The link between education and employment has long been misconstrued in India. A qualified graduate expects to land a permanent job irrespective of the knowledge he or she has acquired. But, the world of work operates differently! It demands job-specific skills and right attitude to appreciate and perform in the job role. In this context, the introduction of vocational subjects at school level from class 9 to class 12 should be supported by the parents, industry and school administration.
Vocational training exposes children to the real world of work. Schools must be prepared with trained teachers and National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) compliant curriculum to introduce vocational subjects. Parental counseling is important to convey the need for vocational subjects in the context of present and future jobs. And, children should be given a choice of vocational subjects that could be selected based on their interest and aptitude. As we are aware, not every student can become an engineer or a manager. Learning by doing, and dirtying one’s hands with practical experiments on the machines is absolutely essential even for Mechanical Engineers. A sense of pride for the job and the dignity of the trade gets instilled through hands-on work and helps in breaking stereotypical notions around job roles.
The biggest fallout of our secondary and higher secondary education has been the ignorance about job options and a disdain for vocational elements. In fact, school level exposure to vocational training is the best way to de-stigmatize and gradually build aspirational value towards many trades. It is also the first step towards mainstreaming vocational components and learning occupational skills.
Let’s look at some of the key points that build a strong case of vocationalization of school education in India.
Familiarity with occupations and trades
Vocational Training at the high school level helps in introducing various occupations to the students and imbibe a sense of respect for all jobs. As a mandatory or an optional subject in the curriculum, the students get to learn a new trade or a skill that can in fact help them discover their innate talent and a natural inclination towards a certain job. Students will also get to learn about dignity of labour as they get to try our manual work and learn things hands-on.
Opens diverse paths to qualifications through NSQF
High school curriculum gives an opportunity to introduce the concept of NSQF. As against the current system of schooling and tertiary education as a single path towards acquiring degrees and then seeking employment, we need to create more options. This is imperative since the world of work is changing at a fast pace and many jobs may cease to exist as the younger generation hit the job market.
Industry orientation to educational reforms
National level reforms and restructuring of curriculum is a time-bound exercise that cannot keep up with the dynamic demands of the industry. Vocational subjects, with the virtue of being aligned with the industry, help in linking education with employment through knowledge and skills that can make students employable. Besides, such interventions keep pace with social and technological changes, as education evolves with time.
Implementing vocational training in schools
CBSE has included the following industry sector in vocational curriculum: Agriculture, Tourism and Hospitality, Apparels, Security, Food Processing, Logistics, Retail, Electronics and Hardware, Healthcare, Plumber, IT/ITES, Plumber, Construction, Automotive, Telecom, Power, Beauty and Wellness. At the same time, implementing NSQF compliant vocational courses in government school is a commendable step. However, since many schools may not be financially equipped to afford practical infrastructure, they can look for collaboration in PPP model or utilize CSR budgets or seek adoption of a school under CSR. They can also collaborate with private training companies and leverage their expertise in conducting practical training.
Overcoming hurdles in promoting vocational subjects
Initially, vocational subjects may not have many takers; even if they are made mandatory, it is not easy to make students feel positive about these subjects. The social stigma attached to manual jobs, parental control on the child’s education and employment, lack of awareness about career paths through vocational stream or negligible importance given to entrepreneurial options – hurdles such as these need mindset changes. It will take time for favourable adoption of these subjects, nevertheless, when taught and explored with an element of fun, creativity using latest technology, these trades are sure to interest many children.
Making a transition to the world of work is not as easy as completing a graduation program and seeking a job. It requires many efforts in exposing students to various occupations, technical skills and life skills that are needed in becoming employable. And, definitely high school is the place where such opportunities can be created and we have already taken the first step in schools.
This is a guest article by Rajesh A. R, Chairman, LabourNet Services India Limited.
The views expressed above belong to the author. NSN does not subscribe to the views and opinions expressed in the article.