I'm happy to share my second time feature in a collection of 100 selected essays by young Indians. I have have shared the article here.
We have seen a transition to remote/online learning modalities, together with a change in the labour market where digital skills, socio-emotional skills, higher order thinking skills and adaptability are being valued more than ever. How can technical and vocational education be strengthened in India to address these needs?
In the words of India’s most revered President, teacher and a visionary ahead of his time, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam,
“The purpose of education is to make individuals with skill and expertise.”
He spelt out skills as an integral goal of education, long before the disruptions accelerated by the pandemic led us to realising their importance vis-a-vis the youth of our country, who have suffered immensely during the pandemic due to hindrances in the path of learning. These have significantly led to staggering pathways in education which were already brittle, and are broken in places, leading to permanent dropouts.
Technical and vocational education are key to creating skilled human resources to generate employment, to bridge the gap between demand and supply of skilled manpower and enhance overall productivity of many economic activities. As the humanity is faced with the Covid 19 pandemic crisis which has entailed a hair pin bend in many domains, as with education, the skills and training it has necessitated, along with revolutionising an acceptance for digital modalities in education, calls for action in envisioning and executing how skill based education is perceived and given out.
In the context of our country, vocational education has been beleaguered since post independence times. Diplomas, which were well intended to fill this void, have lost their skill components and are perceived only as a diluted version of degrees, which are obsessed over. Countries with a better focus on skill development, respond to challenges backed with a more robust machinery. India, a country which is predominantly young, is making a transition to a knowledge and skill based economy and at this point it is imperative to align the goals of vocationaising school education with the key areas of soft skills such as digital literacy, socio emotional skills and higher order thinking and adaptability.The need to give an early start to the children to build digital, socio-emotional and higher order cognition skills can’t be over emphasized. To achieve this goal, we need a blanket approach to ensure that all children, irrespective of their demographic or strata are benefitted.
The digital modalities can really augment the reach of these programs. These may incur a higher initial cost, but the rich dividends surely outweigh that. The online modalities can facilitate tailoring permutable learning models as per individualised learning outcomes, penetrating through the diverse, remote and unconnected demographic. The digital mode can permeate to the erstwhile unconnected parts of the country, where infrastructure in terms of transport and connectivity is poor. To create financial support, it is imperative to have obligatory partnership with industries. Industries will be crucial for orientation towards employability conducive curricula. The skill development can be incentivised by internship programs for the maturer lot once they transcend secondary education. A paradigmatic shift in the creation of onlines modalities can make a difference. They can be envisioned as more engaging activities, where every level is linked with micro credentials, much like in gaming. Task based learning models can be tied to information systems which are based on their results. This will yield to a quick level assessment tool which can give a headway to upskilling as per individual cognition. It will further excellence as well as inclusivity. This puts an incumbent need for cooperation amongst the stakeholders including the ministries, the state and the industrialists. The programs and initiatives should not be lost to lengthy bureaucratic processes and red tapism.
The challenges faced by the job seekers are consideration worthy points to offset the development of the vocational and technical programs on. Focus can be placed on digital skills, which is in great demand in the industry. Socio- emotional capacities yield a lot of competence. We are navigating through more and more complex situations where success depends on how adults deal with interpersonal relationships, team activities and decision making skills. The learning modalities in the digital domain can explore their exposure to more and more nurturing adults who can foster their socio-emotional development via both synchronous and asynchronous means. The digital medium can help to increase their exposure to nurturing adults as well as a diverse peer group transcending demographic. This is to foster peer learning and student collaborations which also strengthen their socio emotional abilities and adaptability, while improving their exposure.
The pandemic has laid bare the fragilities of the disadvantaged. The labor market particularly has been on the margins with several industries hit hard by the pandemic. Transforming the way we learn can democratise employability and our growth as a society.