- Historically, vocational education in schools has been accorded high priority since National Policy on Education, 1986, and Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) of Vocationalization of Secondary Education was launched in 1988.
- Currently, the scheme is being implemented as part of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme ‘Samagra Shiksha’ and has been aligned with the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF).
- The vocational subjects are introduced as an additional subject at the Secondary level and as a compulsory elective subject at Senior Secondary level.
Need for Vocational Education in India
- Demographic Dividend: India is a young country with an average age of just 28 years. In fact, more than 60% of the population in the country is in the working age (15-64 years).
- Demographic Disaster: However, due to low availability of adequate skill, the energy of youth is not being harnessed properly. Therefore, the youth is venting out their frustration in illegal activities. If the situation continues to persist, the demographic dividend may eventually turn into demographic disaster.
- Increasing the employability: India is experiencing an enhancement in the literacy levels due to sustained efforts in the last few decades. However, increasing literacy is much more related to disseminating the basic numeracy and knowledge of language. It does not prepare an individual for the employment of the new age. Instead, it is skill upgradation which is critical to ensure the employability of individuals.
- Demand-Supply Mismatch: The paradoxical problem India faces today is the huge availability of manpower and contradictory shortage of skilled personnel in the industry. Thus, the need of the hour is to update the curriculum as per the needs of the industry so that the imparted skills are useful in finding employment in the current scenario.
- Decreasing the Pressure on Academic Higher Education: At the same time, it needs to be understood that scant resources are prioritized towards individuals who can use them in a more efficient manner. For e.g., an athlete, who has no interest in theoretical academics, may not be forced to complete a language course out of pure academic necessity.
Features of Samagra Shiksha
- The CSS of Vocationalization of Secondary Education was finally integrated as a part of Samagra Shiksha, which is also a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
- The scheme has been implemented in government schools and government-aided schools.
- It provides for an additional subject at the secondary level and a compulsory elective in senior secondary level.
- The scheme provides for creation of a trade specific laboratory setup within the school which is used to impart hands-on training to the students.
- Age-appropriate education: The scheme seeks to provide age-appropriate education to the students so that they are able to achieve the required outcomes.
- Informed choice on interests: Students choose their area of interest before secondary and senior secondary levels. However, before offering the choices, it is important that the students are able to out of the available collection.
- Activity Based Learning: The aim of vocational education is to apply the knowledge gained till today to the real world. Therefore, the course seeks to decrease the distinction between the theoretical knowledge and its applications in the outer world. At the same time, the children will learn a new skill and also, take a conscious decision about their future path.
- Sense of contribution: It is felt that the society does not perceive manual labour in the same manner as it perceives the high-paying, managerial jobs. Such jobs are looked down upon in the society. The scheme seeks to end this distinction by inculcating a sense of respect for the manual labour at the foundational age of a child.
- Development of Soft Skills: Again, the scheme teaches the importance of values like teamwork, cooperation, aesthetics, quality consciousness and sustainability in the form of judicious use of raw materials. Such qualities are desirable in a student aspiring to play a bigger role in the society in the later stages of life.
- Simulated training: Samagra Shiksha is unique in the sense that it provides real life experience to the students in the form of internship/On-the-Job Training. In fact, the State governments have already been advised to treat the vocational subjects taught in Samagra Shiksha at par with other academic subjects.
- Value Addition: Apart from the knowledge of vocational subject, Samagra Shiksha also provides for imparting other skills like Communication, Entrepreneurship, Green skills, Self-management and IT Skills to the students, so that their employability is enhanced to a higher extent.
- Career transition: The problem which the students pursuing vocational education face is related to transfer or migration from one place to another in pursuit of better opportunities and facilities. However, the scheme seeks to resolve the issue by providing for a credit-based education.
- Credit-based academics: The new system targets a specific number of credits to be achieved in a particular session or semester in a course. It is immaterial whether the credits are accumulated in a single institution or multiple institutions. This will facilitate transfer and movement of students to a new location even in the middle of a semester.
- Hub and Spoke Model: To fulfil the gap created by lack of adequate infrastructure, hub and spoke model is being used in the country. In this model, schools in surrounding areas provide vocational education by sending their students to a nearby school having the infrastructure. This is being followed till all the schools have not been provided with adequate infrastructure.
- Technology-based Solutions: It is critical to ensure that all learners benefit from the scheme, without any discrimination based on learning capabilities. Therefore, under the scheme, new technologies like Artificial Intelligence are being used to create curated courses for learners according to their present levels and speed of learning.
Success of the scheme
- Already 14.435 schools have been approved to impart education based on the Samagra Shiksha scheme.
- There are 62 skill courses available in 20 sectors such as Agriculture, Electronics, Healthcare, IT/ITes, Plumbing, Retail, Tourism, Hospitality etc.
- The scheme covers 1.5 million students currently being trained by trained instructors. The number increases to about 3.5 million, if CBSE schools are included.
Challenges in implementation
- Perceived Social Status Hierarchy: In India, vocational education is not looked upon as a career of choice. It is considered something which is taken up due to a lack of alternatives or as a formality to fulfil eligibility conditions for government jobs. This discourages pupils from taking up vocational education courses and creates a gap in availability of technically-trained workers.
- Lack of Vertical Mobility: At the same time, students coming out of vocational courses are not perceived as good managers. Candidates having a management background are preferred for such high-paying jobs. This leads to a lack of promotional avenues and opportunities for future growth of a child pursuing a career in vocational education.
- Integration with Mainstream Education: To encourage students to take up vocational education as a preferred career choice, there is a need to integrate vocational education with academics, even at the higher levels. The focus needs to shift towards application-based learning and solving practical real-life issues. This is also helpful in understanding the challenges faced by entry-level workers and coming up with feasible solutions for the same.
- Rapidly Emerging Trends: The scheme needs frequent updates in the curriculum to make it aligned with the needs of the evolving world. It is also important to understand that technology based sectors need faster revision of curriculum than the other sectors, due to the rapid changes in the sectors. Therefore, a policy of differential updates can also be developed for the different sectors as per their requirement.
Various supporting initiatives
The Government of India has prioritized vocational education through various policy initiatives such as:
- National Policy on Education, 1986: Vocational education was prioritized as a part of the National Policy on Education, 1986.
- CSS of Vocationalization of Secondary Education, 1988: Vocationalization was launched as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in the year 1988. The scheme was subsequently revised in 2011 and 2014.
- National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF): It is a series of courses, organized in levels to achieve competency in the workforce. NSQF emphasizes on the acquisition of these skills for better employability, as a part of formal training or informal training.
- Various predictions suggest that the demographic dividend currently being enjoyed by India will wane by the end of 2050s. After that, the country will face issues related to the care of the elderly as the bulge will shift towards higher age groups.
- In such a context, it is critical to ensure that India maximizes its growth during the demographic dividend so that it can create better facilities in the future for the needy. The need is to ensure better implementation of the Samagra Shiksha scheme to develop vocational education sector in the country.