Introducing skills in school can build a larger supply chain of candidates to select from.
School education in any country is the foundation for becoming a developed country. A good primary and secondary education system thus means, well-educated citizens, who are aware about their rights and responsibilities and would want to proactively contribute productively to the growth of a nation. In India, schools have long been neglected and due to the existence of poor policy have often been criticized for being oppressive and misaligned to national goals and objectives. Partly the problem here, has been the over emphasis on academic qualifications and very little emphasis towards skills education. Encouraged with rote learning, students have long passed through the school system without building strong conceptual knowledge nor having learnt any formal skill or trade.
However with the rising demand of skills at an entry level, it is probably time to review the need for introducing skill education at school itself, maybe towards the end of primary education. Let’s look at some of the advantages:
More often than not, we have adults who enter the job market with insufficient understanding of the job they are supposed to do. Bringing skills awareness at the school level would thus allow them to begin early and will also allow students to set their expectations correctly. Since Unrealistic expectations hurts everyone including the candidate, the employer and the industry.
Step up learning
Like learning music, introducing skills in school can help students learn about a trade progressively, over a few years of study allowing them to learn at their own pace. They can try learning multiple trades, visit industry workplaces, meet up with other students etc. and build interest before deciding to build a career in a particular trade. Doing it progressively will allow them to understand the art of trade in a much better way and over a period of time. And hence increasing the probability of higher retention when they get employed.
Catch them early
Most trade practices in India are taught post-secondary education. Since upward mobility of students is limited, vocational skills don't attract good students, rather typically who are poor in academics tend to take up vocational trades with an intention to learn some trade. Introducing skill education in school will allow students who are not academically bright to build confidence about skills education and will also encourage them to learn skills early for building a more secure future for themselves.
No child left behind
About 300 million children attend primary school, however just 15% of them reach the university levels. Most dropouts at the secondary levels. Introducing subjects related to skills will at least ensure that while they drop out of the education system, they still have some skills learnt to demonstrate to explore a meaningful employment opportunity. They may not have expertise but will at least demonstrate a foundational knowledge to build upon.
Flexibility to offer a credit based system
Schools can introduce skills courses and offer a robust credit based system. Credits allow cumulative accumulation of learning and offers flexibility to a student to monetize the skill learnt over a period of time. For example; a student can attend skill courses in school at different years of study, and collect credit points. In case they drop out, they can subsequently monetize the credits to enroll for a full time or part time course to do acquire a certificate. Eventually, using the upward mobility track and acquiring a mainstream graduation in Bachelor of Vocational Studies (B.Voc) which is now available.
Broad base skill courses
Introducing skill courses in schools could also help broad base the overall offerings. Students can undergo foundational academic courses along with some skill courses. Introducing them to skills early could also open up apprentice opportunities with a prospective employers early in their career, thereby encouraging more on the job training than classroom - rote based learning.
Large base for recruiters
Today most employers, especially in the small and medium enterprises are struggling to get skilled resources for their own operations. Introducing skills in school can build a larger supply chain of candidates to select from.
India's aspiration to become a leading nation in the world needs an army of skilled resources to fuel its growth. And to do this, it needs a flexible education system which allows foundational skills taught at primary schools along with skills at the secondary level. It is hence important that the investments the country is making in developing the primary education system, does not miss out on leveraging the available resources to help build a large talent pool of skilled resources for our industry. A nation with a buoyant economy and a large pool of skilled resources can make our industry productive and efficient to compete against the best in the world.
About the Author:
Mr. Ambarish Datta is the Managing Director of the BSE Institute Ltd and Founder Director of BFSI sector skill council NSDC.(National Skill Development Corporation). Mr. Datta has been the head of the Technology Aided Learning group at Reliance Retail Limited and has also handled various portfolios in the IT and learning solutions space. He has over 15 years of experience in sales & execution of technology solutions as well as extensive domain knowledge in SCM, Retail, BFSI, eLearning Solutions & Manufacturing businesses.
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