Explaining the Wardha Scheme of Education, Mahatma Gandhi said, “Taken as a whole, a vocation is the best medium for the all-round development of a boy or a girl and therefore the syllabus should be woven around vocational training. Primary education thus conceived as a whole is bound to be self-supporting.”

But, today, the majority of India’s population has very little or no idea about vocational education and the window of opportunities it offers.

According to the 12th Five year plan (2012-2017), only a trivial five percent of the Indian workforce between the ages of 19 to 24, are estimated to have received formal vocational education. In comparison to developed countries like the United States (52 percent), Germany (75 percent) and South Korea (96 percent), India has a long way to go when it comes to this.

Skill development in India

The Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012) included an initiative to launch the National Skill Development Mission and bring about some changes in ‘Skill Development’ programmes.

Illustration by Jyothi Syam

This was implemented under the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s ‘National Council on Skill Development’ for apex policy directions. In addition to this council, the initiative called for the formation of the ‘National Skill Development Coordination Board’ and a ‘National Skill Development Corporation or Trust’.

Besides these apex bodies at the centre, the state governments were roped in and given the responsibility to coordinate everything. They were required to engage a few of their departments for constituting a State Skill Development Mission. The private sector also played an important role and supported it financially.

As part of the mission, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), a not-for-profit public limited company, was incorporated in 2008 with the aim of promoting skill development. The NSDC was constituted by obtaining about Rs 15,000 crore from public and private sectors, as well as other bilateral or multilateral sources.

As of 2013, the then Union Minister for Human Resource Development, MM Pallam Raju, reiterated and focussed on the need to boost skill development, through a trained workforce.

Pallam Raju said, "Recognising that the future growth of India will depend on greater skill development, the National Policy for Skill Development aims to create a skilled workforce of 500 million by 2022."

NEP and vocational education

At his first Independence Day speech in 2014, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, laid emphasis on vocational education.

“Ramping up skills, particularly in trades, through vocational education has emerged as a recurrent and increasingly critical priority for India,” he said in his address.
A vocational training center in India, providing free vocational training on Industrial Sewing Machines, Domestic Tailoring, Dress Designing to empower young men and women. (Image credit: Unsplash)

Fast forward to 2020, the government built the foundation for the National Education Policy (NEP). And, this policy emphasises the significance of vocational education as part of the section titled ‘Reimagining Vocational Education’. The objective behind this was to ensure that at least 50 percent of the Indian workforce received vocational education by the year 2025.

The government figured that one of the best ways to do this was by integrating vocational education programmes into mainstream education in a phased manner. Well, the NEP suggests that this can be done at multiple levels -

  • At the upper primary level, (between classes six to eight), vocational education needs to be made fun for children by offering hands-on experience of crafts like carpentry, electric work, gardening, pottery-making, etc.
  • At the secondary and the higher secondary levels (between classes nine to twelve), they must be allowed to mix and match academics with skill development courses such as sports, arts and soft skills.
  • At the higher education level, in addition to the already existing graduate-level degrees, vocational courses should be available to students.

Going by this, one of the key focus areas for vocational education courses is providing students a learning path based on local opportunities and skill gaps.

Role of the government

The Ministry of Education, Government of India, has a major role to play in the promotion of vocational education. The NEP has recommended the government to constitute a National Committee for the Integration of Vocational Education (NCIVE) with experts in vocational education to oversee this effort. In addition, the policy has called for earmarking a budget for promoting the integration.

Satyajeet Singh, an education counsellor at ICA Group, is extremely optimistic about the NEP 2020, and believes it will create a positive impact.

“A lot of the students in India do not have know-how about computers or other technical instruments. But with vocational training as mentioned in the NEP, they can get hands-on experience on these skills”, says Singh.

A monitoring mechanism to track progress in the vocational education sphere is also crucial. The policy suggests the same. It has encouraged the setting up of a portal to fetch the data of students moving to ITIs, Polytechnics and other skill development programmes under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).

The NEP also suggests that vocational education can be made more organized by aligning it with the National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) as well as the International Standard Classification of Occupations as maintained by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Expected benefits and the road ahead

Vocational education is known to help build capacity and enable holistic and multidisciplinary learning so that individuals can acquire 21st-century skills across all fields. It is also seen to provide a leeway for youth to bag opportunities in the job market with multiple entry and exit options.

Avadhesh Tailor, a vocational education teacher, predicts that the barriers between vocational education and traditional academic education will be erased in the near future.

“Presently, several students who pursue courses like B.Com and B.Ed, stay unemployed even after their graduation. In contrast, students who take up vocational education, turn out to be self-employed or get a job that guarantees a basic salary”, he adds.

Not just for students, vocational education is expected to open up more avenues for teachers too. The NEP says that by 2022, a set of National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be created to determine all aspects of teacher career management, including tenure, continuous professional development efforts, salary increases, promotions, and other recognitions.

Thus, broadly, the objective of the policy is to achieve one of the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations - “Guaranteeing equal access to opportunities for access to quality technical and vocational education for everyone”. However, all the stakeholders, students, corporates and the government need to play distinct roles to realise this. A young workforce, equipped with practical and industrial knowledge, is sure to lay the road for building an Atma Nirbhar Bharat (self-sufficient India).


Edited by Roshni Shroff


Some resources and links to help you learn more about vocational education -

NEP 2020: VOCATIONAL EDUCATION - FUEL FOR THE INDIAN DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has defined ‘demographic dividend’ as the growth potential that results from shifts in a population’s age
10 points to consider: Vocational education and skills in National Education Policy 2020
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, envisaged for some transformational reforms in the Indian education system. It talks about the