sponsored by Partnership for Change, a Norwegian social business organization, arranged a six-week English language immersion course for Inle people working in tourism and hospitality. Supported by Teachers Across Borders, 77 students were taught a range of material including English grammar and giving spoken directions. The program proved so popular that 120 students are expected to join a version of the course this summer.

“We talked to the locals here and they were very specific. They wanted to improve their English skills,” said Barbara Bauer, a retired American telecommunications executive who coordinates the program. “We used a rather crude assessment at the beginning and then again at the end, and it was literally a measurable improvement in written and grammar skills. It improved their confidence dramatically.”

The Inle Lake program is one among dozens of vocational education programs that are being implemented to get Myanmar — a place where major multinationals are eager to invest — up to speed in skills as varied as hospitality, information technology and nursing.

For example, Telenor, which won a mobile phone license tender last year and planned to hire 1,000 employees by the end of this year, started the Telenor Myanmar Academy in December, focusing on skill training and professional development.

There are also huge changes afoot in university education. In October 2012 a “Comprehensive Education Sector Review” was begun to bring the quality of education at all levels, from primary school through to university and adult learning, up to international standards.

Led by the Myanmar government, working with partners including the Asian Development Bank, the British Council and Unesco, the review is expected to produce a final draft of recommendations in June as a framework for sweeping improvements in curriculums, matriculation exams and school environments.

“The education system, especially in higher education, will be key to the economic development of the country,” said Daniel Obst, deputy vice president for international partnerships with the Institute of International Education. The I.I.E., a nonprofit group based in New York has been helping the government create links with global educational institutions.

“You have all these companies swooping in and investing,” Mr. Obst said: “But if you do not have the courses that can teach the right things — and professors who do not have the knowledge to teach them — it is very challenging.”

The country’s higher education sector was devastated by five decades of military rule, which formally ended in 2011. After a nationwide spate of student protests in 1988, brutally suppressed with thousands of deaths and arrests, the university system was essentially dismantled, with undergraduate courses dispersed to satellite campuses far away from the city centers like Yangon and Mandalay.

“Students had to literally wade through paddy fields to go to university,” said Tharaphi Than, a Burmese languages professor at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. “The idea was to not just physically disperse the student population but to also send a strong message that you cannot use higher education institutions for political activities.”

Universities were nationalized, with 13 different ministries in charge of various higher education institutions, and academics were cut off from their international counterparts.

Since the country opened up three years ago, however, changes in higher education have been happening quickly: “It is hard to keep up with, really,” said Kevin Mackenzie, the director of the British Council in Myanmar.

Among the changes, undergraduates have been allowed back to the main campuses of schools like Yangon University; in December a first cohort of 1,000 students moved back into Yangon’s dorms and started classes.

There are also plans to give universities more autonomy and to decentralize some powers, moving some authority away from the ministries.

In parallel with the comprehensive review, two parliamentary committees are examining how to redraft higher education laws and how to modernize Yangon University. There also is a strong understanding that the current vocational and higher education curriculums may not be relevant to the needs of the job market.

“We need to look towards courses with greater job orientation in practical areas,” U Zaw Htay, director general for the Department for Higher Education, wrote in an email. “This is an area of imbalance in our current system and it is important that we redress this.”

That is where catch-up vocational courses such as the Inle Lake English classes have served as a stopgap.

“People are leaving university without the kind of skills that are needed for employability,” Mr. Mackenzie said. “Companies that are coming in now are finding it difficult to recruit skilled workers. If you want to recruit someone with critical thinking skills or business management and with good English, that is very, very challenging.”

There is also an understanding that international educational links are essential for universities to improve their courses and prepare students for a global job market. The I.I.E. began a 20-week course in November aimed at helping universities in Myanmar set up links with schools around the globe.

“Our thought was, you cannot wait until education reform is enacted, you have to do something now,” Mr. Obst said. “All this stuff is happening, but how can you redesign your curricula if you do not have contact with a foreign university? How can you bring in foreign faculty to co-teach courses? So it is International Education 101.”

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Education events to look decade ahead

Curriculum Development, Global news, Vocational Training

You’re going to be tempted to say, “Back in my day …” but you must resist.

If you attend one of the three Education Summits hosted in the next eight days by the Wichita Falls Independent School District, you will come face to face with a paradigm shift in education that is so vast, it’s affecting not only classrooms but also the buildings that house them.

It’s also creating an educational environment completely different from the one you remember.

The summits — the first begins today at 6 p.m. at Scotland Park Elementary School — will be the school district’s opportunity to introduce you to the challenges facing them and then ask you to join them in a brainstorming session.

Instead of looking back, you will be asked to look ahead and help craft an instructional vision for WFISD’s future.

“We need our participants to look 10 years ahead and think about what our learning environment will look like,” said Tim Powers, WFISD assistant superintendent.

On its website, WFISD pictures the classroom you remember, with a June-Cleaver-looking teacher instructing students who sit in rows. That contrasts sharply with the photo of today’s classroom: Students equipped with iPads conferring with one another in small groups.

The website also includes statistics like these: The U.S. Department of Labor estimates today’s learners will work at 10 to 14 jobs by the time they’re 38 years old. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t even exist in 2004.

Schools must prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet, with technology that hasn’t been invented yet, said WFISD Public Information Officer Renae Murphy.

“We have to make sure our kids are flexible,” Murphy said, “and have skills that can transfer over to different types of professions.”

All are welcome to join the discussion. The city’s leaders — county commissioners, judges, city council members, and chamber leaders — were specifically invited to attend the Tuesday noon brown-bag meeting.

“We’re trying to incorporate other entities in this plan,” Murphy said. “(Superintendent) Dr. (George) Kazanas sees it as an opportunity for Wichita Falls as a whole. There may be partnerships that can be developed. We want to encourage that thinking also.”

Ultimately, discussion about how schools must change to adapt to technology advances will lead to decisions about how classrooms must be equipped to support today’s teacher and students, then what the buildings must be like.

“Eventually, it will become a tangible facility plan,” Murphy said.

The district leaders anticipate revamping the district’s secondary facilities and raising money for the project through a bond issue.

In the not-so-distant past, the district planned new buildings by hiring a facility study and focusing on brick-and-mortar buildings and school locations.

But not this time.

“This is a different approach,” Murphy said. “Dr. Kazanas is wanting the community to think of the end product (the student we want to create) first, then ask how to support the teacher to get the kids to that level. It’s a big paradigm shift to challenge our community to think in those terms first.”

Community members must begin by trying to comprehend the evolution of technology, its influence on education, and the reality that students no longer compete with students in neighboring counties.

They race against students in China, India, and all over the world, Powers said.

“We must wrap our heads around the fact that our students are entering a global economy and will change jobs at a much higher rate than we did. Students graduating will be more fluid, flexible and versatile when they enter the job market. We must be prepared to provide them with the skills and tools they will need to be successful,” Powers said.

The focus now is creating students who will be lifelong learners, who are equipped to find information and use it to problem-solve.

The second summit convenes Tuesday at noon at the Education Center, 1104 Broad Street in Room 302. The third summit meets April 10, at 6 p.m. at Barwise Junior High School.

Prior to attending the summit, participants are urged to preview an introductory video about today’s students that’s posted on the district’s website

Times Record News, 02 April 2012

Comment

Kids benefit from partnership

Curriculum Development, Quality, Vocational Training

In 1990, President Steven D. Lavine of the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia established a program to give underserved youth ages 8 to 18 in Los Angeles County a chance to experience the arts in a college setting.

The goal was to take the innovative teaching style created by Walt Disney at CalArts and share it with children who otherwise may not get that opportunity.

The program — the
CalArts Community Arts Partnership, or CAP — provides 7,500 underserved, low-income students with arts education opportunities each year.

Under the leadership of director Glenna Avila, who has a passion for art, youth and community, the program is designed to cross socio-economic boundaries.

Avila also has an extensive background working with the city of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

“With the current budget cuts public schools are facing, after-school arts programs are being cut back or eliminated altogether,” Avila said. “CalArts CAP fills in the gap, taking arts education to kids living below the poverty line, who otherwise may never get that college opportunity.”

The CalArts CAP Program partners with more than 60 neighborhoods and 40 public schools, community centers and social service agencies throughout Los Angeles County, providing free arts education to underserved areas.

Sixty artist-educators from the CalArts faculty and 300 CalArts student instructors and alumni are the teaching force behind the CAP program, all with an emphasis on individualized attention to the student.

“It is all about giving the student exposure to the arts with as much individualized attention as possible,” Avila said. “The arts impact community development.”

The faculty consists of professional artists, with at least three years of teaching experience at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The CAP program also operates 52 free in-school, after school and summer arts education programs each year.

The program features a variety of art experiences including fine art, photography, printmaking, graphic design, digital media, animation, video, jazz, world music, play writing, chamber music, theater, puppetry, dance and creative writing.

CAP has received national honors including the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities Coming Up Taller Award.

The award was presented by then-first lady Laura Bush for the CAP effort to foster creative and intellectual development in children.

In the Santa Clarita Valley, the CalArts CAP program partners with the Boys & Girls Club in Newhall, Arroyo Seco Junior High School in Canyon County and Newhall Elementary School.

West Creek Academy in Valencia also partners with the CalArts CAP Program and hosts a music-infused curriculum for grades one through four, and a theater program for grades five and six.

The art forms included in the curriculum are dance/drum, piano, violin and vocal performance from cultures around the world.

“The idea — in addition to exposing the kids to the arts — is to teach vital skills such as listening,” Avila said. “The arts are simply a tool to teaching life.”

Avila said the West Creek curriculum gained some inspiration from Gustavo Dudamel, a native of Venezuela and the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, who also conducts youth orchestras using a music philosophy known as “El Sistema.”

The El Sistema program has used music ensembles to transform the lives of 300,000 kids from the poorest parts of Venezuela.

CalArts CAP has several venues throughout the Southland for youth to be involved, such as the public/private partnership with the city of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The CAP/Sony Pictures Media Arts Program for children ages 10 to 14 will be a celebration of animation.

The program is free and will teach students how to write, animate, direct and edit their own animated short films using the latest technologies from Sony Pictures Entertainment and artists from CalArts.

The grand finale will include a screening on the big screen of all the films created. The host site closest to the SCV is the San Fernando Gardens Community Service Center at 10896 Lehigh Ave. in Pacoima and runs 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays and Tuesday now through June 13.

CalArts CAP will also host a CAP Summer Arts Program 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays July 9-26.

Featured will be animation, creative writing, dance, digital filmmaking, music, photography, theater and visual arts.

Also on the CalArts campus in Valencia is a photography program 4 to 7 p.m. on Mondays and a digital-media program, which explores the worlds of video as well as T-shirt design, book creation and poster design, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.

The Signal, 09 March 2012

Comment

Vocational Education in India: A Big Opportunity

Vocational Training

One need not explain the meaning of Demographic Dividend in the present context, as it has been India’s trump Card during the recent high growth period. But, the apparent demographic dividend has mostly resulted into a mistake. We need our youth to be productive in a much more effective and extensive way. The 93 % of employment in unorganized sectors is a shame for a country of the size of India. Keeping in mind the nature of work force available in India, we need more jobs which involve semi-skilled and manual labour, or to go a step ahead a more extensive provision for vocational training to better utilise the available labour. This Demographic Dividend might very well have extremely negative effects, if we fail to skill our youth quickly.

ndia’s GDP is split 17%, 28%, and 55% in agriculture, industry and services, respectively. Similarly, the employed workforce splits 52%, 14 and 34% respectively. The disproportionate services GDP is an anomaly in an economically poor country like India. The vast majority of service employment in India is in low-level and low-paying industries. The contribution of higher-level industries to the services GDP is driven by the information technology and software sectors which do not employ large numbers of people.

States like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh contain so much potential than already put in use; these are the states from where the demographic explosion is confirmed. Yet keeping in mind the present scenario they are still likely to contribute insignificantly to the GDP. The laggards will have to be the front runners in every sphere to overcome under performance, but the challenges are insurmountable.

Indian spends $600 billion yearly on education. With this India’s education sector is bigger than that of the US. India is the 9th highest in the world in this context. India’s yearly growth in overall education expenditure at 15% is also one of the fastest in the global system.

The estimated Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of private revenue in Indian education is roughly 19% from 2011 to 2015, one of the highest in the world again. On the same lines vocational training is emerging as big opportunities for private players. High growth, scarcity of investable opportunities and the recession-proof nature of the sector are likely to keep valuations high.
From $30 billion in 2012, private education revenue is expected to reach $45 billion by 2015. Some of the estimates are: K-12 (Kindergarten to 12th grade- $20 billion, technical education- $12billion, coaching- $8 billion and pre-school $3 billion.
The affluent class groups in urban areas spend 10.4% of the total consumer expenditure towards private education. On the other hand rural poor spends just 1.4% of their income on education. With the median income elasticity of demand for education at near 2, a 1% rise in per capita income leads to a 2% jump in spending for education, mostly on private education. This is the key driver of the sector.

Indian education is in a dismal state with only about one out of eight children who start first grade graduating from 12th grade. According to World Bank data, India’s literacy rate for ages 15 and above places it in the last quartile of 114 countries.

Inclusive growth can be effective when there is an attempt to uplift more students who are under the Below The Line (BTL) and provide them with vocational training for jobs. Dichotomy between public and private is pivotal to bring both scalability and skill to move things at a faster pace. Speed in execution is mandatory.

State Governments have initiated an array of schemes. One such scheme run by the Andhra Pradesh Government is the Employment Guarantee Marketing Mission Scheme, under which the Government partners with education agencies to train and place students from BTL in a better position. Government further reimburses the entire fee including boarding expenses. The programme prolongs for 400 hours predominantly in retail, sales and marketing customer service. The highlight of the programme has been the placement success which is currently clocking at 70%, companies like Café Coffee day and Macdonald in hospitality sector, Big Bazaar and more in retail, Hindustan Level in FMCG and so on hire extensively. There is a need for many more such Government funded programmes.

58 % of our graduates suffer from some sort of skill deficiency, and require last mile intervention to make them employable. At the same time companies don’t want to pay for trained man power as the wages will have to be higher.

“India will account for 20 per cent of the world’s global workforce in 2020s. The average age of Indian workforce will be 29 years as compared to 37 for the US and China and 45 years for Europe”, Kapil Sibal, minister for human resource development, communications and IT said at the India Economic Summit 2011 in Mumbai.

Never before in the history of any country has human capital development been such a key focus area as 2011 was for India, marking the beginning of better times. The huge demographic dividend India can for sure reap from its large young population, with 250 million to 400 million people joining the employment market between now and 2025 to fuel its growth. This is a staggering number by any standards. However, to become productive these huge numbers have to be suitably trained to avoid large scale unemployment, which needs greater emphasis than rejoicing the fact that we have the largest youngest population in comparison to other countries.

To be more specific, 109 million persons will attain working age during the period of 2007-2012. The net addition to workforce is, therefore, expected to grow to 89 million of which around 13 million are likely to be graduates/post graduates and about 57 million are likely to be school drop outs or illiterates. A significant share of incremental demand is likely to be for skilled labour – graduates and vocationally trained people are expected to account for 23% of incremental demand by 2012. The study further estimates that India is likely to increase deficit of 5.25 million employable graduates and vocationally trained workforce by 2012.

Vocational education could be a great way to counter this challenge. India’s current capacity for vocational training is just about 4 to 5 million per year against a requirement of 10 times that. Hence focusing on vocational education is of primary and immediate importance for the country.

Youth ki Awaaz, 31 January 2012

1 Comment

Short essay on Non-formal education in India

Edupreneurship, Learning Achievements, Vocational Training

NFE is one of the recent concepts being adopted in Indian Education. In the context of the Indian situation, non-formal education has assumed a slightly different connotation. It has been accepted as complementary and supplementary to the formal education.

It has been widely accepted by our government and people because the formal system has failed or is inadequate to fulfil our commitment to the constitutional directive (Art. 45) that is, to achieve universalization of elementary education for all the children of 6-14 age group within the fixed time limit. Further, non-formal education is aimed at providing educational facilities to those children of 9-14 age groups who, on account of one reason or another, could not complete elementary education or dropped out before they could do so.

Highlights

NFE is one of the recent concepts being adopted in India. It has been accepted as complementary and supplementary to the formal education.

Programmes are meant for:

(a) Out of school youth.

(b) Adults.

(c) Women.

(d) Emerging leadership.

The programme of NFE basically differs from that of Adult Education Programme (AEP) on age. In the former case it is 9-14, while in the latter case it is 15-35 years. Moreover, in NFE the emphasis is more on socio-academic component besides the learning of 3 R’s. In AEP, the emphasis is more on socio-economic (including vocational) aspects.

Programmes

There are certain categories of people who stand in special need of non-formal education.

(a) Out of School Youth.

Out of school youth are in the age group of 15-25. The size of the group is about 20 per cent of the total population. Its members are generally alert, inquisitive, impression- able, and capable of being inspired by emotional commitments to the service of people and the country. As Educand therefore, they offer rich and potential material that is much easier to handle than either children of younger age or adults.

By and large, these programmes will have to be part-time. But in many cases short full-time courses can also be arranged with great advantage.

(b) Adults.

To begin with, we divide programmes of adult education into two parts: (1) Continuing education for those who have already completed elementary, secondary and higher education and (2) Education of the poor and deprived groups which will include further education of those who are illiterates; literacy programmes, and even the further education of those who are illiterate and may not desire to be literate.

(c) Women.

We should develop programmes for women similar to those which have been described earlier for men. Programmes for better care and upbringing of children, family planning, and preservation of food, nutrition, and improved culinary practices have special interest and significance for women.

The training of women workers for delivery of health care services and for provision of non-formal education emphasised. Condensed courses which help women who have missed regular school to complete their formal studies in a short period and seek employment have been found to be useful; and there is urgent need to develop worker’s education programmes for women workers in the organised industry.

(d) Emerging Leadership.

A new leadership from masses and especially from rural areas is now emerging in many walks of life. It is particularly growing in the political sphere where it is getting elected to membership of local bodies, state legislatures, and parliament.

Very often it is found that this new leadership is not fully equipped to discharge the responsibilities which it has assumed. The development of non formal education programme for this social group, with a view to enabling it to discharge its responsibilities satisfactorily is obviously a programme of high significance and priority.

A similar group is that of ‘Opinion- leaders’ in rural areas who play a significant role in moulding community I thinking and action in their localities. Their training through non-formal channels will have far reaching consequences for development and social transformation.

Preserve Articles, 16 January 2012

Comment

New initiatives to strengthen vocational education

Vocational Training

NEW DELHI: With the aim to strengthen vocational education curriculum and instructor training in India through industry relevant train-the-trainer curriculum and materials development, Jindal Education Initiatives, Wadhwani Foundation and Montgomery College (MC), USA have entered into a strategic partnership on Friday.

Recognition of India’s need to increase the numbers of educated and skilled young adults to compete in an increasingly globalised, knowledge-based economy is the focus of the MoU. The goal of the collaboration is to develop, implement, monitor, and evaluate a technical trade instructor training program and related instructional materials with a view to scale-up nationally.

“Given the complementary objectives and capabilities, the MoU proposes to collaborate on developing a state-of-the-art advanced training program for technical trade instructors comprising curricula that are industry job driven and progressive,” said Naveen Jindal, CMD, JSPL.

Jindal Education Initiatives (JE) will be the implementation partner providing “hard infrastructure” i.e., fully-equipped trade instructor training facility and staffing, while Montgomery College will provide technical expertise using a mutually agreed upon cost recovery model. The Wadhwani Foundation will be the capacity building partner augmenting “soft infrastructure” like curriculum and courseware development, faculty development and enabling technology platform.

It may be recalled that Jindal Education Initiatives had launched Community Colleges across India early this year providing vocational education certificates and diploma programmes in 37 market-demand trades for 5,000 students. The OP Jindal Community College (OPJCC) campuses are located in Angul and Barbil in Orissa, Patratu and Godda in Jharkhand and Punjipathra in Chhattisgarh. OPJCC is registered under the IGNOU Community College Scheme and the certificates and diplomas are recognized by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development.

Over the next five years, OPJCC intends to enrol over 100,000 vocational education students.

Jindal Educational Initiatives had also partnered with Montgomery College, Maryland, USA for this purpose. The partnership entailed workforce development curricula in automotive technology, construction management and building trades to lead an initiative to build critical capacity in the community college/technical education sector in India through faculty exchange programmes and development of curricula.

Wadhwani Foundation launched a similar initiative last year called “Wadhwani Skills Colleges” with the goal of creating capacity for industry linked vocational education of three million students over the next decade.

The MoU was signed by Dr Sanjeev Sahni, head, Education Initiatives, JSPL, Dr Derionne Pollard, president, Montgomery College and Dr Ajay Kela, President and CEO, Wadhwani Foundation at a glittering event in Delhi. Also present on the occasion was the First Lady of Maryland, Catherine O’Malley.

Times of India, 2 December 2011

Comment

Indian students continue to shun Australia

Higher Education, Vocational Training

MELBOURNE: Even while the number of international students coming to Australia continues to fall, Malaysia has replaced India as the second largest source of students in the field of Higher Education.

As a result, the losses suffered by the Australia international education sector have ballooned to $2 billion in the last one year.

While China has maintained its top position as the source country (40 per cent), Malaysia is now on the number two position with a distant 7.5 per cent. Indian contribution, according to the September month figures made available by Australian Education International, has plummeted further in both Higher Education and Vocational Training segments.

A year earlier while China was responsible for 27 per cent of international students enrolling in Australian university for Higher Education courses, the Indian share was 15 per cent.

The overall fall in international students’ numbers coming to Australia, as compared to figures exactly one year back, is 9.4 per cent.

While often exaggerated news reports about the attacks on Indian students Down Under have contributed to the dwindling numbers, the so-called integrity measures adopted by the Australian immigration authorities have also led to students being refused visas to study in Australian universities and other higher education institutes.

Australian vocational training institutes have suffered the most as most of the students coming from India were enrolling in ‘Trade’ courses like cookery, hairdressing, automotive engineering, etc. A year back, India was the top source for Vocational Training students accounting for 32.1 per cent enrollments.

The decline in enrolment for Australian Vocational Training courses has been the steepest of all as 17.5 per cent less enrollments were recorded in as compared to September 2010.

“The number of Indian students enrolling in courses like cookery and hairdressing is huge by any standard, leading to closure of many institutes here in Australia,” said a Melbourne-based vocational trainer Deepak Chopra.

Overall, India continues to cling to the second position as the source country with 12.8 per cent of overall figure (519,025). China has also maintained the top position by sending 28.9 per cent of the total number of international students’ enrollments in Australian institutes.

The Australian government is making efforts to check the decline as reforms based on ‘Knight Review’ have been approved and would come into force by the middle of next year.

‘Our international education sector is world class, and the reforms announced today will help entrench Australia as a preferred destination for international students,’ Senator Chris Evans Minister of Tertiary Education had earlier said in a media release.

“The reforms will assist in ensuring Australia remains an attractive study option and will offer practical support for international education providers that have been under pressure as a result of the high Australian dollar,” Senator Evans added.

Education Times, 27 October 2011

Comment

India’s vocational future

Vocational Training

Vocational education is the poor cousin of what the urban middle class in this country hopes for its children. This is largely because it is directly linked to the perceived low-status manual work. As it exists today, vocational education perpetuates the iniquitous social hierarchy in the country.

We need a system that treats vocational subjects as an honourable option and offers them as a serious alternative for students, regardless of their class, caste, region or any other marker of socio-economic status. This has to be done on the back of good quality basic education, because all children have the right to it, and it is a foundation without which vocational education can’t function. It is also important not to design vocational studies only around the needs of the urban industrial and service sectors.

Perhaps this is too much to hope for. But without this vision, vocational education may not deliver its promise and will not make any real dent on the massive problems of livelihood in our country.

Let us take these issues one by one.

Unless our basic education system becomes effective, the vocational part is not going to be effective. Basic education that lacks quality will only lead to a situation where vocational education will have to deal with students brought up on a diet of rote, far behind age appropriate learning levels. The abilities required as starting points for students for subsequent vocational education to be effective can only come from quality basic education, which fosters all-round cognitive abilities and the development of affective, social, physical and ethical dimensions.

Equity is the other integral dimension of an effective basic education system. Equitable education may not be sufficient for all to have equitable opportunities in life cutting through socio-economic disadvantage. But it is certainly one of the few social mechanisms towards such a society. Vocational education built on iniquitous basic education, combined with its poor cousin status, will only sharpen and harden socio-economic class boundaries.

The design of the vocational system must ensure that students are not forced to choose too early between the vocational and academic (if we can call it that) paths. The other design requirement for the vocational education system is more complex.The system must offer students the possibilities of switching between the vocational and the academic paths all along the way. Offering this flexibility is a definite route to reducing the social burden of any choice, i.e. making all educational choices “honourable”.

One way to ensure flexibility is to have a vocational education method that is integrated with the basic education system on one end, and with higher education system on the other; more akin to the Nordic system, than the German-Swiss system. In fact, an integrated system will erase sharp distinctions between “vocational” and “academic” streams.

Let me now bring up what is perhaps the most intractable of issues at the foundation level for vocational education.

What are these vocations that such an education will be for? We know the standard answer: from plumbing, masonry, machinists and electricians to hotel and retail workers, with many more in between.

The list of these vocations arises from our view of what is required in our society, which we currently see as an urbanizing industrializing society with a large service sector. There is some good-intentioned discussion about rural and semi-urban India requiring different vocations, but it stops short of serious action. This is partly because our imagined destination for all of India is to be like Gurgaon. In this collective imagination, rural and semi-urban India don’t really need separate attention.

One should be apprehensive about an India imagined in that way. It may neither be desirable nor a feasible destination for our country. But both the apprehensions and desire to “become Gurgaon” are dwarfed by the reality that such an India is non-existent for 80% of Indians and will be so for decades ahead.

For vocational education to be relevant to this India, it must draw from vocations of local realities. These vocations are based on local resources, e.g. agricultural, pastoral, forestry. They have existing formal or informal apprenticeship systems. An effective vocational system will have to build this apprenticeship further and marry it with education, which opens doors to knowledge, skills and technology from diverse sources, which are complementary. Such a system by its very nature will have to be diverse and localized.

A flexible, localized vocational education system, built integrated with effective basic education, sounds too difficult to construct. Given the reality, size and diversity of India, nothing else will work. It sounds difficult to construct as we tend to look at things in a timescale of a few years. We should think of doing this in 20 years, moving steadily in that direction, and we can be sure it will be done. We have succeeded with such impossible sounding projects before: how many of us would have believed 20 years ago that 98% of our villages will have schools within walking distance, as is there today, thanks to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

Mint, 19 October 2011

Comment

Privatise medical education to ensure health to all: Delhi High Court

Higher Education, Vocational Training

The Delhi High Court has given thumbs-up to privatisation of medical education to bridge the gap between the number of doctors available and the India’s teeming millions.

In a judgment delivered last week, Justice Kailash Gambhir pulled up the Medical Council of India’s (MCI) red tape that has been hampering the growth of medical education in the country.

The court was hearing a case filed by several private medical colleges, such as Teerthankar Mahaveer Institute of Management, Rama Medical College Hospital and Research Centre, Kanpur, andSchool of Medical Sciences and Research, Sharda University, against an MCI decision that barred them from increasing their student intake from 100 seats to 150.

This order will also bring cheer to hundreds of students who aspire for a medical career as it increases the number of seats in various colleges.

“At a time when the world health organization is aiming to achieve a doctor-population ratio of 1:1000, India will only be able to achieve the same only in 2031 with the existing colleges and state of affairs. And it is estimated that there will be still a shortage of 9.54 lakh doctors till then,” justice Gambhir said.

According to WHO reports, India ranks 67th in the list of 133 developing countries with the doctor-population ratio at 1:1700 as compared to the world ratio which is 1.5:1000.

“Privatisation of medical education has become the need of the hour,” the order said, but cautioning that the “sudden spurt has no doubt contributed to the declining standards of medical education, with more money being pumped in by charging higher fees.”
Taking a nuanced view, the court agreed that there must be stringent conditions for monitoring the quality of medical education so that “the trust of the common man in the custodians of our health is rejuvenated and strengthened.”

Highlighting the poor health ratio in the country, the judge said, “With the share of government being less and the private colleges shouldering more responsibility, there is still approximately only 1 medical college per 38.41 lakh people — dismal figures which reflect the acute crisis in the country.”

The court called for a “balance, between the unprecedented institutional growth today (and) the skewed doctor-patient ratio,” and suggested a “solution” by reviewing the entire regulatory mechanism.

DNA, 5 October 2011

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Vocational education in schools

Vocational Training

BANGALORE: The State Government is mulling over introducing vocational education for class 9 students from the next academic year.

Speaking at the first state-level brain-storming session of the National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF), Primary and Secondary Education Minister Vishveshwara Hegde Kageri said that the government is determined to introduce vocational training under NVEQ framework.

Under the NVEQF programme, vocational training courses on communication skills, social and behavioural skills and job-seeking skills will be merged into the existing syllabus. The programme will be introduced from class 9 to doctorate level.

“Our educational system gives degrees to enable students to seek employment. Unfortunately, these qualifications are not helping them to secure employment,” the minister said and added that the focus of the system should be on making students employable.

He pointed out that sectors such as Information Technology and Bio-technology among others are getting too much attention. “This has to change. We have to train students with necessary skill sets to meet employers’ demand,” he said.

Participating in the session, Associate Professor at PSS Central Institute for Vocational Education (PSSCIVE) Prof V S Mehrotra said that NVEQF will be an improved version of Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for vocational education.

A student can choose to train in any subject regardless of his chosen area of study. Also, portfolio of students will be created in electronic format to monitor individual progress.

Although participants in the session welcomed the idea of implementing vocational training, some expressed doubts over parents and private schools approving this programme.

IBNLive, 2 October 2011

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