Skills education for sustainable development
Aug 20 2013
Following on the outcome of the 2010 high-level plenary meeting of the general assembly on the millennium development goals (MDG), the United Nations secretary general established the UN system task team in September 2011 to support UN system-wide preparations for the post-2015 UN development agenda, in consultation with all stakeholders. The Unesco has recently published, for the benefit of all nations, a ‘Thematic Think Report’, which helps understand the broad ideas and how one could redefine them from an Indian perspective to transform our efforts in making India strong both socially and economically.
If education, learning and skills are to be seen as enablers and drivers of inclusive and sustainable development, it is important to review the experience of education within the framework of the international development agenda. A more comprehensive agenda is that of the six ‘Education for All’ (EFA) goals adopted in the 2000 Dakar framework for action. The annual EFA global monitoring report (GMR) is monitoring progress towards these goals since 2002-03. There is an important body of development literature that has long documented the positive impact of basic education on various facets of social and economic development. It has been recognised that, within the millennium development goals framework, there is “an interconnectedness of all development goals with key inter-linkages between education, health, poverty reduction, and gender equality, where improvement in one area that has a positive effect on the others”. Indeed, education has also positive effects on health, poverty reduction and elimination of hunger, as well as on gender equality, each, in turn, have a positive effect on education. Higher levels of relevant learning outcomes are thus, both a condition for, as well as a result of, progress in other social sectors.
The six EFA goals adopted in the 2000 Dakar framework for action emphasise upon (1) National efforts made to monitor levels of learning and skills, as well as their social distribution, and (2) The use of such data in informing strategic interventions to improve the general levels of learning and skills and ensure their more equitable distribution. Such process targets and indicators would allow national education authorities to be more accountable regarding the results of public investment in education.
We should also understand the diversification in sources of information, the continued acceleration in the production and circulation of knowledge, combined with the development of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) and digital media, explain the emergence of new forms of civic and political socialisation and mobilisation in the context of the knowledge society. In this context, the design of effective education and skills policies is challenged by the difficulty of anticipating change. There is a need to develop more responsive education and skills policies that include greater diversification and flexibility and that allow for the adaptation of skill supply to rapidly changing needs.
Such policies must also ensure that individuals are better equipped to be more resilient and can learn to develop and apply career adaptive competencies most effectively. They should also include increasing the capacity of education and skill development systems to identify the need for skills at an early stage, as well as anticipate their evolution, and making better use of labour market information for matching skills demands and supply. This would mean a closer collaboration between stakeholders active in skills anticipation. International cooperation should become an important feature for knowledge sharing and enhancing capacities in anticipating change.
Factors such as — emergence of different levels of skills, traditional knowledge, round the clock production processes, environment changes, global competition in product development, linkage between good old traditional education and realities in product creation in industry — pressurise education system to create an entirely different level of integrated skill-knowledge education system. This is a challenge on which the government’s comprehensive policies should emerge and it is very clear that neither the central nor state level policies are touching these aspects. The government is making a larger mistake — by focussing more on popular presentations and deviating from focused applications.
(The writer is former chairman of UGC, former vice-chancellor of University of Pune and founder director of NAAC)