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National Education Policy 2020: Making Indian Youth Skilled to Achieve Atmanirbhar Bharat

(Representational Image: PTI)

(Representational Image: PTI)

The day is not far when the Indian youth will not be a job-seeker but a potential job-giver through the set of vocational, employable and entrepreneurial skills imparted to them at different stages of education and training.​

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RC Kuhad

The Government of India is bringing a series of reforms in almost all sectors to usher in constructive changes and thus pave the way for building a strong and progressive nation. Education, being one such sector, has seen remarkable developments in the past five years. A true testimony to this is the National Education Policy 2020 which was released by Hon’ble Education Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ on July 29, 2020, emphasising on the various characteristic features of the NEP. This vision document left no stone unturned when it comes to coverage of the educational and allied issues.

The policy envisioned the holistic development of youth with emphasis on not only an upsurge in Gross Enrolment Ratio but also on skill development as the determining factor to realise the objectives of Atmanirbhar Bharat, an ambitious mission of Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji, who always insists upon imparting of skills as a key element of the modern education system.

Emulating the skill-based model of education envisioned by Shri Narendra Modiji, vocational courses are under the spotlight now in a bid to make the Indian youth skilful, employable and atmanirbhar (self-reliant). Therefore, there is a revived approach towards running vocational courses which are being offered by various institutes of higher learning in the country. The undergraduate vocational courses are pivotal in producing skilled graduates in tune with industrial revolution 4.0.

With the vision to make the youth atmanirbhar through skill-based education and thus make the country Atmanirbhar Bharat, the National Education Policy 2020 has been crafted accordingly. Our Education Minister has emphasised on each platform that the policy gives additional impetus to vocational education by introducing the vocational subjects and training at school level too. This is a remarkable step. The NEP 2020 provides that even the students of middle level shall be exposed to hands- on training in vocational skills like carpentry, plumbing, electrical repairing, horticulture, pottery, embroidery, etc. The policy has set the target of providing vocational skills to at least 50% students by 2025 in such a way that the vocational skills acquired at school level may be further extended up to higher education level, depending upon the requirement of individual students.

The recent announcement by the Union Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Hon’ble Shri Mahendra Nath Pandeyji about skill development initiatives for youth in health, pharma, agriculture, electronics and other emerging areas shall prove to be a significant milestone in the direction of Atmanirbhar Bharat. This initiative of the government is linked with the theme of 'vocal for local', which enables the aspiring youth to find employment opportunities in local areas. All these activities will be coordinated by the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Kendras to be established in all the districts of the country. So the day is not far when the Indian youth will not be a job-seeker but a potential job-giver through the set of vocational, employable and entrepreneurial skills imparted to them at different stages of education and training.

The Government of India has not been emphasising only on skill-based education but also skill-based employment opportunities. As per the 2018 Skilling India report by KPMG and FICCI, India has a demographic advantage as the average age of its population is estimated to be below 29 years for the next 6 years. By 2022, India will have the largest working-age population in the world.

The workforce is growing substantially. In 2011, India had a workforce of 477.9 million which increased to 502.4 in 2017. However, as per the 12th Plan, 85% of the workforce has educational qualification up to secondary level, 55% has educational qualification up to primary level and merely 2% of the workforce has vocational training. As per 2014 data, on 4.9 lakh seats available for apprenticeship, about 2.8 lakh apprentices were trained. According to the India Skills Report 2018, more than 12 million people between the ages of 15 and 29 years are expected to enter India’s workforce every year leading to an about 600 million workforce by 2022. However, by 2022, a more skilled workforce of 109 million would be required in 24 key sectors of the economy.

These figures and trends show two clear challenges that India is facing. Firstly, the workforce that is entering the market does not have the required skills. Secondly, the skilled workforce does not have the relevant skills as is evident from the data in the India Skills Report 2018, which says that the employability of technically skilled workforce has increased from 33.95% in 2014 to 45.60%in 2018. Another key challenge is that as per the said report, from the current distribution of the workforce between the unorganised sector and organised sector at 92% and 8% respectively, it will change slightly to 90% and 10% respectively in 2022. This means that the unorganised sector will continue to power India’s skilled workforce demand which will essentially require people with education up to secondary and senior secondary levels to be skilled and even non-technical graduates to be skilled in the relevant and focused areas.

The other initiatives are that today there are 21 ministries working in the field of skill development in PPP mode. Some of the key milestones that the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has achieved in the area of skilling, up-skilling and re-skilling are that there are 538 NSDC training partners, with more than 10,373 training centres, more than 1,500 job roles, 37 Sector Skill Councils, with pan-India presence. As per data for the financial year 2019- 20, more than 20.45 lakh people have been trained and 1.86 lakh have been placed.

To make the skill-related issues and opportunities well-articulated and achieved for Atmanirbhar Bharat, the following suggestions may be considered.

1. Focused skills-gap analysis: Though all the 37 Sector Skill Councils have done skills-gap analysis but yet the reach of the training needs to get the desired momentum.

Suggestions:

a) Linking CSR to Skill India movement to attract investment from private 
sector for sector-specific skilling and creating an attractive policy so that educational institutions can tie up directly with industry partners for skilling in relevant sectors in association with respective Sector Skill Councils.

b) Funding support and incentives for such educational institutions which are desirous of starting such courses and training programmes and also recognition in the form of incentives for institutions which already have such programmes running successfully.

2. Identification of key emerging areas with skilled workforce requirement: Despite the various types of reports published by different bodies on skill development and current scenario there is no connect between such researches and on- the-ground execution of launching such skill-based training programmes.

Suggestions:

a) As stipulated in the new National Education Policy 2020 that school education, especially grade 6 onwards, must have a skill component, key emerging areas must be integrated with such skilling curriculum. Areas like robotics, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, data analytics, internet of everything, etc, which are projected to create a number of new jobs are areas which we need to focus on with well-defined planning, clear roadmap and defined job perspectives.

b) The training/practical component as per skilling requirements from the unorganised sector should be integrated in school curriculum so that students who are desirous of seeking jobs right after schooling are trained accordingly.

3. Innovation through inter and multi-disciplinary approach: Though inter and multi-disciplinary approach has long been advocated but it was not well-planned and implemented with a road map by a majority of the institutions. This has led to a class of academically qualified candidates who are not of much use to market.

Suggestions:

a) Designing of such courses should involve experts from academics, research, industry and corporates so that the course adds value to people who pursue 
it.

b) Participation from the industry and corporates in designing of such courses will facilitate greater absorption of people taking such courses in the industry as jobs in academics and research are not adequate for the number of students pursuing these courses.

c) Research in such disciplines should focus on the latest and emerging trends for which a policy is already in place. The policy should periodically be reviewed so that it remains relevant and does not become outdated.

d) Candidates pursuing such disciplines should be eligible for associated discipline jobs also else having rigid eligibility barriers will only dissuade fresh talent from joining such courses.

e) Government funding should be provided to incentivise innovations in these disciplines to ensure that India is at par with global leaders in design and 
development of new technology and innovations in cutting-edge areas of research.

The new education policy speaks about all these provisions and opportunities, and bringing them to reality totally depends on the implementation plan.

4. Value-added course curriculum: Presently the traditional courses in 10+2 or higher education do not offer any additional skills, which may make the graduates and post-graduates employable. Thus a large number of students pursue such courses only for the purpose of having a degree and do additional courses privately to enhance their skill. Also there is a lack of discipline-centric training of students who want to pursue teaching and/or research in that discipline.

Suggestions:

a) Designing of the traditional undergraduate or post-graduate curricula should be divided into three parts.

i. Students interested in pursuing the discipline for teaching and research 
should be provided a curriculum, which offers them options to explore the various facets of that discipline and its application. There could be value added courses in teaching methodology, research methodology, etc. These courses could be called Honours courses.

ii. Students who do not wish to pursue the traditional disciplines further should do some skill-based courses including entrepreneurship courses as part of their curriculum.

iii. Inter and multi-disciplinary courses should be part of the curriculum for students interested in pursuing such fields at a later stage.

b) Involving industry and business houses partnerships in designing course curricula for such value-added skill-based courses so that these courses are university recognised for the purpose of getting jobs.

c) Vocational courses with industry validation can also be considered as special graduate/post-graduate add-on courses particularly for students falling in the category.

d) UGC should take up the matter to start University Centres in areas of National/International Importance, which could impart training on a continuous basis to “conserve the skilled manpower and produce skilled manpower”. This will boost building of the nation’s social and economic trade (industrial development).

Following NEP 2020, the education system could be made more practical and job-oriented; thus the employability is automatically taken care of as it enables to have more job-givers than just job-seekers.

i. Skill-based education should be part of higher education and it should not be restricted to ITIs and polytechnics.

ii. Teaching should include more practical/research-based training i.e. 50% theory and 50% practical. Theory and practical should be linked.

iii. Analytical learning should be propagated irrespective of the subject.

iv. Project-based research training for the students especially in Masters 
Courses irrespective of the subjects.

To conclude, skill development is extremely crucial for achieving the mission of Atmanirbhar Bharat. The NEP 2020 launched by our Hon’ble Education Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ji has fully covered the components like skill enhancement, developing entrepreneurship and vocational education to make our graduates and post-graduates develop ability to get jobs in the market. Further, NEP will also make the learners skilled and develop them as to initiate start-ups and thus become job-givers in place of job-seekers. All these dynamics will become a reality because of the well-articulated NEP.

As per a recent report, nearly five crore young aspirants have availed the opportunity for skill development and training in the past five years under the Skill India campaign of the Government of India. The mission is being further strengthened by the proposal to establish three Indian Skill Institutes on the pattern of IIMs and IITs. To speed up the process of skilling, efforts are also being made to collaborate with prestigious national and international organisations for which the process of skill-mapping is underway in collaboration with ten countries.

The day is not far when the Indian youth will not be a job-seeker but a potential job-giver through the set of vocational, employable and entrepreneurial skills imparted to them at different stages of education and training.

(Author is vice-chancellor, Central University of Haryana. Views expressed are personal)


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