September 5, 2016 5 min to read

Emphasizing Skills over Facts

Category : Pedagogy

Author: Ms Pratima Gupta, Deputy Director, CCRT
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Skill-based education in schools will provide students with:
1. More meaningful, joyful learning with ‘hands-on’ experience
2. Enhanced creativity as they are trained on practical approach rather than theoratical concepts
3. More integrated approach to education
4. Opportunities to select career based on one’s own interest and talent
5. A break from monotony of classroom teaching

From the economic perspective, skill development in schools will provide:
1. Opportunities for young to accept challenges of Entrepreneurship leading to job creation in the long run
2. An increasingly well equipped workforce which fulfills the skill demand of the industry

A Fundamental Right
I remember reading in the newspapers almost a year back that skill could be the next fundamental right. The news item stated and I quote, “The government is planning to make skill training a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution to boost employability of India’s workforce. The proposed right to skill will task the State Governments with the responsibility of imparting Vocational training through special State Universities that will be overseen by a regulatory body at the Centre.” The proposal is that anyone between the age group of 15-45 years can go up to the district magistrate and petition that s/he has to be trained. The news item further stated that several countries like Germany, Switzerland and South Korea have already enacted this as a right. Closer home, Chhattisgarh is one state in India which has taken lead in this direction.

While I sincerely hope that the skill training becomes a fundamental right in the coming years, the school education has a larger role to play. Way back in the sixties, when the Kothari Commission talked about vocationalisation of education at the senior secondary school level, it was a novel idea. The introduction of subjects like Socially Useful Productive Work(SUPW)/Work Experience(WE) into the school system, could have brought education to a closer relationship with productivity. However, there were no takers for what the Kothari Commission proposed. Vocationalisation failed totally at that time. One can say that the proposal was ahead of its times. Today, the situation has changed completely. With a population of more than 1.25 billion people with a large section of young people, it becomes necessary for the government to find ways of employability for this strong work force. Unfortunately, the scenario is very different from what it should be. We are churning out doctors, engineers, law graduates, architects and other graduates who are not competent enough to fit into the needs of modern industry. Hence, thousands of these young graduates, passing out from Indian Universities, remain unemployed every year. This is not the end of the story. Only 4.7% of India’s 487 million strong work force possesses formal vocational education, as compared to about 60% in most other industrialised countries. This makes them unsuitably equipped to fit into the needs of the industry.

Who will bridge the gap between the market needs and the skills of the work force?
The first step towards bridging this gap is to introduce skill-based learning at the school level. This is because teachers are the only ones who understand children best. They can spot the hidden talent of every child, who comes in contact with them and guide them towards the right direction. However, the schools need to select skill trainings which can be offered at the school level, very judiciously. They need to establish links with the industry and develop a better understanding of industry requirements.

Skill Development- exploring disciplines
It is said that after agriculture, craft industry is the second largest industry in India. I often wonder why is it difficult for schools to identify the local crafts of their area and provide training through the local craftspersons and artisans. It is known that every little village of India has a craft tradition which is unique to that particular village. If these craftspersons are involved in imparting specific skill training to school students, it will work out as a less expensive and very practical option. Besides, this will also give an opportunity to the school children to interact with local craftspersons and understand their needs and problems. At the same time these students can survey the market and figure out the requirements of the market and design products basis market needs. Hence, integrating craft skills with school education is an easy option available to all schools through out India.

Some of the other skills, that can easily be integrated with curricular teaching in schools, can be Fashion Technology, Jewellery Designing, Leather Technology, Ceramics, Textile Designing, Culinary teaching, Para-medical training, Nursing, Physiotherapy and so on. This is an open-ended list which can keep increasing, based on the local requirement. The schools should shoulder this responsibility of offering newer disciplines, based on the local environment and its needs.

The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship was set up with the main objective of making someone responsible for coordination of all skill development efforts across the country and removal of the disconnect between demand and supply of skilled manpower. The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, one of the flagship schemes of this Ministry, aims at enabling a large number of Indian youth to take up industry relevant skill training that will help them in securing better livelihood.

The Winners
While putting my thoughts together I am reminded of many success stories in this direction. One very apt story is that of ‘Barefoot College’ in Tilonia, a small town, near Ajmer in Rajasthan. Barefoot College was established way back in 1972 by its founder Shri Sanjit Roy or Bunker Roy, who believed that solutions to rural problems lie within the community. Shri Sanjit Bunker Roy, a social activist and educationist, based his model of education on imparting informal, non-structured, on-the-job, practical training by identifying the poor, unemployed youth who are school drop-outs and have returned to their villages, empty-handed. His education program encourages hands-on or learning-by-doing process of gaining knowledge and skills. If such a model is successful in a remote town, why can’t similar experiments be attempted in the so called ‘good’ schools of the capital of this great and highly populated country? We belong to a land of practitioners, whether it was yoga or Charak’s ayurveda or Susrut’s surgery techniques or Vedic mathematics, they were all based on practical knowledge. It is high time we establish linkages between theory and practical skills.

With the present Government’s inclination towards building a SKILLED INDIA, it is the right time for school education systems to shake up and bring changes within the system. Schools must lay greater emphasis on developing skilled, school pass outs, thereby equipping them with a rather secured future and helping in building a skilled and effective work force.

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