Education In India: Skill Development Is The Key – Analysis


By Sudip Bhattacharyya*

According to Hindu philosophy, everyone is born with the duty and obligation of ‘Pitririn’, ‘Rishirin’ and ‘Devarin’. The first means obligation to the family and ancestry, the second means obligation to the heritage and tradition and the last, formulated in modern terms, will boil down to obligation to the environment. The overall obligation is to repay more than what one has got so that the family, the heritage and the environment get more rich. And to be able to repay adequately, individuals need to be imparted required education and skill.

To the Western educated, the undertaking of education is necessary in a society to make a person productive so as to be useful to society and thereby earn his or her livelihood.

True education is one that is experienced, tasted and digested so that it becomes one with the blood, and not an external establishment. The central purpose of all education is that the nation as a whole should become self-sufficient in clear thinking and appropriate skills.

Most definitions of education essentially speak of building of character comprising sincerity, honesty and integrity and then acquiring skill in order to earn livelihood. It is really the parental education that can teach and help character-building whereas the institutional education does skill building. Responsibility towards the state and the nature are to be learnt in both the platforms.

The present system of institutional education in India has many drawbacks and, therefore, needs the following remedial measures:

  • Focus on skill-based education;
  • Rewarding creativity, original thinking, research and innovation; and
  • Getting better people to teach.

The internet has created the possibility where the performance of a teacher need not be restricted to a small classroom. Now the performance of a teacher can be opened up for the world to see. The better teacher will be more popular, and acquire more students.

We can remove road-blocks by:

  • Increasing capacity and capability of the existing system to ensure equitable access for all;
  • Maintaining quality and relevance; and
  • Creating effective convergence between school education and the government’s skill development efforts.

Advantage India: As compared to Western economies where there is a burden of an ageing population, India has a unique 20-25 year window of opportunity called the “demographic dividend”. This “demographic dividend” means that as compared to other large developing and developed countries, India has a higher proportion of working age population vis-à-vis its entire population.

According to the Labour Ministry’s Employment-Unemployment Survey, the rate of unemployment in India in 2015-16 is 5 per cent. Moreover, there are:

  • 33,000 new job seekers per day;
  • 231,000 new job seekers per week;
  • 1,000,000 new job seekers per month; and
  • 12,000,000 new job seekers per year!

And the pace at which we are creating jobs has been only 4.4 million from 2009-2015 … This year’s number (as recorded by the Labour Ministry) is at 0.15 million — among the lowest.

However, an estimated 50-70 million jobs will be created in India over the next five years and about 75 per cent to 90 per cent of these additional employment avenues will require some vocational training.

For India, the difficulty to fill up the jobs is 48 per cent, which is above the global standard of 34 per cent in 2012. India lags far behind in imparting skill-training as compared to other countries. Only 10 per cent of the total workforce in the country receives skill-training. Further, 80 per cent of the entrants into the workforce do not have the opportunity for skill-training.

The government is providing thrust on self-employment. Under the aegis of the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY), the interventions have been named ’Shishu’, ’Kishor’ and ‘Tarun’ to signify the stage of growth/development and funding needs of the beneficiary micro unit/entrepreneur and also to provide a reference point for the next phase of graduation/growth to look forward to.

The financial limits for these schemes are:

a. Shishu: Covering loans up to Rs 50,000/-
b. Kishor: Covering loans above Rs 50,000/- and up to Rs 5 lakh
c. Tarun: Covering loans above Rs 5 lakh and up to Rs 10 lakh

MUDRA’s delivery channel is conceived to be through the route of refinance primarily to Banks/NBFCs/MFIs.

At the same time, there is a need to develop and expand the delivery channel at the ground level. In this context, there are already in existence a large number of ‘Last Mile Financiers’ in the form of companies, trusts, societies, associations and other networks which are providing informal finance to small businesses.

The overall performance of the Yojana indicates that the target has been achieved during the year. As against the target of Rs 1,22,188 crore, the Banks and MFIs together have disbursed Rs 1,32,954.73 crore — thereby achieving 109 per cent.

The achievements by Public Sector Banks indicate a substantial credit growth in this segment. Based on the data collected from the PSBs, it was seen that the disbursement by these banks in this segment was around Rs 33,000 crore during 2014-15 and recorded a growth of 70 per cent during 2015-16.

The other lending institutions have also achieved high credit growth in this segment due to the initiative of the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana.

In India, about 12 million people join the workforce each year comprising highly skilled (which constitute a minuscule part), skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled work force. The last category constitutes the majority of the population entering the workforce. However, the current skill capacity of the country is about four million. Hence, skilling and technical education capacity needs to be enhanced to about 15 million.

A growing trend, especially evident in new and evolving “high-tech” jobs, is the demand for workers with a combination of technical training, formal education and “soft” skills. In addition to job-specific knowledge and skills, employers today look for a broader set of skills — often called employability skills — in all workers.

The Conference Board of Canada developed the critical employability skills profile for the Canadian workforce, which is as follows:

  • Academic: Provides the foundation for good communication skills, a capacity to analyse, evaluate and solve problems and to learn new assignments and new ways of doing the job when technology changes;
  • Personal management skills: Positive attitude, ability to take responsibility and be accountable, ability to deal with changes in the workplace and be innovative, and respect for others; and
  • Teamwork skills: The skills needed to work with others on a job and to achieve the best results.

In the current scenario, skill-building in India can be viewed as an instrument to improve the effectiveness and contribution of labour to overall production. It is an important ingredient to push the production possibility frontier outward and to take the growth rate of the economy to a higher trajectory. Skill-building could also be seen as an instrument to empower the individual and improve his/her social acceptance or value.

In the context of achieving the necessary ‘scale’ and ‘speed’, the following solutions could be the way ahead in providing a conducive environment for India to meet its skill development goals:

  • Targeting skill development at all levels of the ‘skill pyramid’;
  • Implementing Vocational Education in schools;
  • Creating a large talent pool through Modular Employable Skills;
  • Ensuring Quality in Delivery;
  • Employing technology to achieve scale;
  • Formulation of institutional mechanisms for content formation, delivery, and assessment;
  • Expediting the formulation of Sector Skill Councils; and
  • Setting up of a National Human Resource Market Information System (a National Skills Exchange).

The National Skill Development Mission was officially launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 15, 2015 on the occasion of World Youth Skills Day. The Mission has been developed to create convergence across sectors and states in terms of skill-training activities.

Further, to achieve the vision of ‘Skilled India’, the National Skill Development Mission would not only consolidate and coordinate skilling efforts, but also expedite decision-making across sectors to achieve skilling at scale with speed and standards.

*Sudip Bhattacharyya is a former banker and a commentator on contemporary issues. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent on: [email protected]

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