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School Education – Changing Times, Changing Needs

The Indian education system was a gift of the British legacy, which is prevalent across all Commonwealth Nations. Back then in the 1940’s – 50’s, the job market did not present many options with Government Services or Defense Forces being the most prominent choices. There was dearth of private enterprises and more than half of the industries which operate right now didn’t even exist at that time back. The entire context of education was different in terms of pre‑partition and post-partition era as independence, seeking knowledge and self-development were the primary motivating factors during those years.

While the country attained independence more than six decades back, the mindset of educationists that lead education institutions still holds the same old school of thought. A student studies history, geography or a language like English, French that builds his cognitive ability, makes him think and makes him broad minded. But these subjects and knowledge does not give him any hard marketable job skills leading to the rise of very high-educated unemployed in the country. The generation passing out of schools and colleges, despite being educated and intelligent, is not fully aware of the current industrial trends. This lack of know-how makes them deprived of the right job skills, clueless about a number of industrial requirements and leading to the growing tribe of educated unemployed.

And that’s not the complete picture. While the quality of education leaves much to be desired, the 21st century children have different aspirations from the education system than the preceding generations. This present generation is constantly seeking, thinking, formulating, exploring and challenging their own views and opinions. A few years down the line, these children will be in positions of power in diverse sectors, dictating the direction of our country and economy. And to nurture their evolving minds, we need a system that puts the child at the center of education and facilitates the shift from rote learning to student understanding. This requires us to constantly re-examine education in terms of institutions, pedagogy and methodology. A paradigm shift is needed and it’s pertinent that we break from our conventions and rethink the kind of teachers, the curriculum and the kind of school leadership is needed. In other words, a sincere rethinking of the school space is the need of the hour. These changes are not possible without structural changes at a policy level that will both facilitate and reinforce them.

Mature governments around the world have recognized these underlying issues and taken corrective measures. The Indian Government too recognizes that India’s youth is her biggest asset, holding the potential to make her possibly the youngest nation in the world by 2030. But the burning question is whether enough steps are being taken to train and skill these youth to make India make the most of this demographic advantage? Historical data suggests that cognitive education by itself does not educate people to pickup jobs and work in today’s world. While the student is going through his cognitive education, it’s necessary that we provide them with a few options to help him pick up a trade or a skill without giving much thought to the future perusal of that skill.

There also exists a socioeconomic hierarchy when you come to vocational skills. Let’s say there is a course on hospitality, which focuses more on service. We don’t think we can sell it to the Delhi Public School or Modern School in Vasant Vihar because the kids who are coming there don’t hold the ambition to join a hotel and become a waiter. On the other hand if you go to a government school in the rural areas where the child comes from a poor family, for him that hospitality course will be more relevant. He may want to just go to a closest restaurant or hotel and pick up a job immediately to support his family’s needs right after completing his class 10th or 12th. This is why the vocational skill structure has to be layered, offering different skill sets for the different segments of the society.

A big leap in this direction was setting up The National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) – a competency-based framework that organizes all qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude. The task is to build upon the NSQF in schools by setting a target of five million students with a vocational qualification every year. The overarching ambition of the Government is to get a salience between formal degree and vocational education to widen the skill gamut.

Efforts are already underway with the Central Board of Secondary Education already offering over 40 vocational courses in different sectors at the senior secondary level under NSQF framework. It makes sense to make CBSE the fulcrum to catch them young and train them early in the skill sets that are essential drivers for the nation’s economy. While providing vocational education in schools is the most important aspect of the entire gamut of skills development, what is even more important is the quality of education that is provided.

Introducing students to vocational training of high quality at an early age is the most effective way to ensure that vocation training earns its rightful place in society. Considering the growing importance to offer skill based training programmes right at the school level and with the introduction of National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF) from class IX, the demand for vocational education programmes is going to soar across all levels. This training will enable students to acquire desired competency levels with upgraded skills, which will help them in entering the job market proficiently. These small measures taken at the right time will make India become the skill leaders and take the maximum advantage of its demographic dividend.

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Technology Can Fight Education Disparity

Article first published in Education Technology across all editions

Education is not merely about classrooms, with technology playing a very smart enabler in the process of basic as well as vocational training. With mobility and e-Learning taking the forefront, there are new initiatives that the government has, partnering with efficient private enterprise to use T to better the education levels in India. Mr Sanjeev Duggal, Co-Chairman of FICCI and CEO & Director of Centum Learning, a leading multinational organization in the global skills development landscape with presence in 21 countries, shares his views and Centum Learning’s achievements in a conversation with education technology.

1. Tell us something about Centum Learning.

Centum Learning was founded in 2006 with the objective to enable sustainable transformation through learning and skills development in the global landscape. It has, till date, skilled more than 1.2million youth across India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and 17 countries in Africa with domain expertise across 21 industry verticals and more than 1358 training and development specialists. Wefocuson four key areas- corporate training, vocational education & skills training, skills for schools and colleges and skills for global employability CL has successfully partnered Central and State Ministries, Public Sector Enterprises and more than 350 corporates, setting up WorkSkills to skill 12 million youth across 469 learning centres in rural and urban locations.It has also been empanelled as a Skill Knowledge Provider (SKP) for Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)-affiliated schools to impart vocational courses to students in select states.

2. Do you think India has adequate technology usage and adoption in the education sector? What more can be done in your opinion?

Education sector is a very broad term that encompasses wide range of outlets, from ITIs to Schools and colleges and professional training centres. Technology has had, and will continue to have a significant impact on the entire skilling ecosystem. It integrates with the delivery mechanism to allowbroader reach, helping bridge the urban rural divide, thus arrest the increasing disparity in accessing quality education, including skills training. Tech innovation will have a major influence on teaching methodologies over the next five years. Online learning is gaining a firm foothold in schools and universities across globe, where smart-classes have become modus operandi. India has also evolved in digital learning which we use in building capacity and creating new opportunities. Digital learning is already engaged in helping India build its capacity in world class content, pedagogical intervention and creating more jobs by creating new solutions for skill building at the basic level.

3. What technology initiatives do you see gaining maximum ground for Corporate Training, Vocational Education & Skills Training?

Centum Learning’s scope of work revolves around Corporate Training, Vocational Education & Skills Training. In these areas, usage of technology is already underway and creating more jobs through creation of new skill building at the basic level.

In spite of the recent war going on about net neutrality, there is no doubt that technology has become an integral part of all curricula including vocation education. Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi talks about “Digital India” with equal emphasis as “Skilling India” and “Make in India”.

4. Do you think eLearning can help in educational progress in a vast country like India? Does Centum use it?

Centum Learning has always been at the forefront when it comes to providing industry based skill training and we believe that there is a surfeit of career opportunities for skilled professionals. In Hisar, Haryana 170 Km from the corridors of power where policies are made, we are running a center where technology and best in class training infrastructure is changing the way people are getting skilled to become job ready. The Skill Development Center is offering candidates courses in Retail, Life Skills and IT Skills under the Deen Dayal Upadhya Gramin Kaushal Yojana of the Ministry of Rural Development. 60 candidates in each batch from BPL category attend this programme which has:

  • Biometric attendance – which students undertake twice every day is improving attendance, preventing spillage and therefore improving learning outcomes.
  • Tablets – Tablets which are provided to the students as a part of this programme as per DDU GKY guidelines are loaded with standardized learning content. This is enabling Technology Enabled Learning
  • IT Skills Lab – Besides, IT skills lab at the center allows students to work on the practical aspects related to IT – How to create presentations, how to create a column in MS Excel, how to apply formulas in MS Excel etc Core / Domain Skills Lab I was totally surprised to find that as many as 70% of my class students, all of whom are from the BPL population are on Facebook and as much as 50% of this from the class operate Facebook on mobile phones. The scope and work in skilling will remain an ongoing process towards nation building and we at centum are committed to skill 12 million people across 11 states and 383 districts by 2022.

5. Mobility technologies provide a major push to e-learning technologies. What value does it add to your venture?

The National Policy on Skill Development has set a target of 500 million people to be skilled by 2022. To achieve this ambitious target millions of people would need to be mobilised and the Indian mobile telephony industry, which has grown phenomenally to become the 2nd largest market in the world, is perfectly situated to help enable such a mass outreach programme.

However, skilling in India needs a disruption in the existing ecosystem to reach even ‘media-dark’ states in the country, where TV & print reach only 20% of the population. Centum Learning aggressively took up the cause of mobilizing under-privileged youth in skills training following the launch of a unique mobile mass outreach programme. The pilot for the outreach campaign was executed in Bihar, with a 2.24 million Bharti Airtel subscriber base that were targeted as part of this campaign. Interested candidates were mapped to one of the 136 counselling centres set up by Centum Learning in 38 districts of Bihar. I would like to reiterate here that our overall mission is to build and sustain a movement around India’s social transformation through skilling and such efforts clearly showcase our steps towards achieving this goal. In less than a week of launch,3,87,408 candidates were profiled and over 40,000 candidates across 38 districts in Bihar were enrolled under various skilling programmes.

6. The education system in India is very restrictive as of now. Centum leaning has been providing vocational training as well. Do you think the entre education system needs to be vocation oriented?

Providing vocational education in schools is one of the most important aspects of this entire gamut of Skills Development, but quality is as important as well. We are committed to working around systems of quality assurance at the institutional level and examine how quality of education can be enhanced across the school ecosystem. Introducing students to high quality vocational training at an early age is the most effective way to do it. Considering the growing importance to offer skill based training programmes right at the school level and with the introduction of National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF) right from class IX, the demand for vocational education programmes is going to soar across all levels. Centum Learningis all geared to tap this opportunity by offering Skill based programmes for schools and colleges. In order to fully leverage the vocational education orientation in India, weprovidesolutionslikeEngaging Young India which is about vocational education in schools;school management & leadership training, capacity building programmes for teachers and vocational courses for school students.

7. Centum has partnered with various government agencies for skill impartment. Do you think we are anywhere close to world standards of education in non – IT areas?

Worldwide, young people are three times more likely than their parents to be out of work – said a report recently released by McKinsey Center for Government. According to International Labor Organization estimates over 75 million young people are unemployed across the world. Paradoxically, 57% of the employers worldwide are not able to find entry-level skilled workforce. The story is no different for India, which continues to be at the epicenter of the world for its youth talent force. The immense talent scarcity industry faces today requires out-of-the-box thinking, decoding issues related to employability skills access, affordability and accreditation – a kind of Blue Ocean Strategy to look at the demographic dividend from a whole new perspective.

8. What plans does Centum have for the future of the education industry in India?

Centum Learning offers Skills for Global Employability – whereby it works closely with the corporates to offer end-to-end sourcing, employability skills training, certification and placement to candidates in various trades basis requirement of the industry. Instead of old dogma of first train and then seek job, Centum Learning works with the corporate houses, takes estimation of their manpower requirements and then provide workforce development training to people in respective trades- thus creating right fit of skills with the right job.

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