Vocational education and training

Tags: Op-ed
Vocational education and training
At present, a majority of European cou­ntries are passing through low economic growth. Th­eir industries and businesses are facing global competition and their major worry is acute shortage of skilled human power. Increasing Europe’s competitiveness while preserving the European social model, coping with population ageing, reducing unemployment, tackling labour-market skill needs and shortages and improving enterprises’ economic performance is enormous pressures on vocational education and training (VET), pushing for its modernisation. The search for models of good governance in VET is an effective policy response to the increasing degree of uncertainty for eco­nomies and individuals that characterise our times. It allows VET to become more responsive to the changing la­bour market and individual needs along with being flexible enough to address skills imbalances and shortages.

VET should be an attractive option for young people and adults to foster the acquisition of professional qualifications and updating it throughout their working life. Professional competences and skills delivered through VET should be a model of excellence, while being transparent to relevant parties at individual, company and State levels.

The recent and the fourth report by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), which is an agency of the European Union, focuses on VET research in Europe and analyses the pressures for VET modernisation. Resea­rch also underlines the key role of VET itself in addressing these socioeconomic challenges. VET, therefore, not only reacts to change, but is also a driver of success and competitiveness for European economies and societies. Th­roughout this publication, Ce­defop has gathered evidence of the role VET plays in sustaining economic development, promoting active ageing, ensuring adequate skill supply, supporting corporate innovation capacity, growth and productivity, combating social exclusion and improving social cohesion. Synchronised and modern VET is not only an aim, but also a means of addressing the challenges that lie ahead. The report is of importance to India as it has talked on two key aspects for policy action to modernise VET at institutional and professional levels. One relates diversification of VET offer, opening of routes for lower-ability students, modularisation, options to return to general education at secondary and tertiary level, making the choice for VET reversible and the modernisation of VET system governance (quality assurance, qualification fra­meworks, partnerships). The other touches teacher and trainer competences and its effectiveness, which requires not only up-to-date teaching and training professionals, but also education systems and governance experts, who are aware of and understand the implications of new institutional arrangements (quality assurance, qualifications fra­meworks, recognition of competences and prior learning, among others) as well as dialogue with industry and the local community for their practice.

We, in India, have a lot to learn from these observations. Only in recent time, the government is seriously pushing the vocational education & training programme (VET) through creation of National Skill Development Council (NSDC). NSDC is a not-for-profit company set up by the ministry of finance, under Section 25 of the Companies Act. It has an equity base of Rs 10 crore of which, the private sector holds 51 per cent, while the government controls 49 per cent. NSDC supports skill development efforts, especially in the unorganised sector by funding skill training and development progr­am­mes. It also engages in advocacy and training progr­ammes, in-depth research to discover skill gaps in the Indian workforce and developing accreditation norms. All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the apex body for making and maintaining the norms of technical education in the country has framed a National Vocational Education Qualification Fra­mework (NVEQF) for the polytechnics and engineering colleges. The government introduced NVEQF in order to formally integrate vocational education across school and higher education space, along with their current conventional educational streams, for providing incentives to students to explore a large universe of opportunities.

It is important that a vocational educational qualification framework is in place that allows cross mobility of standards and their absorption in industry with certain skills gained by workers over a fixed period of time, or their seamless integration into higher learning that enables them to acquire a formal degree and higher skill, so that they perform higher level jobs in the industry. One has to realise that the fundamental education is the foundation for knowledge and its integration with vocational skills should be done in a very clever and innovative way. We should adopt credit-based modular structures with a very flexible academic structure. This wo­uld allow students to move freely from one qualification to another. We should allow such a structure that allows even ITI students to first consolidate their core education and then move towards advanced level diploma, which should allow one to get an associated degree. Eventually, a good worker after getting experience in the industry sh­ould be able to expand the degree base and be able to work for doctorate degree. Today, in India we have very few universities with such flexibilities. The government needs to welcome and support such initiatives and we hope that such flexibly structured universities come in picture.

(The writer is former chairman of UGC, former vice-chancellor of University of Pune and founder director of NAAC)

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