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The vocational way

The Hindu (online), 10 December 2017 - Skill-based training doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, considering the advantages it offers.

The idea of vocational education has a long history. Notably, the 1964 Kothari Commission came to the conclusion that many jobs don’t require university degrees, and can be competently performed by well-trained higher secondary students.

The commission suggested that at the higher secondary stage there needs to be two distinctive streams: one that prepares students for higher education in universities and professional colleges, and another that prepares them for a variety of vocations immediately after school.

In India, vocational education is currently imparted by more than 13,000 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) — post-secondary institutes constituted under the Directorate General of Employment & Training (DGET), Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE). These cater to about 36% of the 7 million people enrolled in various training programmes in India.

School boards, such as the CBSE, also offer vocational subjects to students. In 2016, the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) introduced Class XII certificates for vocational courses and admissions are currently open for the academic year 2017-18.

Poor reception

However, all is not well with vocational education in India. Earlier this year, the MSDE started grading ITIs across the country by giving them star ratings based on their facilities, performance and placement record.

So far, more than 5,000 ITIs have been graded under this exercise and close to 400 have been de-affiliated as they were found lacking in requisite infrastructure and trainers.

Apart from the recent initiative of the NIOS, vocational subjects are offered by a very small number of mainstream schools and their scores are usually not added to the overall result.

Career Counsellor Swati Salunkhe is not surprised: “In our country, vocational education is perceived only as an option for students from the lower strata of society who are less academically-able. An education that makes electricians, mechanics, fitters, turners, wiremen, plumbers, beauticians is not considered worthy. Very few people are willing to consider it, despite the fact that many ITIs have 100% placement records and many students end up earning between ₹18,000 and ₹20,000 per month after finishing their vocational studies. It’s a deep-rooted mindset problem and little is done to resolve this basic issue.”

“I’m involved with a number of ITIs in Maharashtra and the atmosphere and infrastructure — run-down classrooms, stinking bathrooms, poor water supply — do little to inspire the students. They are constantly made to feel that they are less competent than others because they are pursuing vocational education instead of regular college. No one talks about the success stories of such training,” she continues.


Sanjay Kumar Sinha, Director (Academic and Vocational Education) at the NIOS, feels that effectively implemented vocational education can address the unemployment problem by training students for a large number of blue-collar jobs.

“For the country to progress we need people for all kinds of jobs — not just white-collar employees working on computers in the convenience of air-conditioned offices.”

Vocational education also helps students to look beyond academic courses and apply their learning. CB Sharma, chairman, NIOS, corroborates, “Lack of such education is a reason why our children struggle to identify their interests despite 12 years of schooling.”

It also offers an opportunity to students who are not able to cope with mainstream education. Corroborates Usha Varma, Senior Director at Tamana, an NGO that caters to mentally challenged, physically disabled and autistic students, “At Tamana, we have always been imparting vocational skills to our students so they can learn a trade and be economically independent.”

Salunkhe says that she has encountered examples of hugely successful ITIs in rural and semi-rural areas that are supported by various companies and produce excellent output.

When effectively implemented, vocational education can also become the bedrock for industry. For instance, Germany has become a major industrial power on the strength of its dual vocational training. A large number of school-leavers opt for this two-to-three year programme that involves hands-on training at companies and weekly classes for theory.

Going forward

To realise the opportunities, India needs to first address the mindset problem.

“Negative perceptions are an outcome of the way vocational education is implemented in the country. We need to merge vocational and academic education and offer such courses from the beginning. For instance, skills like carpentry and electrical fitting can be made part of physics. This way, children won’t view these skills as unbecoming of them,” says Sharma.

Higher education options also need to improve for students from this stream. Currently, these are usually limited to bachelor’s and master’s courses in vocational. However, engineering aspirants with a relevant three-year ITI diploma get immediately promoted to the second year of a regular engineering course.

Salunkhe feels that vocational education needs an overhauling, “The infrastructure and vibe of vocational education need to improve. The media needs to comprehensively cover the positive impact of vocational training on students and the country.”


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