The most unprecedented situation arising out of Coronavirus has unwittingly given a boost to online learning through digital media. In this guest article, Meena Raghunathan, Executive Director, Community Services, GMR Varalakshmi Foundation, shares her views on skilling in the time of Coronavirus,
It is well known that crisis is the time of most innovation.
In skilling too, we have to innovate—there is no option. Skill training centres have been closed, all trainings stopped and youth are back in their home – not knowing how to utilize their time and also uncertain about the future.
In this situation, the education system, whether schools, colleges, or tutoring systems, have almost instantly moved to distance learning and e-learning, while the skill environment needs to catch up with this speed. Of course even before the crisis, MSDE and NSDC have taken steps for encouraging the use of IT and other such modes of learning in vocational training. Individual agencies and training partners have also innovated—whether in developing content or in delivery through distance modes. Now is the time for a paradigm shift.
Admittedly it is not easy to do this in the skilling ecosystem. From the fact that our target group often do not have the necessary connectivity or e-learning readiness, to the fact that skilling is a lot about hands-on, there are many barriers at each step—from mobilization, to content development, to delivery, to testing and certification.
But we have to apply ourselves seriously to this question. The post-Corona world will have even more challenges and the nature of jobs and work may change. It is more important than ever for stakeholders in the skilling system to brainstorm, prepare and take action.
Moreover, youth are at home, with time available. It is essential to use this downtime for productive learning. Equally, it is an opportunity for upskilling for every vocation and profession.
Some critical points are:
- What can we do for skilling when in lockdown or near lockdown conditions? Once we find the solutions, these may then become the order of the day in the post-crisis world. For instance, how can we shift to much more distance learning, e-based individual learning, etc.? The entire skilling ecosystem needs to undergo a paradigm shift. Can we think of blended learning, where learn-from-home is possible for theory aspects, and there are several centres for hands-on training for practical aspects, which are used with caution and under clear guidelines? An entire IT backbone has to be created for running the system. What about content creation, access, testing and certification? NSDC and stakeholders need to work together urgently.
- How can we support upskilling and re-skilling in this situation? What systems of RPL can we put into place and how can we encourage and facilitate more and more people to take them up?
- In the scenario of job losses, the linkage between skilling and jobs is tenuous. The skilling system for the short term, has to focus on skilling with the intent of preparing people for jobs that may emerge, to the best current understanding, and with the objective of productive use of time.
- Communication, English, Soft skills are probably subjects that can be handled more effectively than hard skills through IT interface. Can we focus on that for various sections?
And for some of these, it is not that we have to start from scratch. In terms of e-learning content, NSDC already has a separate site –eskillindia.org where a number of organizations have shared their e-content. Training partners and trainees can evaluate these and put them into use. Many other organizations have e-content like Schoolnet (earlier IL&FS Skills), Labournet, ishiksha of SKillpro to name a few which can be used for such purposes.
Similarly for spoken English and soft skills there are hundreds of modules and videos available for free or for a very less cost which can be subscribed for the trainees during these times.
At GMRVF, we have started with some 100 questions and brief topical notes sent on Whatsapp to trainees. We are also sharing some video resources or links available for different skills with them.
Related article: GMRVF’s impactful initiatives in creating and sustaining gainful employment through education and skill development – Read more: https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/gmr-varalakshmi-foundation/
But it is now the time to go from incremental steps to a paradigm shift; from reactive measures to quickly gauging the situation and taking charge.
All of us are floundering in this unprecedented crisis. But maybe we should strive to flounder with some purpose and direction. Who knows, maybe in this crisis also lie opportunities.
(Thanks to Vidya Chandy of Chiratae Ventures for setting off this train of thought.)