Sunday, 17 July 2016

SKILL INDIA: Lessons from disappointing past experience

Ananda Mohan Kar

The Indian economy is growing but jobs are not being generated. The population of the unemployed is rising. All are worried.
In this context, the Modi government has come out with a mission: Skill India.
It is true that machine is replacing humans in manufacturing. On the other hand, the investors are scared to initiate new project. The old labour laws are also discouraging new investment, as suggested by the supporters of the market economy. In addition to that, new industries with new jobs will not come up unless infrastructure for industry is developed. If these issues are not addressed, neither the skilled nor the unskilled people will get job.
But having said that, there is no reason to undermine the importance of skill. Scarcity of skilled people will not bring investment in any economy. Concerns have been expressed from more than one quarter that the majority of the engineers coming out of the Indian engineering colleges are not employable. The situation is not different in other disciplines as well. There is a fear that the large population of youth would turn out to be a huge burden on the nation, instead of becoming an asset.
Therefore, the programme of Skill India is a welcome step. The huge money that the Government of India has allotted in this scheme proves the serious intention of the people in power.
But the experience of the B.Ed course, and the Orientation Programme and the Refreshers Course suggest that there is a need to be cautious. These training programmes for the skill development of the teachers are going on for decades. The first one is for the school teachers and the other two are for those who teach in the colleges and in the Universities. I have found, from my interaction with the participants of such courses, very few of them are satisfied with what is on offer. They feel, most of the presentations made by the resource persons have little relevance with the task they are supposed to perform. That apart, they have heavy workload like large number of lectures to be delivered along with the pressure to evaluate large number of answer scripts in most of the understaffed institutions. Such situation prevents application of innovative teaching techniques. But still they are compelled to go for such courses to fulfill the condition of next promotion.
There is another angle as far as the B.Ed course is concerned. Many people get admitted to the course as it is essential to become teachers. But in the end, inadequate vacancies for the teaching posts force many to take up jobs other than teaching. But the private B.Ed colleges have appeared in many places and they are making lots of money.  
Similarly, a large number of young men and women, who aspire to get government jobs, pay huge amount of fees to the coaching centres for the preparation of the competitive exams. But very few of the candidated achieve the desired success.
Therefore, so far, we find wastage of time, of money and of energy in the name of skill development.
In the last one year, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly claimed that the reduction of wastage is one of the major achievements of his government. The government would do better to make necessary changes in these programmes after consulting the stakeholders.
That apart, the people of the country have some responsibilities. There is an urgent need to change the mindset of the people. The Indians require giving up their obsession for the piece of papers – the certificates. Instead, they must understand the importance of learning. If that does not happen, the skill development programme would lose its objective, in spite of best intention of the government.
Let us hope that the precious public money is not wasted.

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