Polytechnics in India can undoubtedly be recognised as the hidden champions of the technical education system in India. In most manufacturing industries, the mid-level or the supervisory roles like the Team Lead, are occupied by the graduates from Polytechnics (PTs) and their contribution has been phenomenal. The Polytechnic graduates are often in great demand as they carry out their roles efficiently and have sufficient knowledge on both the theory and practical aspects in the trades of their choice.
With the growing importance of vocational education and training than ever before, the government has been instrumental in increasing the scale, relevance and importance of the Polytechnic institutions in India. Currently, there are (3,239 PTs in India (MHRD, 2018)), 2300 Private Polytechnic colleges and the numbers have been steadily increasing catering to the growing demand and relevance of PTs in the country.
PTs are often categorised as ‘diploma-level technical institutions’ in India and those completing the courses from PTs are referred to as ‘diploma holders’ or as ‘diploma engineers’.
Most Polytechnics in India offer courses in mainstream disciplines like civil, electrical and mechanical engineering. But over the last two decades, many PTs have started offering courses in disciplines like electronics, computer science, medical lab technology, hospital engineering and architectural assistantship. Many single technology institutions also offer diploma programmes in areas such as leather technology, sugar technology, printing technology, etc.
There are some special Polytechnic institutes like ‘Community PTs’ that have been created to support the teaching of technical skills in rural areas and to promote development in these areas. There are also ‘Women’s PTs’ that focus on providing technical training for women by focusing on specific needs of women.
Even though the contribution of Polytechnic institutions has been significant for the past many decades in the country, their complete scope and potential remain to be explored. Though Polytechnics have been supplying a highly-skilled workforce occupying mid-level roles mostly across the manufacturing sector, these colleges are still not aspirational for the students to get into. The reasons for this are many.
Whether it is hands-on training, a proper balance between education and practical training, training in entrepreneurial skills, skills for self-employment or opportunities for higher education and upward mobility, PTs bridge the multidimensional skill gaps existing in the education and training system in the country.
However, there is a lot of scope to fill in the gaps and overcome certain challenges that Polytechnic institutions have been facing over the years.
Top 5 challenges faced by Polytechnics in India
- Technology – Technology should be integral to the teaching and functioning of any Polytechnic institute. With the pandemic-led lockdown accelerating digital education in India, skill training institutes across the country are adopting digital tools and technologies to continue training. However, availability of quality digital content, teacher preparedness, availability of devices, ability to use technology have become some of the biggest challenges in technology adoption by Polytechnics.
- Infrastructure – The infrastructure in the majority of the Polytechnics is inadequate to enable the institutions to provide high-quality teaching. It is insufficient to meet the industry demand and there is lack of necessary equipment for efficient practical training.
- Industry connect – Lack of constant interaction between industry and institutes is one of the crucial challenges faced by the Polytechnics. Industry connect is necessary for curriculum development, in providing apprenticeship opportunities, providing job or placement opportunities to students who graduate from the Polytechnics. No matter which stream or course a student chooses, the industry connect would let him/her have the rich industry exposure, to understand the work domain better and to perform better while on the actual job.
- Faculty and curriculum – No matter how good the technology or infrastructure is, if the trainers are not fully equipped and the curriculum is outdated, desired outcomes will remain at an unachievable distance. With the government’s thrust on revamping vocational education with timely policies like NEP 2020, Polytechnics need to be equipped with the right skills, abilities and infrastructure to implement it. More avenues must be created for the training of trainers and capacity building of faculty.
- Attracting students – Although job opportunities are plenty for the students graduating from Polytechnics several issues influence students’ preferences and refrain them from joining Polytechnics. Lack of awareness on the range of courses that are offered in these institutes, affordability, so-called low social and academic status associated with them, are some of the reasons for a low number of admissions in Polytechnics in India.
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Apart from the above-mentioned challenges, there are several other vocational training challenges that Polytechnic institutions deal with. It could be in terms of funding, lack of placements, lack of access to quality digital content as the world moves to digital education and training, among others.
Adoption of phygital model, technology upgradation, building relevant and right skills among the students, hands-on practical training are some of the key building blocks of Polytechnics in India. Polytechnics must be seen as a path towards higher education that delivers skills for self-employment and entrepreneurship and thereby bridging multidimensional skills gaps existing in the skill ecosystem.
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