The National Skills Mission Report does very well to highlight and enunciate such concerns, which is practical education taken out of the four walls of the classroom and also out of bounds of the cognitive skills we generally appreciate in the student who is awarded high marks mainly through rote learning and question and answer preparations.
It is high time that education creates a work force, whether in the organized or the unorganized sectors. The relationship between education and industry is well established, but this is for more advanced levels of research, thinking and industrial access to the privileged few, who are professionally qualified in terms of degrees from reputed institutions. However, if we are looking at the micro industry then trades such as hospitality, front office management, stewards, and electricians come into force. A lot of noise is being made about soft skills but such soft skills must empower not only the educated but the formally uneducated. Again, computer literacy must be looked upon as literacy per se.
Inclusive education then would mean the above in addition to catering to the differently-abled. Customer relations and sales is a popular workforce, especially with the mushroom growth of malls and hotels, even in northeast India where these are sprouting especially in the capital cities. But for this grooming and training is necessary and international agencies such as Aide et Action are playing a pivotal role here.
School drop-outs and those who have missed out on the opportunity of education for social, economic and domestic reasons must be given other opportunities in a non formal manner so that they are equipped with skills in different areas. If such training and training on the job is certified by accredited bodies and universities then it will go a long way to ease out the chronic unemployment problem, and the problem of the youth taking the wrong paths or to violence. Even a salary of Rs 5,000/- per month with free food and lodging will give some vestige of economic autonomy and independence to the youth coming from impoverished backgrounds with lack of social and educational opportunities. In fact, the large target group could be 18 to 35 years where a huge population of the country in which there is skill deficiency or unemployment. The problems of this group which forms the mainstay of our population can be addressed with remedial measures of education such as vocational skills.
Moreover, it will take education out of the boundaries of a degree bias system which produces in numbers degree holders who are not qualified for any specialized skill or hands on work. Even IIT professors today confess that the engineers they produce are not practically oriented to our work system. The work system requires manual labour and skills, it requires practical work and repair for example. It also requires persons on the field and not persons pushing files. In this context, training tourist guides and operators can be another boon for gainful self employment.
The institution in which I work - the IGNOU Institute For Vocational Education & Training (IIVET), Shillong is collaborating with organizations like Aide et Action through their Integrated Livelihood Education and Development programmes where our institute is involved in pooling course resources and also in certification after verification of the performance of trainees. This is an interesting and exciting venture because many hotels, contractors and the automobile industry are absorbing such trainees after on the job experiences.
The issue of one time failure in education must be addressed. This leads to ostracization and shame. It also leads to what we call drop outs, a nomenclature which in my opinion has not been understood in an empathetic sense.
Moreover, drop out children, who we label as street children also need informal education or para-education, even if they were to be thrust into the typical and traditional classroom situation. That is because not being used to the routine of a classroom they may find it difficult if formal education is suddenly imposed on them.
The Indira Gandhi National Open University through its Distance Education programmes has certainly contributed a great deal to getting rid of the degree bias which has obsessed us for centuries, and which has enmeshed us in a vicious cycle of obtaining degrees without getting jobs. Only an open and flexible system of education right from school onwards will help us to realize the needed gains of education and its connection with not only a work force and the world of work, but also the world of learning for pleasure's sake.
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