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UPA readies fresh push for vocational education

Learning Achievements, Vocational Training

Later this month the government will unveil a new initiative to integrate vocational education with mainstream education.

The move, if successful, will provide alternative avenues to reduce pressure on the universities that are unable to cope with the demand for undergraduate admissions and at the same time will also help create a pool of trained manpower for different industry verticals.

As a first step, the human resource development (HRD) ministry has tied up with a group of established state universities including the Bombay University to offer vocational courses at the graduation level with multi-entry and multi-exit facility for students.

“We want our education system to be inclusive and contemporary. In two weeks’ time we will launch the programme in 10 universities across India,” said a senior HRD ministry official, requesting anonymity as a formal announcement to this effect is yet to be made.

M.S. Kurhade, registrar of the Bombay University confirmed the development. He said the university is adding some new courses this year, but refused to give details.

The university caters to around 700,000 students in Maharashtra through its affiliated colleges.

The HRD ministry official said the initiative will help thousands of students who fail to get admission in universities in spite of scoring above average marks.

“Students scoring 70% marks have failed to enter many Delhi University colleges. Unless we innovate, it would be difficult to create a pool of talent for our growing economy,” said the official, adding that it would also bring quality students to vocational education, a segment which is largely perceived as an inferior choice.

Though an increasing number of students are applying for university education, all cannot be absorbed due to lack of infrastructure. For example, in 2011 as many as 186,000 admission forms were sold in Delhi University as against 140,000 last year, but only 54,000 can be given admission.

Without naming the universities, the HRD ministry official said that the bachelor in vocational education will be introduced in some of the universities of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra among others.

“This is part of the Central government’s emphasis to streamline vocational education and devise a Central vocational education framework. Though only 10 universities are roped in this year, the number will increase significantly next year as government wishes to pursue it in the 12th Plan period,” said the official, adding that authorities have “already given a presentation to the Planning Commission on this subject”.

The HRD ministry has recently told the Central Advisory Board of Education that it wants to reform the vocational education segment as it would help bridge the skill gap and increase productivity in the labour force.

In a note, a copy of which has been reviewed by Mint, the government says, “only about 2.5 million vocational training seats are available in the country whereas about 12.8 million persons enter the labour market every year. About 90% of the employment opportunities require vocational skills, something that is not being imparted on a large scale in schools and colleges.”

“There is a need to build the element of vocational education in the general education and vice-versa for a holistic approach to human resource development,” the note further adds.

A second HRD ministry official said that after every six months, students of these courses will be awarded a certificate, which will help them get jobs if they want to to take a break from study to earn. “In a way, this will also arrest drop out in the graduation level. For every six months of education, students will acquire a particular skill set module,” the second official said, who also requested anonymity.

“I failed to get a seat in a good college of Delhi University in spite of scoring 75% marks. If a job-oriented course can give me admission in a good college, then I will go for it,” said Varun, supporting such a move.

However, some experts believe that fundamental question of faculty and curricula are very important to make any education initiative a success. Anustup Nayak, co-promoter and partner of iDiscoveri Education Pvt. Ltd, an education and consultancy firm, said: “There is no doubt on the government’s intention. But what about curriculum and teaching methodology? What about getting quality faculty? Only preparing video modules and some content cannot give an adult required skill-set.”

“Reflect, observe, feedback, application and assessment are key to imparting such courses. The proper execution and real outcome of such initiatives needs to be assured first,” Nayak argued.

Mint, July 4, 2011


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