Soccer, Cobbling and Society

Trishit Banerjee

Soccer, Cobbling and Society: A Lesson in Vocation Ryuji Sueoka was not a name that I heard of until I picked up yesterday’s Times of India. On the last page he could be seen smiling for all the right reasons.Yet, I found something very interesting that led me to a day-long research on some of the lesser reported issues and policies in the dailies. Ryuji Sueoka went to a cobbling school after he returned to Japan. How often do we encounter someone who has attended or intends to attend a cobbling school in India? The existence of the same remains questionable to a majority of Indians. Probably one of the reasons that Amy Lee rightly points out in her piece in New York Times is the extensively lower number of vocational schools in India. India’s 11,000 schools against China’s 500,000 is a huge challenge for the country. The recent Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna has been allocated around $224 million of funding by the cabinet. The current government’s ‘Skill India’ programme integrates this policy along with institutions like NSDC to skill millions of youth, a visionary goal that is to be achieved by 2022. A public-private partnership with monetary benefits and issuance of skill certificates and cards are some of the highlights of the programme. Yet the government has vastly ignored the ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes) from the general outlook of the programme. They have been a part of India’s long history of efforts towards vocational education. For India’s youth to be ‘Eduployable’ (as the GRAS Academy calls it), it needs not only a large number of vocational institutions but also increased quality. A large number of unskilled youth seeks to choose private institutions than the government ones. The government institutions have a long history of maintaining an ‘outdated syllabus’ that has lost its practical importance. An example highlighted by Lee mentions how students of digital technology course use paper and books to write notes. It is a sorry state that the NOS yet mentions ‘blackboard’ as a requirement for delivering content and EdTech is mostly alien. In a situation where India already has insufficient vocational institutions, it cannot afford to lose out on quality on any one of them. If so happens, the whole idea wriggles back to square one. 44% of students with training in computers and 60% of students with training in textiles are unemployed. These ‘single terminal skills’ resisting upgradation pose a new challenge of obsolete skills. As Dipankar Gupta suggests in The Times of India, we should look at other case studies across the world and restrict ourselves from making the same mistakes. South Korea back in 1950s was at a workforce situation comparable to that of India and with proper implementation of vocational education, it has 95% of vocationally educated workforce in its economy as compared to India’s 3%. Dynamic syllabus which readily absorbs any recent developments and focusses on application of skill research in education with socio-geographical-specific approach which shall not only benefit the local industries but also the youth in finding more specific employment and constant pedagogical innovation shall contribute in enhancing the quality. A uniform policy across the country may lead to more unemployment as students tend to focus on certain sectors only which may/may not be beneficial to the industries in the area. For example, tourism skills and skills in walnut and saffron agriculture should of higher priority in Kashmir as industries don’t thrive as much. Industrial skills should be a second priority. Interdisciplinary approach in skills is also important. Traditional courses may require to be clubbed with other courses to have a more practical impact. The curriculum should be flexible enough to incorporate such strategies. At the same time, ITIs and other governmental institutes should be increased in numbers. Premier institutes can be partnered to achieve this goal. More private partnerships shall tend to achieve this goal easily. Yet, far flung areas in the North-East, Kashmir and islands in the south require special focus. The government needs to identify its own potential well in ITIs and its own institutions. It must realise the it has a basic infrastructure and working on the same shall be an easier task. It should not ignore its own institutions. If vocational education is not addressed immediately, India shall have a repository of a large number of idle and unemployed youth who shall turn out to be a liability for the country. Crime rates shall increase and progress shall take an U-turn. Parents and society need to respect the dignity of labour. Vocational education should be considered at par when making career choices as they must realise that academics as the only career option shall lead to nowhere. Instead of doing good it shall lead to more bad. It needs to be more practical at a time when it keeps the interests of the child in mind. Yet, with more than 1.8 million already enrolled in various Sector Skill Councils, the future is hopeful. If the goal is achieved by 2022, it shall be a huge benefit for India as it shall have a skilled and young workforce and shall be able to meet the rising global demands. India needs to bank upon its demography. It has enormous potential! May 27, 2017 Japan

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